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  • Rob Simpson

Sometimes Failure IS an Option

One of my favorite movies of all-time is “Apollo 13”. An amazing tribute to the courage and sheer force of will of those who were part of the Apollo program.


Ed Harris, in his excellent portrayal of Flight Director Gene Kranz, delivers what is probably the most famous line of the movie at the end of a scene where declares that we are not losing these men by saying, “Failure is not an option.”


The line is stirring, inspirational and to the point. Unfortunately, it was hijacked by managers in business and has been used for decades to ‘rally the troops’. I have had it happen more than once in my sales career for a manager to tell the team in general or me specifically that numbers had to be met because “Failure is not an option.” – Bull.  I even received an email once from an agency client of mine who was looking for tickets for a client of theirs for a concert the night before the Super Bowl and we were told we had to get those tickets because, you guessed it, failure was not an option (the real irony of the story is that the game was in Houston).


A little perspective please. If you don’t make your numbers, or a bigwig doesn’t get concert tickets do three Astronauts lose their lives? In fact, people who run successful businesses usually believe that failure is essential in order to succeed. The trick is to stick with it.  You must have heard that we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take. I remember Michael Jordan recounting how many thousands of shots he missed. The point is that while no one likes to fail it is essential for growth. NASA had many, many failed rocket launches that allowed them to learn what was necessary to send men to the moon nine times and bring them back safely each time.


We need to make our numbers. We need to achieve goals in order to stay employed to do fun things like put food on the table. But we also need to put things in perspective. Remember, there’s no sin in falling down, just as long as you get up.


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