Failure is Always an Option

During the 1969 Apollo 13 mission to the moon, there was an explosion in the capsule that debilitated the spacecraft. Unless some major problems were resolved, the most likely result would be the deaths of the three astronauts on board. As NASA and its engineers frantically tried to figure out how to solve all the issues resulting from the explosion, Gene Kranz the mission commander in Houston, is credited with making the famous statement “Failure is not an option!”

A couple of days ago (Where Failure Becomes Success) I included a list of steps parents can take to help develop within their kids the right attitude and perspective on failure. Steps that, if taken, can actually be an important part of helping them be successful in life. I want to add one idea to the list which might seem a little odd at first. I want to encourage your children to watch the show MythBusters.

The show, which is produced by the Discovery Channel, is now in its 17th season. The premise of the show is that legends, historical myths, and internet rumors are un-examined “truths” and questioning and testing them can be a lot of fun. At this point they have tested over 1,000 “myths” such as:

  • Is running better than walking to keep dry in the rain?
  • Does Chinese water torture work?
  • Is yawning contagious?
  • Will a scuba tank explode if shot?
  • Can a cellphone cause a plane to crash?
  • Can you bounce a laser off the moon?

As they try to prove whether a myth is true or false, they create and develop numerous experiments, and many of them end in “failure.” The show’s tagline (available on shirts, hats, and other merchandise) is the title of this article: “failure is always an option.” The show sees failure as a step to finding the answer. A failed experiment is seen as a part of the process. One of the values of watching this show is that they are never afraid to fail or to learn from their mistakes. The biggest takeaway, however, for those who watch the show is that it emphasizes the process: they demonstrate each week how to “fail better” and that negative results lead to answers and ultimately success.

MythBusters continues to be a part of the Discovery Channel’s lineup of shows. It is possible to get earlier seasons of the show from iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, as well as many videos on YouTube. If you have your children watch the show, I would encourage you to join them. The shows are a lot of fun to watch, and it’s something you can do together.

Karl Steinkamp
Blog #25
Day 25 of 30

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