How we face failure can determine our future success. If you’re a creator and you accept rejection or defeat as the end of the line, you’re not going to get very far in life. We can view failure either as an impassible roadblock, or simply as a detour.
No one ever plans to take a detour, but sometimes a detour can put us on a different track that leads to better places and bigger opportunities. Mistakes and false starts aren’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen to us. Losing heart and throwing in the towel IS! T.D. Jakes once said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback!” This is certainly true in the case of a draftsman named Milton Bradley.
Bradley was born in Maine on November 8, 1836, and grew up in a working-class household in Massachusetts. After completing high school in 1854, Bradley quickly found work as a draftsman and patent agent. Once he’d earned the tuition fees, he enrolled in the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge.
In 1856, Bradley got a job with Blanchard & Kimball’s locomotive works in Springfield, Massachusetts. A nice steady job with a good future — or so he thought. During the economic recession of 1858, the company offices closed, and Bradley suddenly found his career opportunities extremely limited. So he followed the example of other enterprising young men who couldn’t get a job: he entered business for himself — doing what he knew best, working as a mechanical draftsman and patent agent.
But there still was a recession! In 1859, Bradley went to Providence, RI to learn lithography. Armed with yet another skill, he set up a color lithography shop the following year, in Springfield. It was the first of its kind in the city, a business that just had to succeed. Or not! Bradley was about to encounter his greatest setback, and suffer a financial blow that might have signaled the end of his entrepreneurial career.
Springfield was the stomping ground — er, stumping ground? — of a little-known Republican who was about to run for president of the United States. Bradley decided to print and sell color lithographs of the presidential nominee, and the venture proved quite successful — initially. The prints were selling like hotcakes until the man depicted in Bradley’s lithographs did something that completely changed his appearance. The guy grew a thick and distinctively shaped beard. Suddenly, Bradley’s not-so-loyal customers were demanding their money back, arguing that the lithograph was no longer an accurate depiction of the man they all hoped would be their next Commander-in-Chief — Abraham Lincoln! Realizing the prints were now essentially worthless, Bradley burned his remaining stock.
While sitting in his office, trying to figure out how he could possibly recoup this financial loss, poor Bradley decided to give his fevered brain a little break, by playing a board game a friend had given him. Playing the game and contemplating the ups and downs of life, business and success, Milton Bradley suddenly got the idea that would forever change his fortunes and jumpstart a business that prospers to this day!
The draftsman-turned-patent agent-turned-lithographer created The Checkered Game of Life. He released his new board game shortly before Christmas in 1860. Its sales were AMAZING!
Today, people are still playing The Game of Life, along with other Milton Bradley Company games such as Operation and Battleship. All because a hard working entrepreneur chose to view a financial setback as an opportunity for a creative comeback!
“…The LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.” (Deuteronomy 23:5 ESV)