Quotable Quotes from James Dyson’s – Invention: A Life Autobiography

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Invention: A Life is a great book about invention, risk taking, entrepreneurial initiative, guts, perseverance, resilience and a never give up attitude. James Dyson’s story is very fascinating, thought provoking with lots of ups and downs, false turns and many failures.

“It is a story told through a life of creating and developing things, as well as expressing a call to arms for young people to become engineers, creating solutions to our current and future problems.”

The book is a journey of an entrepreneur, the ups and downs, the value of having a supportive partner or spouse (Deidre), the importance of have a mentor (Jeremy Fry) that longs to want you to succeed, a dedicate financial institution or bank manager that is ready to take the plunge with you. His story how far determination, willpower, dedication, persistence and perseverance can take someone with a commitment to succeed.


Dyson made 5,127 prototypes of his Cyclonic and Bagless Vacuum Cleaner before he got to a model he could set about licensing.

Quotable Quotes from James Dyson’s – Invention: A Life Autobiography

One-track Mindedness

When you have set yourself an objective that, if reached, might pioneer a better solution to existing technologies and products, you become engaged, hooked and even one-track-minded.

If you want to pioneer and invent new technology you need to step into the unknown and, in that realm, experience can be a hindrance

Research and Invention

Research is about conducting experiments, accepting and even enjoying failures, but going on and on, following a theory garnered from observing the science. Invention is often more about endurance and patient observation than brainwaves.

 Experience is not the best teacher, it is the ability to maintain that curiosity that matters

On Experience

At Dyson, we don’t particularly value experience. Experience tells you what you ought to do and what you’d do best to avoid. It tells you how things should be done when we are much more interested in how things shouldn’t be done. If you want to pioneer and invent new technology you need to step into the unknown and, in that realm, experience can be a hindrance.

The academic side, although we have to pretend it is important, matters comparatively little. You will do all the better for not having masses of tiresome degrees full of booklearning [sic] hanging around your neck.- Dyson’s Headmaster, Logie Bruce-Lockhart

  • When you design something, everything about it has to have a purpose. There has to be a reason. – Bernard Myers, taught design at RCA

Learning by Failure

  • Learning by failure is a remarkably good way of gaining knowledge. Failure is to be welcomed rather than avoided. It is a part of learning. It should not be feared by the engineer or scientist or indeed by anyone else

On Running

  • Running also taught me to overcome the pain barrier: when everyone else feels exhausted, that is the opportunity to accelerate, whatever the pain, and win the race.

Continuous Innovation

  • Rather like the way some sharks have to keep moving to stay alive, innovative engineering-led manufacturers need continuous innovation to stay competitive. Striving for new and better products is often what defines such companies.

Remember that there is nothing wrong with being persistently dissatisfied or even afraid. We should follow our interests and instincts, mistrusting experts, knowing that life is one long journey of learning, often from mistakes. We must keep on running and we really can do better!

Eureka moments

Eureka moments are very rare. More usually, you start off by testing a particular set-up, and by making one change at a time you start to understand what works and what fails. By that empirical means you begin the journey towards making the breakthrough, which usually happens in an unexpected way. You do need to have bright ideas or be willing to try the unthinkable along the journey, but trying to rush by testing a brainwave rarely works.

Beware of Experts

Experts tend to be confident that they have all the answers and, because of this trait, they can kill new ideas. But when you are trying to break new ground, you have no interest in getting stuck in engineering conventions or intellectual mud.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller

Don’t rest on your laurels.

One of the ways we made Dyson distinctive is by not allowing ourselves to rest on our laurels. “I believe that it is crucial to keep on improving and never to relax with a product that appears to be selling well. Permanently dissatisfied is how an engineer should feel.”

Permanently dissatisfied is how an engineer should feel.

Understanding the Asian Market

Asia is growing at three times the rate of Western economies, and whereas the EU share of world trade is declining from 15 to 9 per cent, Asia’s share is rising from 16 to 25 per cent.

Problem Solving

Education should be about problem-solving rather than retaining knowledge simply to pass exams. Problem-solving is something young people are naturally good at. Because there is a huge shortage of engineers, we need a way of educating young people that makes the subject as wonderful and as exciting as it is.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgement in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. –  Jacob Bronowski

On Entrepreneurship

Being an entrepreneur is not the same as being the wide boy of the media’s imagination. It is about creating new products and new opportunities, generating rewarding employment and opportunities in the process. At best, the entrepreneur is part of a cycle of renewal, driving progress.

The margin between profit and loss, between success and failure, is small. It may be necessary to change, to reinvent your business, as circumstances change around you.

On Ideas


After the event, a revolutionary new idea can look so obvious − surely no one could possibly have doubted it? At their conception, though, new ideas are not blindingly obvious. They are fragile things in need of encouragement and nurturing against doubting Thomases, know-it-alls and so-called experts. Just as Frank Whittle discovered, it is easy for people to say ‘no’, to dismiss new ideas and to be stick-in-the-muds, pessimists, or even cynics. It is much harder to see how something unexpected might be a success.

“The depressing thing is that harbingers of doom and gloom get far more attention than optimists and problem solvers.”

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile -info@lanredahunsi.com | lanre.dahunsi@gmail.com

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