Have you heard the phrase, “failure is not an option?” If you have, you have heard one of the biggest lies of all time. “Failure is always an option”, or so proclaims Adam Savage from Myth Busters. I think he is on to something, but I would take it a step further: not only is failure always an option, it is the most readily available option. More than that, failure is a choice—an easy and comfortable choice.
Thomas Edison had two profound things to say about failure that is helpful in illustrating the point.
The thought that not achieving something is failure is wrong.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ― Thomas Edison
Most people assume that failure occurs when we fall short or do not achieve that which we set out to achieve. This is the wrong way to look at it. The most successful people in history have viewed moments of disappointment as education rather than failure. Take the famous quote from Thomas Edison as an example. Not inventing the light bulb after 10,000 attempts was not failure; it was an education in what does not work.
Failure is giving up on an idea or dream after not achieving it.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. — Thomas Edison
If failure is not the lack of achievement, then what is it? Failure is giving up after not achieving something. Michael Hyatt recently wrote in a post titled, “How to Develop the One Trait Essential for Success” that persistence is key to success. If that is true, then it logically follows that persistence is also the key to avoid failing.
There is some liberty taken here regarding the literal meaning of the word failure, but it is to illustrate a point: failure happens all of the time. We all miss the mark a lot. Failure only becomes a reality if we accept the outcome as permanent. We are all better than the sum of our mistakes. Failure will tell you every time that you are not. Failure is a liar.