“Failure is an event, not/never a person” is a popular saying that has been printed on many gift items, such as buttons and posters. The saying is very popular in business; a business failure doesn’t mean that the owner of that business is a failure as a person. The American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has frequently used the saying and if often incorrectly cited for its authorship.
Dr. William D. Brown wrote in a 1978 newspaper column (based on his 1977 book, Families Under Stress):
“Remember that no matter how many times you do not succeed in any pursuit in life, you are not a failure. Indeed, you cannot be a failure for failure is an event — never a person! “
OCLC WorldCat record
Families under stress
Author: William D Brown
Publisher: Washington : Wycliff Pub. Co., ©1977.
Edition/Format: Book : English
Google News Archive
26 June 1978, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “Families Under Stress: Are some people born to failure?” by William D. Brown, pg. 9, col. 2:
Remember that no matter how many times you do not succeed in any pursuit in life, you are not a failure. Indeed, you cannot be a failure for failure is an event — never a person!
By Amy E. Dean
Center City, MN: Hazelden Foundation
Failure is an event, not a person. —William D. Brown
10 April 1989, Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal, “Psychologist offers advice on instilling self-esteem” by Carl M. Cannon, pg. C3, col. 5:
Teach them that failure is an event — not a person.
(Advice from Sol Gordon, a Belmont, Calif., psychologist—ed.)
Google News Archive
15 November 1994, The Hour (Norwalk, CT), “Author: Success stimulated by goals, motivation” by David Gurliacci, pg. 5, col. 1:
NORWALK—When motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar was asked which of all the snappy phrases, Socratic questions, statistics, maxims, jokes, quotes and anecdotes in his Monday-night talk he would most like his audience to remember, he chose:
“Failure is an event, it’s not a person.”
Over the Top
By Zig Ziglar
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Failure is an event, never a person; an attitude, not an outcome; a temporary inconvenience; a stepping-stone. Our response to it determines just how helpful it can be.
October 30, 2000
The Last Laugh
It’s easy to mock Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy for his rumpled look and sad-dog demeanor. But don’t be fooled any longer by the disguise. He’s shrewd and he’s fearless
“Losing has an unbelievably negative impact on me,” Van Gundy says. “I read somewhere that failure is an event, not a person, but I never feel that way. It’s who I am.”
How I Learned To Use Failure To Help My Business
Lisa Nicole Bell|November 26, 2011
In the early stages of my business, I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of doing the “wrong thing” or appearing foolish. Now I realize that failure is a prerequisite for success. In order to figure out what works, we have to be willing to sort through what doesn’t. My attitude toward failure has changed dramatically. I believe failure is an event, not a person, and that I’m only a failure if I’m not willing to take appropriate levels of risk for the sake of moving forward.