Failure is not an option

It's been over twenty-five years since Ron Howard's film, Apollo 13, was released, and more than fifty years since the aborted Apollo 13 mission. The movie is one of my favourites, as I loved how the ground crew's commitment and determination were portrayed in the film, even though you know it ends with the astronauts returning safely back to earth.

The movie scene where Gene Kranz was looking for options to save the astronauts epitomised this never give-in attitude. In the film, Gene says, "We've never lost an American in space; we're sure as hell not going to lose one on my watch. Failure is not an option."

What a great quote, "Failure is not an option". For many years, I have had that quote plastered on my office wall at work. I use it to motivate myself and my team not to give in easily and to persist to succeed. As it turned out, it was a great movie quote. Gene Kranz had never used those words himself, but the quote was artistic licence by the scriptwriters. 

In preparation for the film, the scriptwriters spoke with Jerry Bostick, the FDO Flight Controller for the Apollo 13 mission. When asked the question, "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?" Jerry responded with, "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them." 

It was this answer that the scriptwriters used to create such a memorable tag line for the movie. "Failure is not an option" has come to represent the Apollo 13 mission over the past twenty-five years. Gene Kranz even used it as the title for his autobiography. 

For me, the quote doesn't mean that you can't fail, but it does mean that you need to look at all your options when challenged, and failure shouldn't be considered the first and only option. When your back is against the wall, there are always other options available.