# Help turn a famous quote into an equation!!!December 17, 2012 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking to turn the Winston Churchill quote, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm," into an equation.
posted by fubunker to Science & Nature (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Success = Failure plus Enthusiasm multiplied by infinity?

S = F + E*i
posted by royalsong at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2012

That is not a Winston Churchill quote, it is one of the innumerable self-help-ish pseudo-quotes randomly attributed to famous people. If you search Winston Churchill Quotes, which seems pretty well done (proper attributions when available), you will not find it there, and it doesn't even sound like something he could have said.
posted by languagehat at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think it just means that the integral of the success metric S over time t is postive given that dE/dt > 0 when S(t) is negative (E being the enthusiasm metric). Maybe someone can Latex that.
posted by unSane at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, what Languagehat said. Quotes attributed to WC are often fake.
posted by unSane at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2012

Thanks I'm not all that interested in who said it, I like the quote and am interested in the equations that could be made from it that are like the one marked best. Anyone have other variations.

I'm creating an image that has a chalk board an equation on it, I'd just like to sneak this in there somewhere.
posted by fubunker at 2:17 PM on December 17, 2012

The highlighted equation simplifies to "Success equals infinity"
posted by thelonius at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, "infinity" would mean never ever stopping; you need to convey the idea of "keep doing it until it works," not "keep doing it forever."

I am not enough of a mathematician to know how to write that, though in code you would do a loop with a "break' when a condition was reached.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

S(f, E) = (k/f) * E
or just:
S = (k/f) * E
where k >= f

So success is a function of number of failures (f) and enthusiasm (E),
where the final enthusiasm ((k/f) * E) is always greater than or equal to the amount of enthusiasm that you started with.

Or something.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

A programming translation might be something like:

while success == False:      success = try_again( with_enthusiasm = True )
posted by jsturgill at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2012

Thanks drjimmy11 and theonius I highlighted that one to point out the kind of structure of the equation in response to the people who had no idea what I was talking about. I've never used this site before but it's pretty awesome how quickly it took to get on the right track. I used to be good at this stuff.
posted by fubunker at 2:36 PM on December 17, 2012

I'm afraid I don't have time to write this out symbolically, but here's a mathematical formalization:
Let F be the set of all failures, and suppose that enthusiasm can be denoted by a single real-valued variable. Let G = F cross R, the set of all failure-enthusiasm pairs. Let H be the set of all functions which map G onto itself. We may then define the set of all successes, S, as a subset of G. A member s of S must satisfy the following property: there exists at least one f in F and r in R such that, if s(f, r) = (f', r'), r' >= r.

Note that we only require the existence of one f, since the invented Churchill quotation only wants the ability to go from failure to failure without diminution of enthusiasm -- for a stricter criterion, just replace the existential quantifiers with universal ones in the final condition.
(Mathematicians: please correct me if required. It's a long time since I studied mathematics.)

Hopefully someone else can come along and symbolify this... if not, I will see if I have time later tonight.
posted by pont at 2:36 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops sorry, I meant that S is a subset of H.
posted by pont at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2012

I think an important question is: do you want this to be an equation for people who understand equations, or something that looks like an equation that will be understood easily by everyone else?
posted by windykites at 5:26 PM on December 17, 2012

I managed to knock something up in LaTeX (a typesetting tool that's really good for math). Here's the image, with very small margins that I can't figure out how to increase.

(If you follow this link it should take you to a web site which will show both the LaTeX code and the equation, though I'm not 100% sure it will work in your browser. People can also modify the equation there.)

Explanation (I don't know how familiar you are with calculus. Forgive me if I explain too much.): The vertical bar means "restricted to", so we are only looking at areas where there is Failure. 'E' is Enthusiasm, and the fact that d/dt is >= 0 means that Enthusiasm never decreases as time moves forward. So it's basically putting your words into symbols. It doesn't immediately or obviously make 100% mathematical sense, but I could throw some more details at it and describe a situation where it does. But it does look nicely concise and math-y.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:45 AM on December 18, 2012

I re-read what you want this for. If you're trying to sneak this onto a chalkboard you can play with the variables representing Enthusiasm and Failure. If you need them to totally not stand out, just use 'E' and 'F'. If you want to make them obvious you can spell them all the way out.

Me, I'd go with this.( If caught you can claim that 'Enth' stands for enthalpy). BTW, if you want more math-exclusive symbols in it, you could use this instead. Those "backward 6's" are probably less appropriate, but I think they look mathy-er, and no one other than the pedants on MetaFilter (like me) is really going to care.

(And you probably want to put "Succ =", or just "S = " in front of it, for the "Success is ..." part of the saying.)
posted by benito.strauss at 1:02 AM on December 18, 2012

windykites I'd have to say more authentic gear towards people who understand equations.

benito.strauss the first image that you posted looks great.

Thanks!
posted by fubunker at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2012

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