Failure is not an option.
This phrase is often associated with Gene Kranz, who was flight director for many of the Gemini and Apollo missions, including the near-disastrous Apollo 13 mission.
When the explosion happened on that mission, many at NASA thought it might end with the three astronauts not coming home alive. During their rescue preparation, Kranz supposedly made his heroic declaration to those making the preparations.
Indeed, from one perspective, failure is not an option. There are times you must win the race or reach the mark. In that scenario and many others, failure would simply mean disaster or catastrophe.
But let’s look at this phrase a little differently. Is failure ever okay? Does failure signal the end? What comes after failure?
You can bet that failure is not an option. It’s an absolute guarantee: You will encounter failure. In fact, failure litters the road to success. You won’t be successful, you won’t reach your goal, you won’t see the victory…unless and until you fail. Probably over and over again.
Sidenote: One reason the Apollo 13 mission was successful is that the men and women who pulled off the rescue had failed countless times. And they failed again and again in the hours prepping for the rescue.
A friend of mine posted this recently on social media: “It’s not over when you fail. It’s over when you quit.”
All too often, though, failing and quitting are synonymous. People fail; people give up. No, your life isn’t over when you fail. But if you quit when you fail, you’re done. It’s over. Oh, you may not die physically, but giving up and throwing in the towel is mental and emotional death.
It’s why Benjamin Franklin said: “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”
Failure should never lead us to quit or give up. It should serve as the fertilizer for the next step. Indeed, failure simply means we haven’t found the best way. But if we learn from failure and defeat, success and victory are one step closer.
- How can you use your latest failure to learn?
- What do you need to change or tweak?
- Who do I need to involve in this journey to help me get where I’m going?
- What went right? What didn’t go well? What can I do better?
Instead of giving up, use your latest failure as a stepping stone to get one step closer to your goal.