Failure As A Positive Event

Right about now you might just be wondering if good old Harry Carter has lost his way in the world.


Right about now you might just be wondering if good old Harry Carter has lost his way in the world. How is it possible, you might ask, that failure can be a positive event? Is not failure a bad thing? Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (2003) defines failure as an, " ? omission of occurrence or performance." Seems like a bad thing, does it not? It seems like you did something wrong.

I would suggest that you revisit the wise old adage that tells us all, " ? nothing ventured nothing gained.? You have heard that one, haven?t you? Why of course you have. Your mother and father probably told you that when you were just a wee lad or lass. The person who first stated that maxim was not concerned with failing to succeed. They were obviously more concerned with people who failed to act.

I am sure that you know that type of person. Perhaps you have even worked for or with them. On your best day, you could not pin them down to make a decision, even at the point of a revolver. Some people are so afraid of life and its consequences that they fail to accomplish anything more than compile an attendance record, rather than a list of accomplishments.

Wake up gang. Failure is a part of life. Nothing is guaranteed. You cannot hide from failure. However, I want to urge you to keep pressing on in spite of the problems you may be facing in your life and career. As Lord Tennyson stated back in 1850, " ?tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Let me use that quotation as the platform to build my argument upon here today. Let everyone remember that it was Harry Carter who said that, "It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.? That could probably be the motto that has sparked my manifold efforts at weight control over the past four decades. I can only imagine how much worse off I would be were it not for my periodic efforts to reign in my appetite.

Let me now offer a more solid example of what I mean. Right now I am in the midst of a fairly complex academic research project. As part of a course I am completing in quantitative analysis, I am working to create, define, and test a decision model. Now that is a fairly weighty task on a good day. To me this is more than an assignment. It is something that may be critical to many of you in the fire service.

I am working to create a series of decision tables that will allow for the studied determination of the point of critical action for an important fire service problem. Perhaps you have already faced this problem or it may be that it lies out in front of you and your department.

What criteria does a department need to meet in order to make the jump from an all-volunteer operation to a combination fire department by hiring career staff?

For far too many of you across our nation, this critical operational decision has been the subject of intense battles. Some people have acted in the past, based upon uninformed decisions. Others have battled the concept because it was new and alien. Still others fought it, because there was no way to statistically defend it.

I hope that I will have something in place by the end of this fall that will allow you to plug in the facts of your situation so that you can come to a decision after a careful review of the stated facts. Will I succeed? I do not know? Will I fail? Heck, that is always a possibility. However, I want to assure you that I intend to try very hard to make this concept work.

As one who has fought the battle of the bulge for more than five decades, I have learned that life does not always go the way you want it to. Failure is a part of life. Sadly there are still those folks out there who just do not get that fact. These people fall into one of two categories.

  • Those that expect perfection
  • Those that hide from change and expect you to do the same
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