Failure is Not an Option – Well, Really?

While the words in the title were never actually said in Apollo 13 control room, they are now forever interlocked with space travel. Many things can happen and are accepted – except for this one. I’ve seen many managers using the phrase often enough to trivialize it. More often than not, failure turned out to be a very viable option – the sole that realized. Even NASA, with all their hard work and technology, suffered some fatal accidents – usually quite spectacular.

In life, we abuse this mindset heavily, focusing on trivial things. Runners push hard to achieve their personal best result forgetting the big picture – why they run at all. Often, they get injured or give up sports after failed attempts. Spouses get irritated about small things, while the other side doesn’t want to give them up. Parents lock down on trivial stuff that clouds all the good behind it. Just because nobody wants to fail on their own idea, own concept, and own sense of power.

I appreciate the historical significance and motivational power of this phrase. When I visited Johnson Space Center earlier this year, I brought a lanyard saying “Failure is not an option” with me. It’s embarrassingly radiant red, making no match whatsoever to anything I wear, yet I carry my car key on it proudly.

Yet, I keep failing at things on a daily basis. And I’m happy about it. If you notice it and do something about it – well, that’s called learning.

Missed one of my routines? Ok, seems like I got distracted by that phone call. I should make a checklist.

Had a lousy workout? Seems like I didn’t get much sleep the previous night. Next time, I’ll have to make better food choices.

Failed at assignment at work? There was something I didn’t consider. Let’s factor it in the next time.

You may notice the dichotomy – I keep failing, yet I’m making an act of crime on fashion by tagging this lanyard with me. It’s very simple. I keep failing on small things, like routines and goals, so that I don’t fail on my big one – my theme – of being the best dad.

(The theme is something someone wants to achieve it over their lifetime. Once you realize it, goals and routines can be used to support it. If you’d like to know more about this concept, grab my book here: Target, Theme, and Routine)

You will fail on small things every single day of your life. That makes you human, perfect in imperfection. Just use these failures to improve yourself, one step at a time, so that the one thing that really matters remains in your sight.

Failing that one is not an option for sure.

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employers, customers, or clients.

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