Snake River Canyon coiled up, rattled its tail, and sank its fangs into its would-be captor. On a sultry Sunday afternoon its l,700-foot jaws yawned wide as it swallowed a strange-tasting capsule prescribed for it by Dr. Robert C. Truax, the scientist-designer of Sky Cycle X-2. Starring in the show was a guy some people tagged Captain Marvel, who looked more like Billy Batson unable to remember the magic word. But before we label him a showman or a show-off . . . I suggest we consider the outcome of this showdown.
Any third grader could have told you the vaunted skycycle leap across the canyon was a triple-A flop—a classic fizzle. The skycycle gave up in mid-air; the driver floated to safety beneath a nylon cloud. But he didn't sit long-faced in a dark corner. Most people send an ambulance and a wrecker to mop up their mistakes. He could have sent a Brink's armored car. As bystanders shouted "Rip off!" he was thinking about write-offs. Anyone who can walk away from a failure with a smile, a bulging rear pocket, and his pride still intact has to have something going for him. The real six-million-dollar man, if you can believe it, was a two-wheeled wonder named Evel Knievel. Nobody—but nobody in the long history of sports ever came off a more abysmal failure better than he. The remains of Dr. Truax's flopcycle littered the canyon, but the man who took off like a bird made out like a banker.
When you stop and think it over, there's an abiding truth in that Idaho extravaganza all of us ought to capture and cultivate. It's much greater than money and far deeper than a canyon jump. There's a philosophy of life here I'm now convinced is worth one's pursuit. Here it is:
THE PERSON WHO SUCCEEDS IS NOT THE ONE
WHO HOLDS BACK, FEARING FAILURE, NOR
THE ONE WHO NEVER FAILS . . . BUT RATHER
THE ONE WHO MOVES ON IN SPITE OF FAILURE
As Lowell wrote:
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
As Teddy Roosevelt believed:
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Give me a "skycycle" and a 108-foot take-off ramp with all its risks any day—before you sentence me to the path of predictability between the stone walls of routine and fear. God asks that we believe Him regardless of the risks—in spite of the danger—ignoring the odds. The ancient city of Jericho was defeated because Joshua and his troops defied the "normal procedure" of battle . . . never once fearing failure. The Gentiles heard of Christ Jesus because Paul and a few companions kept getting back up after being knocked down. Peter's two letters are in the Book because he refused to live in the shadow of his bad track record.
Great accomplishments are often attempted but only occasionally reached. What is interesting (and encouraging) is that those who reach them are usually those who missed many times before. Failures, you see, are only temporary tests to prepare us for permanent triumphs.
Whoever you are today—listen to me! Sitting there licking your wounds will only result in a bitter aftertaste. Sighs and tears and thoughts of quitting are understandable for the moment but inexcusable for the future. Get up and get on with it!
And if you're looking for an absolute guarantee against future failures, I know of only one—death.