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Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"Failure is not an option."
    -from the movie "Appolo 13"

Even though the above quote was never actually said by the real flight director of Appolo 13, Gene Krantz, it captures the "can do" persistence of all the scientist and technicians involved in that historic event.   It also describes an ethos that permeates much of our culture that praises success and has little if any patience with failure.

Ironically, the idea that failure is not an option is one of the greatest obstacles to success and the Appolo 13 mission is a perfect example.   The eventual solutions to problems that finally returned the astronauts safely to earth were the results of trying different options until arriving at one that worked.  Simply put, their eventual success was but a path strewn with failure.

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, "I'm not going to do it unless I can do it right."?   And, how many times has nothing been done, or done too late as a result of such thinking?   Too often we let the perfect prevent the possible.  Too often we are so afraid of failure that we never risk success.  And to not risk success is living in creative paralysis.

Think of all of the great ideas, inventions, advancements, and achievements in human history.   How many would have actually occurred if the people involved had not risked failure, and actually failed in the process of finding solutions, struggling with language, trying various combinations, or getting up after falling?  This is especially true when looking at the people in the narratives of the Bible and other holy texts.

This doesn't mean we should not set our goals high and have grand vision.  Quite the contrary - it is actually an invitation into excellence as we set our minds and passions on those things that seem impossible.   I'm not sure who said this first but I do know that we need to keep saying and living:  "It's only impossible until someone does it."   And we'll only really do it when we're not afraid to fail.  So in the end, perhaps failure is really the only option.

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