When people look at Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs they see the successes. Unfortunately it is the freedom to fail that allows people to succeed. Without the freedom to fail we don't have freedom to learn. Learning is sometimes a painful process, ask any Ranger student or Organic Chem major. One is a physical pain, the other is a mental pain.
But the possibility of failure, in my case accepting a double recycle in Ranger school in order to continue, gave me the motivation to succeed. If Steve Jobs had never been pushed out of Apple he would have never gained the insight into marketing that he got outside of Apple. Imagine if Steve Jobs never learned the leadership lessons that let him inspire others to innovate and think outside the "beige box."
Similarly we find ourselves in a conundrum in Afghanistan. We won't let the Afghan's have freedom to fail because that would mean we ourselves failed. Back home some institutions were labeled "Too Big to Fail" and all that did was stall the market. Things need freedom to fail so that they can move forward.
Abraham Lincoln was a dismal failure in most everything he ever did, but he did hold the Union together at a terrible price.
So accepting failure, how many times have you heard someone say "Failure is not an option"? Unfortunately simply by dictating something doesn't make it true. Failure is ALWAYS an option.
The key to not failing when it counts is to test yourself to failure before hand. That is why Infantrymen go through Ranger school. That is why Engineers conduct "Stress Tests" on systems and materials. This is why having a FEMA approved plan for New Orleans was a complete and utter waste of time, it had never been tested.
And you can always fail a test.
So how are your preparation plans for an emergency? Have you TESTED them? Failure isn't a bad thing. The bad thing is refusing to learn from failure. Here in Afghanistan we are refusing to let the Afghans fail, so when we draw down and leave they will be untested. That scares me a little. I think it would be better to let them fail a bit now instead of a lot later. Unfortunately so many decisions and actions out here truly are life or death that progress is slow going.