Are these the worst decisions ever made?

 History is a catalogue of errors, cautionary tales, and poor decisions. Actually, some truly terrible decisions have been made over the years, rulings that have started wars and cost lives. On the other hand, there are examples of decisions taken that while proving disastrous for those who made them, have in fact benefited others, sometimes handsomely.

Be thankful you weren’t the one making these decisions.

  1. Decca Records decline to sign the Beatles

Decca Records’ infamous decision not to sign the Beatles after the band’s New Year’s Day audition in 1962 has gone down in music history. The official reason given was that “guitar groups are on the way out.” Fifteen months later, the Fab Four had their first UK no. 1 hit with ‘From Me to You.’

  1. The introduction of Prohibition

The introduction in the United States of Prohibition on January 17, 1920 made it illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell alcohol. But Prohibition didn’t stop people from imbibing alcohol, and an underground drinking culture quickly established itself, based on a thriving black market. The decision to dry out America was eventually rescinded on December 5, 1933.

  1. Microsoft for sale

In 1979, founder and chief executive officer of Electronic Data Systems Ross Perot (a self-made billionaire and future presidential candidate) was tempted with an offer to buy burgeoning software company Microsoft for US$60 million. He declined, citing the steep price and the fact that the company and its fresh-faced 23-year-old founder, Bill Gates (pictured), had yet to reach full potential. According to Forbes, as of April 2021, Microsoft is worth nearly two trillion dollars. A rueful Perot has since been quoted that it was the worst business decision he ever made.

  1. Star Wars merchandising rights

In 1973, 20th Century Fox accepted an offer by George Lucas to lower his fee for directing ‘Star Wars’ and instead grant him all merchandising rights and the rights to any sequels. The studio naively thought it had pulled off a great deal. The movie went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, and the series has since generated billions. Meanwhile, merchandise sales have earned billions more: Lucas essentially traded US$350,000 for more than $5 billion.

  1. Rejecting ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’

No less than 12 different publishing houses rejected J.K. Rowling’s novel ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ before Bloomsbury accepted it. Only 500 copies were issued; of those 200 were paperback proofs and 300 were hardbacks. A first edition (pictured) of the book is today worth thousands.

  1. Atari turns down Apple

When Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were looking to sell their revolutionary personal computers, they approached Atari, then one of the biggest video games and home computing companies in the world. Atari said no. They even declined the two Steve’s offer of coming to work for them. Atari was kicked into touch by the video game crash of 1983. Apple meanwhile became the planet’s biggest brand in computing and consumer electronics.

  1. E.T. fails to land on Mars

When Steven Spielberg was devising his blockbuster 1982 movie ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,’ the director approached confection company Mars and asked if he could use their candy for a scene where the cute alien munches on treats set as a lure by Elliot (Henry Thomas). Mars said no. Instead, Hershey came to the rescue with their Reese’s Pieces. E.T. loved them, and so did the public: sales of the peanut butter candy jumped 65%!

  1. Challenger fate sealed

Despite knowing that the space shuttle Challenger was experiencing problems with a number of O-rings that sealed the solid rocket boosters, NASA engineers still gave mission control the green light to launch the spacecraft. Shortly after lift off the seals failed, resulting in a catastrophic explosion and the loss of all those on board.

  1. Hanging up on the telephone

Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the first practical telephone in 1876. Bell offered the patent to Western Union, whose president, William Orton, dismissed Bell’s invention as a novelty toy. Ultimately, Bell himself was awarded the first US patent for the telephone. Two years later, the telephone was the communications device of choice for millions in America and beyond. Pictured is a group of businessmen watching Bell as he opens the New York-Chicago telephone line.

  1. Filling the Hindenburg with hydrogen

The LZ-129 Hindenburg was supposed to have been filled with non-flammable helium gas. But helium is more expensive than hydrogen, which was the gas ultimately used in a bid to cut costs. Thing is, hydrogen is highly combustible. As the Hindenburg was attempting to land at Lakehurst air station in New Jersey on May 6, 1937, the hydrogen ignited, sending the huge airship crashing to the ground engulfed in flames.

  1. Putting your faith in a mystic

When Russian Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra placed their faith in a religious charlatan called Grigori Rasputin, the royal couple had no idea that this mystic and self-proclaimed holy man would lead them to disaster. Rasputin’s scandalous behaviour eventually undermined the public’s respect for the czar and his family and sowed the seeds for the Russian Revolution and the downfall of the House of Romanov.

  1. Ordering the attack on Pearl Harbour

Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, drew the United States into the Second World War. But Japan hopelessly miscalculated the consequences of waking up a sleeping giant. On August 6, 1945, the US detonated an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima; three days later, a second nuclear weapon was dropped on Nagasaki.

  1. Kicking Monday Night Football into touch

In the late 1960s, NBC and CBS both passed on an opportunity offered by National Football League commissioner Pete Rozelle to broadcast live games on television in a program called Monday Night Football. Instead, ESPN closed the deal, and from 1970 to 2005 aired the weekly sports program on its sister broadcast network ABC before its 2006 debut on ESPN proper. Monday Night Football remains one of the longest-running, highest-rated TV shows of all time.

  1. A Titanic failure of duty

A litany of bad decision making, inadequate equipment, and the fact that the ship had not undergone sea trials led to the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1915, after she collided with an iceberg. More passengers might have survived had additional lifeboats been available—the Titanic was outfitted with only enough for a third of the total passengers and crew it could carry.

  1. Thalidomide scandal

Thousands of pregnant women were prescribed thalidomide in the 1950s and early 1960s, marketed around the world as a safe over-the-counter sedative to counter morning sickness. But it eventually became apparent that thalidomide caused malformation to the foetus during pregnancy, resulting in babies being born with severe deformities. By the time it was withdrawn, over 10,000 babies had been affected by the drug worldwide.

  1. The New Coke that lost its fizz

In 1985, Coke celebrated its centennial anniversary by announcing a “New Coke,” launched after select blind tastings showed the new formula tasted better than old Coke. However, the general public wasn’t convinced, and sales dropped 20%. The Coca-Cola company was defiant, however, and continued to produce the new version until finally admitting defeat, in 2002. The decision to try and fix something that wasn’t broken failed dramatically, and the “New Coke” campaign is considered one of the biggest marketing blunders of the 20th century.

  1. Turning his back on Bond

Movie star Burt Reynolds (1936–2018) declined the iconic role of James Bond (later played by Sean Connery) and Indiana Jones (portrayed by Harrison Ford). Reynolds revealed in a 2015 interview that he later “deeply regretted” his decisions.

  1. Hand of God

In one of the most infamous episodes in world soccer, Argentina’s Diego Maradona leapt up above England goalkeeper Peter Shilton during a 1986 World Cup quarterfinal and punched in a goal using his fist. Despite the “handball” protests from the England players, the referee’s decision stood. England eventually lost the game. The press quickly dubbed Maradona’s goal as being assisted by the “hand of God.”

  1. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia

Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia in June 1812 convinced his Grande Armée of more than 450,000 men could defeat the forces of Czar Alexander. But he did so against the advice of his generals, and he neglected to take into account the effect the huge distances involved would have on his supply lines, and the savagery of the Russian winter. Thousands of French troops froze to death; many more died of starvation and disease. And a huge number fell victim to enemy guns.

  1. Hitler’s invasion of Russia

Napoleon’s disastrous campaign didn’t stop Adolf Hitler from ordering the largest military invasion of the Second World War when he too marched into Russia. The Nazis failed to take Moscow and then also fell victim to sub-zero temperatures, lack of supplies, and a particularly vengeful foe.

  1. Missing the Kodak moment

Few people realize that digital photography was originally a Kodak innovation, and in fact the company held the patent for the technology as early as 1975. But Kodak, famed for introducing the Brownie camera in 1900, refused to invest in digital research and development. Their rivals, meanwhile, were busily inventing something called the smartphone. By the time Kodak tried to catch up in the early 2000s, it was too late. Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2012.

  1. Striking it poor

Few will have heard of Edwin Drake (1819–1880), which is unfortunate given that he was one of the United States’ pioneering oilmen. In 1858, he became the first American to successfully drill for oil. He could have made millions but neglected to patent the drilling technology he’d invented. Furthermore, he squandered his savings on futile oil speculation and died impoverished.

  1. Accepting the Trojan Horse

When Trojan forces pulled in a huge wooden horse through the gates of their city, they understood it to be a parting gift from their Greek foes, fed up with fighting and seeking an honourable peace. But the Trojans bitterly regretted their decision after they learned that the hollow horse contained a Greek force who’d crept out after dark to open the gates and let in the rest of the Greek army. Troy was sacked, and the war ended.

  1. An attack that exacted terrible revenge

When Inalchuq, the governor of Otrar in the Khwarezmian Empire, attacked a trade caravan sent from Mongolia by Genghis Khan (1162-1227) and who later had its 500 merchants executed, the Mongol leader exacted a terrible revenge by completely annihilating the Muslim Empire, which marked the beginning of the Mongol’s conquest of Central Asia and the Islamic world.

  1. The Great Leap Forward… in the wrong direction

The economic and social campaign initiated by the Chinese Communist Party from 1958 to 1962 and led by Mao Zedong constituted the collectivization of China. Known as the Great Leap Forward, it resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

  1. Sparking an environmental catastrophe

On the verge of defeat, a vengeful Saddam Hussein ordered retreating Iraqi troops to set fire to over 600 Kuwaiti oil fields during the final days of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Hussein’s decision was no less a wanton act of environmental vandalism, with up to 1.5 billion barrels of oil eventually spewed out across the desert.

REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort


“The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.”- Frank Sinatra.


Happiness is…making good decisions.


My doctor told me I’m going deaf. The news was hard for me to hear.


Love is…something you need on life’s journey.


A time not to turn down the Beatles…A time not to reject ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.



©2022 Phil M Robinson