Quotations by Kettering, Charles F.


The only time you don’t want to fail is the last time you try a thing.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Don’t Be Afraid to Stumble,” The Rotarian (Jan 1952)
    (Source)

This was a favorite phrase of Kettering's, and many versions exist or are attributed.
  • "The only time you mustn't fail is the last time you try." (The Rotarian (May 1953))
  • "The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you can't afford to fail is the last time you try."
  • "The only time you don't fail is the last time you try something, and it works."
Added on 31-Jul-15 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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I often say that research is a way of finding out what you are going to do when you can’t keep on doing what you are doing now.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Industrial Prospecting,” Speech, Founder Societies of Engineers (20 May 1935)
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence.

Kettering - ketterings law - wist_info quote

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Kettering’s Law,” from address before American Society of Mechanical Engineers (c. 1944)

Quoted in Heinlein, The Number of the Beast (1980).

Alternately quoted:

  • "Beware logic. Logic is an organized way to go wrong -- with confidence."
  • Logic is an organized way to go wrong with confidence. We should all know by now that a logical course is not always the right one."

Sometimes referred to "Kettering's Observation."

Cited in Food Industries magazine, vol. 16 (1944), referring to the speech being "recent" (the magazine is also referred to as Food Engineering).

This site previously incorrectly attributed the quote to Iris Murdoch.  That attribution seems to have been duplicated at some other sites, but was an error.  I have also found citations to L. Walter Lundell and Karl Popper.

Another "Kettering's Law" that is referenced is: "Parts left out cost nothing, require no maintenance, and do not fail."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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A problem well defined is a problem half solved.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Every great improvement has come after repeated failures. Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
    (Source)
Added on 12-Jun-15 | Last updated 12-Jun-15
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You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jul-15 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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The only difference between a problem and a solution is that people understand the solution.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)

Quoted in Thomas Alvin Boyd, Charles F. Kettering: A Biography (1957)
Added on 14-Aug-15 | Last updated 14-Aug-15
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People see the wrongness in an idea much quicker that the rightness.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 21-Aug-15 | Last updated 21-Aug-15
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People are very open-minded about new things — as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 28-Aug-15 | Last updated 28-Aug-15
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Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 4-Sep-15 | Last updated 4-Sep-15
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In America we can say what we think, and even if we can’t think, we can say it anyhow.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Sep-15 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 18-Sep-15 | Last updated 18-Sep-15
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If I want to stop a research program I can always do it by getting a few experts to sit in on the subject, because they know right away that it was a fool thing to try in the first place.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 25-Sep-15 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 2-Oct-15 | Last updated 2-Oct-15
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The whole fun of living is trying to make something better.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Oct-15 | Last updated 9-Oct-15
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A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.
Charles Ketting - problem well stated - wist_info

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)

Sometimes attributed to John Dewey.
Added on 16-Oct-15 | Last updated 16-Oct-15
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Whenever you look at a piece of work and you think the fellow was crazy, then you want to pay some attention to that. One of you is likely to be, and you had better find out which one it is. It makes an awful lot of difference.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
Comment (1930)
    (Source)

As attributed by Francis Davis, inventor of power steering.
Added on 24-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jul-15
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No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
In “Looking ahead with Boss Ket,” Popular Mechanics (Feb 1935)
Added on 26-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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This problem, when solved, will be simple.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
Sign at the General Motors research laboratories
    (Source)

Quoted by Kettering in "Don't Be Afraid to Stumble," The Rotarian (Jan 1952)
Added on 7-Aug-15 | Last updated 7-Aug-15
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