Failure Is Not An Option…It’s A Requirement

By Robert Kennedy III

Movie buffs will remember the scene in Apollo 13 where Ed Harris, playing Eugene Kranz, is trying to get the ship back to earth safely and he says that no loss will happen on his watch. He ends with the catch phrase, “Failure is not an option!” That was a critical time and so there were a lot of things at stake; there were LIVES at stake. So, it was understandable that everything was going to be done to ensure safety. But, what if something DID happen? What if there WAS some failure? What if there was a mistake? If someone made a miscalculation, does that mean that the quest to return them home did not go on? If the mission failed totally, would that mean that no other mission would be undertaken?

I was always bred to shoot for success and to avoid failure. We grew up getting report cards every term that signified how well you did, whether you passed or failed. If you did well, you usually got awards at the end of the year. The kids who failed or didn’t do so well got to sit quietly and watch the rest of us get awards and accolades. Now, I am not advocating failure by choice or failure by lack of action. But, I did notice that at this stage of life, most kids were not told about the purpose of failure or how to respond to it. Actually, let me change my phrasing. I should say that no one taught them how to create from failure rather than responding to it or ignore it. In my mind, “failure is not an OPTION, it’s a REQUIREMENT”. It’s how we grow. It’s how we learn. Most of the things that we know now or take for granted came about because somebody else guessed wrong the first time. We know that fire burns because we touched something hot. That doesn’t seem like a “sensible” thing to do. But, that was how we learned. Orville and Wilbur Wright broke so many planes that it wasn’t even funny. THEN, we they finally DID get one to fly, the big story that we give them credit for, it flew for TWELVE seconds! Woohaa!! But the point was that they FAILED first!

I read a post by Dan Miller this week that related a story by Robert Schuller. He said “to think about an athlete jumping a high bar. As long as that athlete clears the bar we really don’t how good he/she is. It is only when the bar is tripped (failure) that we have an accurate measurement of how good that athlete really is.” Another example is that of weightlifters. The way that they really measure how strong they are is to push themselves to a point of “failure”. When you can’t lift that next weight, that’s how you know how much you can lift at that time. When you can’t do another rep, that’s how you know how much endurance you have. We find out MUCH more about ourselves in failure than in success. It’s when you know what you CAN’T do at the time that you can truly formulate a plan to DO IT!

So, yeah! FAIL! Go right ahead! Go for it! Take risks!! CREATE SOMETHING NEW!! But most importantly, learn!