In Reality, Failure Should Always Be an Option

by Amy Steinberg Published Jan 23, 2018 Last updated Jan 23, 2018

How many times have you heard someone reference the quote “Failure is not an option” from the movie Apollo 13?

Last week at a staff meeting, one of our company leaders brought up the idea that while nobody wants to fail, failing is inevitable on the way to successful innovation. In an effort to sustain a creative culture that thrives on new and progressive ideas, we cannot be held back by the mindset that failure is synonymous with the end.

If we aren’t going to permit ourselves to fail and in turn learn from our failures, then we may be better off not trying at all. Ralph Heath, author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Takings Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big says, “Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers.”

So, why is failure good for success and innovation, and what can we learn from our defeat?

Increased knowledge and experience

Each perceived failure is a new experience and provides an opportunity to continue learning. Failing multiple times is okay, but you should fail differently each time you fail. If we take the time to fully understand why something failed we can take that newly learned knowledge and revise our approach or even step back and reevaluate our goal.

Opportunity for growth

When we fail, we grow and mature as human beings, as a team, and as a company. Growth is a fundamental part of us, without growth we wouldn’t be able to innovate. Having the ability to reflect and take our failures into perspective can help us to better understand the defeat and reposition ourselves for success.

Revised approach

R.L. Adams often “talks about the necessity for creating a plan in order to succeed. But not just creating one plan and never changing it. You have to constantly revise your approach, measuring and adjusting things as you go.”

He gives an airplane as an example. “A plane takes off from LAX, flying to JFK. It plans to arrive 5.5 hours later by traveling at a particular speed, altitude, and direction. But what happens when there are interruptions along the way? Turbulence? Air-traffic congestion? The plane adjusts its plan. It doesn’t change the goal.”*

Increased motivation

According to Laura Hutton, “With resilience comes increased motivation, and this can be one of the best things that we can gain from failure. When we don’t succeed the first time, many of us use this failure as drive to do better the next time. This is one of the best ways you can embrace failure, and will be a great credit to your character. Remember, failure is inevitable, and it is those who rise above it with increased drive who will succeed.”

Final Thoughts

As J.K. Rowling says, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

In a world of innovation, it is important that we accept failure is an option, provided that we are committed to learning from our defeats and using them as a stepping stone to success.


*More information on R.L. Adams opinions on failure can be found here.

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