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19 August 2007

Failure is an option

Many times I've heard colleagues say that 'failure is not an option', I've even said it humorously myself. But failure is an option and it might just be a good thing to experience sometimes.

Success is highly regarded in our society. It is extremely popular if the sheer number of blogs and websites devoted to it is any gauge. There seems to be an almost feverish chase after success, and it is success defined in fairly narrow terms - wealth, power, achievement, and high regard by other people.

None of these is a bad thing to have. But I do wonder if this chase after them is good for us human beings. I also wonder if the occasional failure might not teach us more about ourselves and the way things work than unbridled success. The knowledge of how to handle failure is critical to persistence and subsequent achievement.

Failure should be an acceptable option for human life. It builds knowledge and, handled properly, can make us more resilient. It is not possible to make progress without taking some level of risk, and the chance of failure is inherent in every risk taken. Of course, I am not advocating failure as a habit, but sometimes failure can be a good outcome.

So many of the great discoveries that benefit our world today are the result of people who knew how to handle failure. They are the result of persistence effort based upon revised knowledge. But if we have never experienced failure and do not know how to handle it then we might never persist until we achieve success.

via Aide-mémoire

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