When the Atlantis Space Shuttle was returning from its space flight in 2002 a piece of insulation intended to protect the craft from the searing heat as it traveled through the atmosphere broke off on re-entry. It resulted in minor damage to a rocket booster. The crew and shuttle landed safely and because of this successful landing, the insulation issue received only a cursory inspection.
The next year, insulation broke off the heat shield again. It happened during the launch of the Columbus space shuttle destroying the craft and killing all seven members of the crew. This time NASA suspended all flights and undertook a thorough investigation resulting in nearly 30 recommendations to increase shuttle safety.
This story was highlighted in 2010 by two researchers — Vinit Desai, assistant professor of Management at the University of Colorado Business School and Peter Madsen a professor at BYU School of Management.
They used this story as part of their study on failure as a learning tool. The said the difference responses were due to one flight being considered a success and the other a failure.
The two stated in their report that people learn more from their mistakes than their successes. They added that not only do they learn more, but what they do learn stays with them longer.
It seems success isn’t that great of a teacher.
In their news release, the researchers said:
“While success is surely sweeter than failure, it seems failure is a far better teacher, and organizations that fail spectacularly often flourish more in the long run.”
Their study published in the Academy of Management Journal purposefully looked at businesses involved in space travel — launching satellite, shuttles and rockets. They chose this field because failures in this industry are so public it’s nearly impossible to cover them up.
They added when there is high-profile failure, management tends to first ignore it and then often replaces the offending workforce instead of “treating the failure as a learning opportunity.”
For Christians failure can come in many ways. It can be a result of outright sin to simply making the wrong decision and suffering the consequences
In Romans 11:29, Paul writes that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. The New American Standard Bible says they are “irrevocable.” This means despite our failures, moral or otherwise, God does not change his mind about us.
This is why throughout the Bible we see repeated stories about the failures of men and women of God and as long as their attitude is right, God continues to use them.
We see this in the life of the Apostle Peter. After Jesus’ arrest, Peter went to the home of the High Priest where they had taken Jesus. There were a number of people huddling around a fire in the court-yard to keep warm.
A small slave girl was the first to notice Peter and asked if he had been with Christ. Peter denied it. Others piped up and accused Peter of being with Jesus. Again he said no (John 18:15-27).
This was the same Peter who earlier took a sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s slave when they came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10). He was ready to die defending Jesus but was now completely thrown off by these verbal accusations.
Overcome by his failure, Peter left and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). A short time later, the apostle returned to what he knew best — fishing.
Earlier, Jesus had even warned Peter that Satan had asked for permission to “sift him like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Jesus prophetically told Peter to brace himself because an attack was coming and still Peter failed. He was prepared for everything except a small slave girl.
But despite Peter’s failure, Jesus never rejected Peter and sought out his apostle while he was fishing and called him to “feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17).
God does not reject people because of failure and because of this it is important that we don’t reject ourselves.
- Timely reminder: Study shows failure better teacher than success: University of Colorado