Let me start by telling you that, contrary to popular belief, failure is an option. It is 100% an option. You failed the bar? You could decide to quit law and open a road side stand selling Tennessee jam. You lose your job? You could elect to hide under your desk until they haul you away. Or at least tucked away in the boiler room like Milton in the movie Office Space.
Even the quote, “Failure is not an option” was contrived. The inspirational quote is commonly attributed to Gene Kranz, Flight Director of Apollo 13. In fact, it was script writers Al Reinart and Bill Broyles that came up with this memorable line from the 1995 screenplay. The words, “Failure is not an option” were born from an interview on mission control. When asked “Weren’t there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?” Flight controller Gary Bostick responded, “No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the option…We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution.”
You see, failure was an option. They just didn’t take that option.
Life is not what happens to you, it’s what you choose to do with it. Whatever the circumstances, however long the fall from grace, as long as you chose to learn something from that experience, you did not fail. It was not for naught. The story didn’t end.
In March 1966, Mohammed Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces. He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he did not fight from 1967 to October 1970—from ages 25 to almost 29—the prime time of any athlete.
His case worked its way through the appeals process before his conviction was overturned in 1971. During this time of “inactivity”, as opposition to the Vietnam War began to grow and Ali’s stance gained sympathy, he spoke at colleges across the nation, criticizing the Vietnam War and advocating African American pride and racial justice.
On August 11, 1970, Ali was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission. Ali’s first return bout was against Jerry Quarry on October 26, resulting in a win after three rounds after Quarry was cut. Ali went on to be considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight champion of all time.
He did so by not letting the story end. He recognized that, while unable to box, he had other choices to be made. Impact to have on the world.
And that choice was made available to him not because was famous, or an outstanding athlete, but because – like you and me – he was still breathing.
As long as you have life, you have choice. Own the fear by making a choice.