For the longest time I have heard the expression Failure is not an option. In fact it is the key moment from the Apollo 13 move. (Scene here -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tid44iy6Rjs ) But for some reason that attitude and theory falls short. Although I can say the ultimate end state is to succeed but not allowing failure, or even acknowledging failure what are we doing?
Take the Wright Brothers. Did they succeed in flying the first time? I doubt it. They learned from their failures and improved the design to finally get flight. They actually started with Kites and ways to bend the wings to control flight. They continued to improve which each new kite they built. Once they had the kite working, it gave them inspiration that they could create powered flight. Unfortunately the only notes of failure were the two attempts before the final successful day. Even that day, they failed 4 times before successfully flying. Lost in their success is the number of attempts, the changes made, the lessons learned at each step of the way. Their failures led to their success.
Let us take Walter Owen Bentley (yes of the Bentley Brothers and Bentley Automobiles) who was inspired to make a lighter piston based on a paper weight. After dozens of attempts to make aluminum piston and failing he chose to combine aluminum with copper to finally make a light weight piston. No notes remain for how many attempts and different metals he tried. But if he didn’t succeed we would not have light weight pistons (until someone else tried) His failures led to success.
In both cases these great people looked at what they were doing, tried something and then made changes to finally come with a solution that worked. Failure was an option, in fact failure was a necessary option. Without their failures they would have never learned what does not work. Bruce Lee (yes I will quote him again) “Don’t fear failure – Not failure but low aim is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious to fail”.
So why don’t we “celebrate” failures. When I was a child there was the open video for the wide world of supports where they talked about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv368yWOSas go to the 16 second mark.. This is the one time I see it celebrated, it some strange way everyone saw this and was excited to see it. In auto racing you hear the notion that people watch for the crashes (failures) more than for the win. But how can we figure out how to let people who are trying, it is ok to fail. To let people take risks and let the fail without consequences. Do you think Apple got everything right first? And every product was successful. There are websites dedicated to Googles graveyard (of projects) they killed.
Lastly my thought is about looking at failure. As stated above Bentley and the Wright Brothers learned from their failures and made changes, but is there a time when failure should lead to no change? Is there a time when you fail at something, and it is not about changing but trying again? Take the time you learned to walk, you fell a lot. You did not re-invent the way walking is done, you just got up and tried it again. Eventually your muscles and brains kicked in and you were successful. So it is not “failure” has to bring change, but failure should be celebrated as a precursor to success.
Having failed a lot I guess I learn often what doesn’t work, but my failures always seem to bring a way to succeed. And I am still learning when I need to change something or I just need to try again. Persistence and knowing when to change and what to change leads to success.
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This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.