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Let No One Predict Thy Future!

Over the weekend I came across a list of predictions “experts” made about certain products or people that turned out to be totally false. It reaffirmed for me that we should never let anyone but ourselves decide our future. Your future is completely unwritten and you can change the course of your life at any point. Imagine what would have happened if the world would have believed these predictions:

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” (Western Union memo, 1876.)

“Computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” (Popular Mechanics, forecasting advance of science, 1949.)

“I think there’s a world market for maybe five computers.” (Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.)

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” (Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.)

“But what is it good for?” (Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the micro chip, 1968)

“There is no reason why anyone would want to have a computer in their home.” (Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.)

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” (David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920’s.)

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (HM Warner, Warner Bros, 1927.)

“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say that America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” (Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting the Mrs Fields Cookies business.)

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” (Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962.)

“Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” (Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.)

“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” (Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3M PostIt Notepads.)

“So we went to Atari and said, ‘We’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ They said ‘No’. Then we went to Hewlett-Packard; they said, ‘We don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet’.” (Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.)

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” (Drillers whom Edwin L Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil, 1859.)

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” (Irving Fisher, Economics professor, Yale University, 1929.)

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value”. (Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.)

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” (Charles H Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.)

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” (Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.)

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” (Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.)

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” (Bill Gates of Microsoft, 1981.)

“Fred Astaire Can’t act, can’t sing, balding… Can dance a little.” (MGM telent scout, 1928.)

“What can you do with a guy with ears like that?” (Jack Warner, movie mogul, rejecting Clark Gable, 1930.)

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” (Jim Denny of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, firing Elvis Presley after his first performance.)

“I’m sorry Mr Kipling, but you don’t know how to use the English language.” (Editor of the San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a short story from author and poet Rudyard Kipling.)

And finally there is the story, seemingly based mostly on truth, that Fred Smith, the founder of the multi-billion-dollar FedEx carrier corporation, originally proposed the FedEx concept in a college examination paper – for which we was awarded a C grade. Smith has broadly confirmed this story in later interviews, albeit with a little uncertainty as to how specifically he presented the FedEx model, and precisely how the examiner expressed his indifference. It’s a good story nevertheless, and helps confirm not only that great oaks grow from tiny acorns, but also how difficult it is to recognize a particularly good acorn before it’s grown.

One comment

  1. Thaks for this post it helps me lot!

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