Failure is Not an Option, It's a Target!


We are tuned to believe that “failure” is something to be avoided, when quite the contrary, failure is a target point.  Warning… we are about to redefine “failure” in ways that exceed the normal usage of the word. 


Let’s look at it the way scientists do.


“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”  Thomas J. Watson


Every day, I take my kids down to the P.O.E.T.  (the Place of Eternal Training) It is a little pier by the waters of the James River.  There we can stretch and work-out, practice forms. We talk.  Watch sunrises.  Sweat.

At POET we try to find the point of “failure” for that given day, at that particular time.  How long can we stand on one foot, with the other leg fully extended?  How many push-ups can we do with X amount of sleep and X kinds of foods eaten, and so on and so forth.


What is Failure?  Imagine a model rocket.  How high can it go?  At what point does it fail?  At what height in feet?  What inch? Can we get it to go higher by learning from the “failure point?” Can we get it even higher by trimming some weight?  Improving the engine thrust?  Perhaps a re-design of the rocket’s “form.”


Failure defines us.  If we find something truly worthy of a Lifetime of effort and dedication, then success becomes a line drawn in the sand.  Something we’ve settled for. What lies beyond that success?  At what point has a person reached their greatest potential?  Weight-lifters do this all the time.  They push themselves via repetition and load to the point of “failure.”  Failure assures us that we have truly given our best.


Of course the idea caries from the body to the mind to the spirit.  When have I written my “best” Music?  Where is my end?  Rest assured that the Physical Arts are not so tumultuous and inconsistent a thing as the Arts!


From sometime long ago:

“There is definitely more risk in ART… and especially in Noble Art, left virtuous and un-compromised by Accountants or Agents.  I’ve always thought that the easiest job could be found in the life of a Boxer.  Winning and Losing are tangible, pragmatic events, and in a 3-minute round there is plenty of feedback about training and diet.  Compare that to the life of an Artist… who succeeds, but might never know it, who falls consistently short and yet is lifted up. — Stephen Melillo, Boy, writer of Music, lover of food.”

And so I leave you with this thought.  Failure as defined by Webster is of course… not an option.  But failure as we define it here becomes a goal.  Consider the Olympic swimmer consummately dedicated to shaving 100ths of a second… a quest in finding not only the limits of him/herself, but the very limits of Humanity itself.  Now that’s cool.

What is your limit?  Your asymptotic line? Have you settled for success? Or can you carry on, refusing to fail while searching for your failure point?

Godspeed in that Mission!  S

© Stephen Melillo 2012

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