In the movie Apollo 13, Ed Harris (playing the part of Gene Kranz, flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions for NASA) says, “Failure is not an option.” And then by ding dongy those magicians at NASA SUCCEED! It turns out that Kranz did not actually say this in real life but he loved the fiction so much he used it as a title for his memoir. It is also the title of a presentation on the History Channel documenting the United States’ space program. If your want to watch this inspiring clip, sure to warm your heart, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tid44iy6Rjs.
But the truth is, failure is absolutely an option; it happens every day. I fail every day to notice a moment when I could have been kinder, gentler, more loving and more helpful. Don’t talk to me about failure as if it is not an option; don’t tell Kate Bowler who counts the days she will have with her child as opposed to the decades she anticipated that failure is not an option. Failure is not only an option, it is a guarantee.
Why do we set these standards for success without respecting the reality of failure? Who got the bright idea that if we double-down on demonizing failure that somehow we would end up with more success? As far as I can tell, it just increases the likelihood that we will develop nervous tics or a propensity to self-medicate.
In my world acceptance of reality can be the difference between life and death. I suspect it is a better predictor of someone’s longevity than unbridled optimism. Acceptance requires that we ALWAYS respect the possibility that failure is an option.
This is hard, but it is also true.
Is there any relationship or situation in your life that is challenging you to step out of denial and into the world of reality? Failure is an option. What do you need to accept?