A few months ago, I saw the young lady pictured to the left at the Calgary airport. I was so impressed with the message of her sweatshirt that I asked for her permission to snap the picture. She was delighted to oblige.
The word “Failure” is a little subjective; perhaps having a little different meaning to everyone; though any definition is still unseemly when contrasted with a word like “success”. To me failure simply means that we didn’t measure up to our original expectations. In school we expect to get good grades if we put in the effort; but sometimes our work doesn’t meet the expectation of the professor or class standards, and we fail. At work, we have expectations in regards to many metrics, and when we don’t measure up, to the degree we didn’t, we fail.
The reason I loved the message on the sweatshirt is that it clearly states that the option of failure is not in this young ladies vocabulary. Just the thought of this powerful statement tells me that regardless of the effort required, this IS the effort to be put forth so that failure is not an option. Though avoiding failure may not be the best reason for motivation (striving for excellence puts a more positive spin on it), yet its tone insinuates that unless we succeed in our quest, there are consequences that will bring dastardly results.
Benjamin Franklin, in his quest for perfection, found it daunting. He told a story relating to this that is worth pondering in our own quest to not consider failure an option:
“My faults vexed me so much that I made little progress and had such frequent lapses that I was almost ready to give up the attempt and content myself with a faulty character in that respect. Like the man who in buying an axe of a smith, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge, the smith consented to grind the man’s axe bright for him if he would turn the wheel. This he did while the smith pressed the broad face of the axe heavily on the stone which made the turning very fatiguing. The man stopped every now and then to see how much progress had been made and at length would take his axe as it was without further grinding. ‘No’, said the smith, ‘turn on, turn on, we shall have it bright by and by”. As yet it was only speckled.’ ‘Yes,’ said the man, but I think I liked a speckled axe best.’ And I believe this may be the case with many who, having for want of some such means as I employed, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits, had given up the struggle and concluded that a speckled axe was best after all.”
So we perhaps fail only when we give up. And while it is not an option (to fail), it is nonetheless only as avoidable as our efforts to thwart that failure.