You Can’t Fail if You Don’t Quit

I’m famous (if by “famous” I mean I’m aware of myself) for saying “If you don’t quit, you can’t fail.”

For the most part, I really believe that statement. I think most failures in life are the result of quitting, or never trying in the first place. For whatever reason, people get overwhelmed in their moments of struggles and give up. Or they’re afraid of what might happen if they do pursue their dreams, and never start.

I still face many moments of doubt. If I didn’t, I might begin to question whether I’m challenging myself enough.

When I think about climbing Devil’s Tower, I wonder if I really have what it takes. Can I climb well enough? Do I have the endurance to make it to the top? What if I freak out a few hundred feet in the air? Or when I think about the marathon I’m running in June, I fear that my knees will give out. I had problems with them a couple of summers ago and could barely walk. What if that happens again? What if I have to poop when I’m in the middle of nowhere?

For almost anything in life, there’s a reason not to take the risk. And many times, many people don’t. Or they only give it a half-hearted attempt, never totally committing themselves for fear of failure. Or maybe it’s the fear of success. What if you actually do succeed at what you set out to do? Maybe your life would be drastically different from the one you know today. That’s scary. Life today is familiar and comfortable. We know what to expect…it’s safe. Tossing that security aside in pursuit of the unknown, even for better possibilities, is frightening!

But what if you’re already giving it all that you’ve got and still can’t seem to make things work? Is it true that if you don’t quit you can’t fail? Or is that just a bunch of motivational bullshit people try to sell you? I think it’s a bit of both, actually.

An example of this in my life is my goal of witnessing a Space Shuttle launch. I’ve been to Florida on two occasions now (and am mulling around a third attempt) and both trips have have been failures. Now, it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve been working on this for a year, and so far, no luck.

My most recent attempt at witnessing a Shuttle launch was last weekend.

Erin and I packed our backpacks and headed out for the 3,000 mile road trip to Florida (and back.) When we arrived at Kennedy Space Center, I was excited to finally get this goal taken care of. It would be a wonderful finish to a difficult challenge. It was a historical moment. President Obama and Gabrielle Giffords were there, and in a couple of hours we’d all get to watch the most spectacular accomplishment of mankind.

Of course, that’s not how things worked out.

The launch was delayed due to equipment malfunctions and my two days of driving to Florida was for nothing. Having spent only a few hours enjoying the day at KSC, we hit the road again to return home. I was (and still am) incredibly frustrated and disappointed that no matter how hard I tried to make this goal happen, no amount of effort on my part can prevent a delay. I’m at the mercy of NASA.

Can I try again?

Of course I can, but the real question is “Will I?” At this point, I’m not sure. I feel like I’ve given this everything I possibly can. I’ve spent days driving, traveled thousands of miles and when I consider the money that I’ve spent on this trip and the previous one, a lot of money has gone into making this happen. Is it worth it for me to continue to invest time and money into a goal that I can’t control the outcome? I don’t know.

But it’s hard to let go of something that I’ve worked so hard for, and maybe this proves that if I don’t quit, I can’t fail, since one day, the Shuttle will launch. And if I persist, I’ll be there to see it.

What do you think? Is it possible to fail if you don’t quit or is failure the result of giving up or never trying in the first place?

Update: I made the third trip, on the very last Shuttle Launch and am happy to announce that because I didn’t quit, I didn’t fail! I finally got to witness a Space Shuttle launch. Finally!

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