It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.
J. K. Rowling, 2008 Harvard commencement speech
Failure is not an option.
Gene Kranz, Flight Director NASA, During the Apollo 13 Crisis
In the lexicon of youth, which fate reserves For a bright manhood, there is no such word As – fail.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Richelieu, II.ii
Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one's horse as he is leaping.
Julius and Augustus Hare, Guesses at Truth, I
I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.
John Keats, Letter to J. A. Hessey, 9th October 1818
Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.
Earl Wilson (columnist)|Earl Wilson, as quoted in 0 to Bitch in 10 Seconds Or Less : Quips and Comebacks for Quick-Witted Women (2005) by Amy Hatch, p. 268
If at first you don't succeed, cheat, repeat until caught, and then lie!
Unknown author, quoted in 0 to Bitch in 10 Seconds Or Less : Quips and Comebacks for Quick-Witted Women (2005) by Amy Hatch, p. 268
refers to the state or condition
-Logic:* Logical conditional* Necessary and sufficient condition, condition of another means that the former statement is true if and only if the latter is true-Computer programming:* Conditions, a generalization of exceptions in exception-handling...
of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success. Product failure ranges from failure to sell the product to fracture
A fracture is the separation of an object or material into two, or more, pieces under the action of stress.The word fracture is often applied to bones of living creatures , or to crystals or crystalline materials, such as gemstones or metal...
of the product, in the worst cases leading to personal injury, the province of forensic engineering
Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt with by the law of product liability. The field also deals with...
Failure in science
Thomas J. Watson
Thomas John Watson, Sr. was president of International Business Machines , who oversaw that company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956...
is attributed with saying "If you want to succeed, double your failure rate". Wired Magazine
Wired is a full-color monthly American magazine and on-line periodical, published since January 1993, that reports on how new and developing technology affects culture, the economy, and politics...
editor Kevin Kelly likewise explains that a great deal can be learned from things going unexpectedly, and that part of science's success comes from keeping blunders "small, manageable, constant, and trackable". He uses the example of engineers and programmers who push systems to their limits, breaking them to learn about them. Kelly also warns against creating a culture (e.g. school system) that punishes failure harshly, because this inhibits a creative process, and risks teaching people not to communicate important failures with others (e.g. Null results).
Criteria for failure
The criteria for failure are heavily dependent on context of use, and may be relative
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...
to a particular observer
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...
or belief system
A belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs. The beliefs may be religious, philosophical, ideological or a combination of these.The British philosopher Stephen Law has described some belief systems as "claptrap" and said that they "draw people in and hold them captive so they become...
. A situation considered to be a failure by one might be considered a success by another, particularly in cases of direct competition
Competition is a contest between individuals, groups, animals, etc. for territory, a niche, or a location of resources. It arises whenever two and only two strive for a goal which cannot be shared. Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which co-exist in the same environment. For...
or a zero-sum game. Similarly, the degree of success or failure in a situation may be differently viewed by distinct observers or participants, such that a situation that one considers to be a failure, another might consider to be a success, a qualified success or a neutral situation.
It may also be difficult or impossible to ascertain whether a situation meets criteria for failure or success due to ambiguous or ill-defined definition of those criteria. Finding useful and effective criteria, or heuristic
Heuristic refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution, where an exhaustive search is impractical...
s, to judge the success or failure of a situation may itself be a significant task.
Types of failure
Failure can be differentially perceived from the viewpoints of the evaluators. A person who is only interested in the final outcome of an activity would consider it to be an Outcome Failure
if the core issue has not been resolved or a core need is not met. A failure can also be a process failure
whereby although the activity is completed successfully, a person may still feel dissatisfied if the underlying process is perceived to be below expected standard or benchmark.
- Failure to anticipate
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...
- Failure to perceive
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...
- Failure to carry out a task
is a derogatory term for a person who is (according to the standards of the observer) generally unsuccessful.
A commercial failure
is a product
In general, the product is defined as a "thing produced by labor or effort" or the "result of an act or a process", and stems from the verb produce, from the Latin prōdūce ' lead or bring forth'. Since 1575, the word "product" has referred to anything produced...
that does not reach expectations of success.
Most of the items listed below had high expectations, significant financial investments, and/or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations," there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop."
- For flops in computer and video gaming, see List of commercial failures in computer and video gaming
- For company failures related to the 1997–2001 Dot-com bubble
The dot-com bubble was a speculative bubble covering roughly 1995–2000 during which stock markets in industrialized nations saw their equity value rise rapidly from growth in the more...
, see Dot-com company
A dot-com company, or simply a dot-com , is a company that does most of its business on the Internet, usually through a website that uses the popular top-level domain, ".com" .While the term can refer to present-day companies, it is also used specifically to refer to companies with...
- See also Vaporware
Vaporware is a term in the computer industry that describes a product, typically computer hardware or software, that is announced to the general public but is never actually released nor officially canceled. Vaporware is also a term sometimes used to describe events that are announced or predicted,...
- Box-office bomb
"Fail" is the name of a popular Internet meme
The term Internet meme is used to describe a concept that spreads via the Internet. The term is a reference to the concept of memes, although the latter concept refers to a much broader category of cultural information.-Description:...
where users superimpose a caption, often the word "fail
" or "epic fail
", onto photos or short videos depicting unsuccessful events or people falling short of expectations. In July 2003, a contributor to Urban Dictionary
Urban Dictionary is a Web-based dictionary of slang words and phrases, which contained over 6 million definitions . Submissions are regulated by volunteer editors and rated by site visitors...
wrote that the term, "fail," could be used as an interjection, "when one disapproves of something," citing the example: "You actually bought that? FAIL." This most likely originated as a shortened form of "You fail" or, more fully, "You fail it," the taunting "game over" message in the 1998 Japanese video game Blazing Star
is a scrolling shooter video game for the Neo Geo home game system. It is the sequel to the acclaimed Neo Geo shooter Pulstar, which was itself a close cousin to the R-Type franchise...
, notorious for its fractured English
refers to unusual forms of English language usage by native speakers of some East Asian languages. The term itself relates to Japanese speakers' tendency to inadvertently substitute the English phonemes "R" and "L" for one another, because the Japanese language has one alveolar consonant in place...
. There is an entire Internet site dedicated to "fails" called Fail Blog
Fail Blog is a comedic blog website created in January 2008.-History:In January 2008, FAIL Blog was launched, with a picture of a warning sign featuring a drawing of a baby stuck in a stroller as the site’s first upload. The site grew steadily in popularity; in May 2008, FAIL Blog was sold to Pet...
. The #fail hash tag is used on the microblogging site Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...
to indicate contempt or displeasure, and the image that accompanies the message that the site is overloaded is referred to as the "fail whale".
Failboat or consignment of fail is a popular macro series, featuring images of cargo vessels tipping over or shedding cargo, with captions such as 'the failboat has arrived', or 'all aboard the failboat'. The original vessel whose image was used was the MV Cougar Ace, although the Ital Florida, the MV Napoli and even the SS Normandy, sunk at her berth in New York harbour, have appeared.
The term "miserable failure" has also been popularized as a result of a widely known "Google bomb
The terms Google bomb and Googlewashing refer to practices, such as creating large numbers of links, that cause a web page to have a high ranking for searches on unrelated or off topic keyword phrases, often for comical or satirical purposes...
ing," which caused Google search
Google or Google Web Search is a web search engine owned by Google Inc. Google Search is the most-used search engine on the World Wide Web, receiving several hundred million queries each day through its various services....
es for the term to turn up the White House biography of George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....
- Perrow, Charles
Charles B. Perrow is an emeritus professor of sociology at Yale University and visiting professor at Stanford University. He is the author of several books and many articles on organizations, and is primarily concerned with the impact of large organizations on society.-Academic appointments:After...
. Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. New York: Basic Books, 1983. Paperback reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
-Further reading:* "". Artforum International, 2005.-External links:* * * * *...
, 1999. ISBN 0-691-00412-9
- Sandage, Scott A.
Scott A. Sandage is a cultural historian at Carnegie Mellon University. He is best known as the author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, which was selected as an "Editor's Choice" book by Atlantic Monthly, and was awarded the 34th Annual Thomas J. Wilson Prize, for the best "first...
Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...
, 2005. ISBN 0-674-01510-X, ISBN 0-674-02107-X