Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Should Failure Really Not Be an Option?

If you saw the film, Apollo 13, you might remember the tense scene where Gene (Ed Harris) responds to the doomed status of the spacecraft and it's astronauts, by saying: "We've never lost an American in space and we're sure as hell not going to lose one on my watch. Failure is not an option!"

And then there was the scene in the film, Avengers, where the attacked Agent Coulson lays dying, and says to the power-hungry Loki, "You're going to lose. It's in your nature....you lack conviction."

Let's face it, it's cooler to possess conviction than to flop around and possibly fail, but is it advisable to need to succeed? To not allow for failures along the way?

Ironically, if you look at the most "successful" people in history, you'll discover that they were the ones who failed over and over again, but never gave up. They might have experienced doubt, frustration, even humiliation, but they kept on truckin' because their objective or life purpose was more important than their pride. They were on a mission.

I remember being in high school and hearing an athletic boy say that while he was good at certain sports, he refused to try new sports that he knew he wouldn't be great at. I remember thinking that that sounded pretty dumb, and that his need to maintain a prideful self-image would surely limit him in life.

But don't most of us do this to some extent? We avoid trying things that might fail. Sometimes this is perfectly reasonable, like when we've flunked out of sixth grade math and decide not to pursue a career in tax accounting. That just makes sense. But when we habitually play it safe because a voice inside us says "failure is not an option" then we've made our world a very small place. Succeeding at "sure-things" is not what we're most proud of on our death beds. 

Failure, in some areas, has to be okay in order to grow and thrive. There are high stake and low stake situations, and it's very appropriate to take risks when the stakes are not high (for instance, when failure has no substantial consequences). But, if you have a big life purpose, you'll probably have to go out on a limb more than the average person, if you want to succeed.

This week, I invite you to listen to your inner guidance that's nudging you to step out of your comfort zone in service of an important goal or purpose. Maybe you need to take a stand or make your ideas known. Maybe you need to approach someone who might reject you. Or maybe you need to seriously consider leaving a job that's not right for you. These actions require boldness, and there's no guarantee that you'll get the outcome you want, but if you don't take action, what will be the result?