Failure Is An Option

Failure Is An Option

Apr. 5, 2019

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Clichés are everywhere.

And they’re awful.

Worse than that, they’re dangerous.

For example, there are still tennis pros out there who tell their students to “keep their eye on the ball.”

Of course, that’s completely wrong.

Nobody keeps their eye on the ball, and nobody should. Keeping our eyes on the ball has nothing to do with becoming a better player. Wasting time thinking about a useless thing only slows down the process (or derails it altogether).

But there’s another cliché out there that’s even worse. We’ve heard it a million times.

Failure is not an option.

Wow, powerful stuff.

That wisdom sounds determined and tough and definitely the way to solve any problem.

It sounds so good, in fact, that countless sports teams cite it as the reason they were successful.

“We were losing but we said that failure wasn’t an option, so then we won.”

See? If we eliminate failure as an option, what are we left with?

NOT failing.

It’s perfect.

Except it’s idiotic. And doesn’t make sense. And could be ruining lives.

Remember the 10,000 hour rule? It’s a scientifically-backed guideline that gives evidence on what it takes to become great. And the evidence reveals that it takes a lot of deliberate practice, hours and hours of it.

Well, here’s a question: What the heck are we doing for that 10,000 hours?

If we embrace the failure-is-not-an-option mantra, then what? We’re spending 10,000 straight hours doing everything perfectly?


If failure is not an option, we’re only succeeding. If we’re only succeeding, then why do we need 10,000 hours? If failure isn’t an option, if we’re winning right off the bat (and every bat after that), we don’t need 10,000 hours of that. We need about 10 minutes.

What do we need that 10,000 hours for then? Failing. Lots of failing.

We need all those hours because we need to screw up all those times. And every time we screw up, what happens? We correct it. We get better.

By failing repeatedly, we improve repeatedly.

In short, if we need to be the best at something, we need to fail.

Even more, think of the repercussions of not allowing failure to be an option.

Think of a brand new driver going on the freeway for the first time.  He’s nervous and scared and can’t make a single mistake because it’s not an allowable option.

Here’s what will happen. He’ll decline to even attempt it because he knows he can’t do it right the first time. Or he’ll become so flustered that he’ll rush, make a huge mistake, and cause a major accident.

If failure isn’t an option, there’s no way to try things out and learn slowly. There’s no way to become competent and safe.

No, if he believes this cliché, our driver is going to lose. And he’s going to lose huge.

That doesn’t mean we should all try to fail on purpose. Not trying to solve a problem doesn’t work either (and also wastes time).

But as long as we’re earnestly trying to solve a problem, failure is exactly the thing we need to eventually become perfect.

Failure is absolutely an option.

It’s the best option we have.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.