Our society is not really keen on failure. If we wanted to assign blame for this, we could point to Apollo 13, the movie about an ill-fated mission to the moon in 1970. Faced with a catastrophic equipment malfunction and the potential loss of a lunar spacecraft and three astronauts, Ed Harris’ NASA mission control character famously asserted, “Failure is not an option!” And, despite daunting odds, the NASA team got the astronauts safely back to Earth.
Apollo 13 was a great movie, but only in Hollywood would failure not be an option. Outside Hollywood, here in the real world, failure is not only an option, it’s a pretty common outcome. Actually, given the crop of stinkers that has kept me away from movie theaters this summer, failure is pretty common in Hollywood too.
A while back, I started discussing success and failure in utility marketing and communications with Arnie Winkler, director of education and workforce development for the Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA). But we had to cut our conversation short because I had a doctor’s appointment. Not 30 minutes later, sitting in my doctor’s office, I came across a National Geographic article on famous failures among explorers, such as Ernest Shackleton’s doomed attempt to cross the Antarctic a century ago. “Failure — never sought, always dreaded, impossible to ignore — is the specter that hovers over every attempt at exploration,” the article said. Read more »