Back in my corporate advertising days, I was constantly hearing the phrase being bandied around the meeting table, “Failure is not an option”. It always made me roll my eyeballs, though at the time I wasn’t exactly sure why.
Now that I’m a wee bit older and wiser, I think I may now have the answer.
Because Failure is always an option, Stupid.
No great leader ever said “Failure is not an option”. Because the simple fact was, they were great leaders in circumstances where Failure was always very much a possibility. As they say, a good General never underestimates the enemy.
Leonidas. Alexander. Hannibal. Churchill. Frederick The Great. Kutzukov. Rommel. All of them KNEW the situation they were facing. Without Failure being an option, they would have never come up with the goods. They would have just left it all to their junior officers to run with. But of course, they didn’t. Which is why they’re still remembered.
However, Hitler did say “Failure is not an option.” On the Russian Front, he basically forbade his armies from retreating a single inch, even if it was strategically wise to do so. And Thank God for us that he did. This hubris basically cost the Nazis the Battle of Stalingrad. Rock on.
[Thanks to Shelley for getting me started thinking on this.]
Wanted to comment on how much I like this post on Twitter but you aint added me yet 😉
It rocks, you post that is.
Well, I’d argue that if you can not imagine the circumstances under which you would select failure then it is not an option.
It is, however, always a possibility.
And the annoying thing about the “failure is not an option” people is that they are invariably the ones least willing to deliver the intellectual and physical juice to lessen the probability of failure. (c.f., the Hitler anecdote)
Dude: Failure is not an option!!
You: Then what are you willing to do?
there’s a big difference between the word ‘option’ and ‘possibility’–failure is always a possibility, but may or may not be an option.
Tibor Kalman: “Success = Boredom”
My problem with the sort of people who say ‘Failure is not an option’ is that they’re invariably the same people who said, two paragraphs earlier, that they want bold, risk-taking approaches.
So true. Failing is important. And “fail fast and adapt” is perfect.
Managing the downside is key in project management.
Minimizing losses is key to investing
(Buffett and his rule #1).
Heck, its key to life.
Would love to not have failure as an option.
Unfortunately, not gonna happen.
Sometimes “failure” leads one to find out want went wrong, tackle that issue and rise to the top.
if you don’t fail, you never learn…look forward to seeing u soon!
We can turn this around: failure is not option, but success is!
Of course, great Generals always say things like, We will win this war or This is or fight, err, rather, they just wanna sound cool. But we’ve gotta’ give them credit they have immeasurable will to win despite the odds that failure was very like to happen.
It’s disappointing to see the Gapingvoid blog languishing, replaced by snarky little Twitter posts. Maybe I’m missing the point but Twitter doesn’t seem to allow much depth– it’s more like listening to a bunch of truckers on their CB radios. I appreciate the immediacy, but there’s a tradeoff..