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!

7 thoughts on “You Can’t Fail if You Don’t Quit

  1. I completely understand your frustration. You’ve invested a lot of energy, money and time into making it happen but yet, it hasn’t and there’s nothing you can do about it, ecxept of course keeping at it. Although looking at it now it might seem easier, better, to give up; it isn’t. If you take a step back from being in the midst of the frustration with the whole thing, and look at it like an outsider, you might find that such an important acoplishment is worth a few fail attempts, and that in the long run, there are many more years to come and many more space shuttle launches are bound to happen. Maybe it won’t happen now, or as soon as you would like it to happen, but guess what, if you keep at it; it will eventualy happen. A very wise woman once told me that the last effort is never really the last one; the last effort is the one you don’t make.

    • There are only 2 Shuttle launches left. There’ll be rocket launches, but as far as putting humans into Space, it looks like that’s going to be a while, possibly not within my lifetime. It’s kind of a now or never type of situation. If there’s any way that I can make this happen, I plan to continue to push, but I also have other obligations that I hope won’t interfere, though it’s hard to know if they will or won’t considering the uncertainty of the launches.

  2. I guess my thought at this point would be that you’ve invested this much time, energy, and money into it, you just gotta see it through. If you didn’t go, it would all be wasted. I think I’d regret it if, after all this work, I didn’t go.

  3. I’ve been following your space shuttle goal and hoping you are going to see one. See a space shuttle launch is on my “bucket” list as well. I tried to go to last June’s and after clearing everything with work, the shuttle was moved to another date. I then tried for the November launch even though I was leaving on an around the world trip within 4 days of the launch. I drove down to Florida and it was delayed again. Now I’m not going to have the chance again unless I cut my trip extremely short and thereby losing out on other goals. I understand your frustration, but like you say – you can’t fail if you don’t quit. Keep trying. I hope you are able to catch at least one of them.

    • Hey Mike! I hate to say this, but glad to see I’m not the ONLY one who’s having a hard time at this! Actually, following Kennedy Space Center’s Facebook page is really quite enlightening to how many people are struggling to make this happen. At least we only have to drive or fly a few hours compared to others who fly halfway around the world to see it. I won’t get to go to the next one, unless they postpone again as I’ll be out of the country. There’s still one more…maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to see that one. Good luck to ya! Maybe our paths will cross in Titusville!

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