Failure is not an option. It’s been a cultural catch phrase in business, sports, and even marriages, typically associated with determination and perseverance. Truly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Failure is not an option” comes from our illogical human need to put heroes on a pedestal. We want to think that they say this phrase to themselves just before they grab victory against all odds. We view heroes as incapable of being killed, missing a basket, making a bad stock pick, or simply making a poor decision. In our dreams, our heroes cannot fail, for them “failure is not an option.”
Any look at our cultural heroes will show you a plethora of failure. There are videos made about how much they fail. Yet, we still believe they are perfect. What’s worse? We use that same ideal of the “perfect hero” as the bar by which we measure ourselves. We believe that for us to be great, to be heroes, we too must not fail; we must never allow failure to be an option.
Despite all the motivational videos to the contrary, we live in a world in which failure is viewed as a sign that they are not good enough, that they can’t be that hero. The systems we have created in education, business, even relationships, do not allow failure to be an option.
This is truly a great injustice, one which Hope Torch is dedicating to breaking through. Failure IS an option. Not only that, failure MUST BE an option. This is because failure is a stepping stone. Heroes are heroes because they have persevered through failure, not avoid it. People who say that they don’t fail, are never truly testing their potential.
Failure is a catalyst to three pillars of who we are: our growth, our self-worth, and our legacy.
Failure must be an option for Enabling Growth.
Dr. Carol Dweck has identified two broad classifications on an individual’s developmental ideology: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset suggests that your potential is known and unchanging. Life is lived in a constant loop of reaffirming this limited potential. In a fixed mindset, failure is a step away from your fixed potential. Thus, a fixed mindset causes us to run away from failure.
The fixed mindset has one fundamental problem. How does anyone know what their potential is? How do you know how you will impact the world?
Out of this conundrum comes the growth mindset. A growth mindset suggests that no one knows their limits, their potential. Every step we take is a step toward that potential. This includes failure. In fact, failure becomes a powerful refiner and course corrector.
“A ‘growth mindset,’ on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/
A body-builder will always push their muscles to the point of failure. Until they hit that point of failure, they don’t truly grow. The same is true in all things, most of all our personal development.
A growth mindset embraces failure even more than success. We must seek failure out and challenge it.
Failure must be an option for Discovering Self-Worth
Self-Worth is a belief that we will have an impact on ourselves, our families, and our community. This belief becomes the basis of our esteem, our motivation, and our grit. Self-Worth empowers us to believe that our effort will make a difference. At Hope Torch, we work with kids to help them discover their self-worth.
The reason organizations like Hope Torch need to exist is to counteract society’s barriers that bury our Self-Worth. Society says that each person’s worth is based on their usefulness in the specific position that society chooses, but Self-Worth says that we can make a difference in ways we can’t begin to imagine.
For our programs to succeed, for kids to begin to discover their Self-Worth, failure must be an option. For example, our Mathletics program seems discouraging and demotivating to some because we mark quizzes as failures unless they are 100% perfect within an incredibly short time period. However, this is only true if failure is not an option. On the contrary, we want our kids to embrace failure as part of their journey, an important part. Self-worth (and Hope Torch) shows that, through failure, something greater emerges.
We embrace failure; we allow kids to reflect on it, to grow from it, to choose paths by it, and to finally see that, despite the failures encountered along the way, the end result was beautiful, it made a difference, and it was worth it.
Failure must be an option for Building a Legacy
A legacy is what we spend a lifetime building. It is what we leave behind after our time has come. Every one of us will leave a legacy, and we get to choose what kind of legacy we are working towards. However, without getting into a philosophical headache, let me ask two questions.
“If no one finds it, gains from it, and builds on it, did we really leave a legacy behind?” “Is a legacy defined by the person who leaves it or the person who finds it, gains from it, and builds on it?”
Legacies are built on relationships. To establish a legacy we must, first, build relationships and an environment in which we can leave a legacy behind. Secondly, we must actually leave something behind; we must make an impact through our relationships. In the third and final step, we must make sure that our impact is transformational to the individual and our relationship with the individual. This is what it means to truly leave a legacy.
For a legacy to be left behind, failure must be an option. While building a bridge or an airplane can be accomplished on a precise blueprint, there are no blueprints for relationships. Relationships are built out of trial and error. Our relationships are in a constant loop of strengthening, making an impact, and celebrating growth while asking for forgiveness for any shortcomings. A relationship which is not built on this cycle will cease to grow.
Since failure is inevitable, the forgiveness that follows is essential to this cycle. Therefore, failure must be an option in order for us to leave a legacy through our relationships.
For these reasons, we must be willing to embrace Failure as an Option, an option for enabling our growth, discovering our self-worth and building our legacy. Hope Torch is dedicated to spreading this message among the kids we work with and all whom we interact with. We hope you to spread the word that “Failure is an Option”.