In the service, you could guarantee that you would have a boss that said, “Failure is not an option.” I always thought “Yeah it is, just not always a good one.”
If you asked me now, I would say that failure is not only an option, it is a good thing. It means that you are trying. More important failure is often the beginning of the success. Edison said he failed over 10,000 before inventing the light bulb. J.K. Rowling has a whole box of rejections for Harry Potter, and the favorite of shade tree mechanics, WD40 got its name because the first 39 formulas failed. In each case, the failure was just a step.
Looking back at my own life, I can see that I was a failure throughout most of it.
– I almost flunked out of West Point because of failing a PT test.
– I was non select my first time for major
– I flunked my grad school comprehensive exam because of my answers on presidential studies and security theory.
– After nine months working on my dissertation, my adviser told me that I had nothing and he would no longer be my adviser.
– Most of my short stories were rejected including one that was rejected almost a dozen times.
So as a LOSER, what has that meant.
– I graduated the Academy, had a successful career where my ‘high level of fitness’ was a regular comment in my OERs. At 63, I can still keep up with my 27 year old son cross country bicycling.
– I was promoted and spent the rest of my career as a senior staff officer advising ambassadors and four star generals.
– I got my Ph.D. and created numerous courses in security studies and teach a popular course on the presidency.
– My adviser stayed with me and recommended my dissertation for a national award.
– In the last year, I have published over a half dozen stories. The story that was rejected almost a dozen times was the first story I actually sold.
My point is not to have a humble brag, but to point out that at each point I had the choice of what to do with my failure. Instead of blaming others or seeing failure as a permanent label, I saw it as just a temporary condition.
So, is failure an option – hell yes. As brighter and more successful people than me have pointed out, failure means you are trying, experimenting and not settling. Failure is just part of advancing.