Wrong Lessons

Often the outcome of a decision ends up determining our assessment of the quality of the decision. What it also does is that it makes sure that we learn all the wrong lessons.

In 1986 as the space shuttle program was reaching maturity, people were losing interest in the human spaceflight program. As public interest waned, NASA was under serious threat of budget cuts. Determined to reinvigorate interest, they recruited a school teacher to go to space. The idea of a civilian travelling to space would reinvigorate imagination, get the entire schooling system excited and keep the interest alive. This was going to be the 25th mission that the space shuttle would be undertaking.

One of the engineers on the team flagged an issue with the rubber rings that were used to seal the fuel tank. He found out that in very cold temperatures they do not work as expected. The shuttle had been flown 24 times without an issue, consensus in the higher management was that there was no reason to assume anything would go wrong.

With the teacher on the shuttle, this was a high profile national television event and they did not want to delay the launch because someone had a hunch.

The Challenger exploded second after liftoff and it was the first loss of human life since the NASA spaceflight program had taken off the ground.

You can make bad decisions and still succeed. Success only makes you assume that you did everything right. You discount luck completely. Tell a successful person that they got lucky, they will look at you as if you slapped them in the face. You need to constantly be on the hunt for what can fail you, especially when you succeed.

The corollary can also be true. You can make really good decisions and still fail.  We often do not have any problem ascribing this to bad luck.

Do not take away the wrong lessons from success or failure. They are two sides of the same coin. Your decisions matter, but so do a lot of factors that you would never be able to control. Always keep your eye on things that you cannot control. Especially when you succeed.


The dog is making a good decision but failing!






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