I heard this phrase a couple of times over the StrongFirst level one course, but it was the last time I heard it that it actually made sense.
The grad workout of the SFG is complex of cleans, presses, and squats, performed with two kettlebells. It is a long workout. I really don't know how long, because I a) couldn't see a clock, and b) was more concerned with keeping myself together than with tracking the time. It was one of those workouts where time mattered at one point, and then stopped mattering because all you could do was focus on moving.
In my final rep through, I got the required number of cleans, but the double press just wasn't happening. My shoulders, abused enough from years of martial arts, simply weren't doing that movement anymore. I tried switching to a see-saw press, got the right arm up, and the left...just wouldn't go.
I stood there for what felt like forever, trying to make that damn bell move, but it just sort of hung there. Finally, I realized it wasn't going any further up, and let it back down.
My team leader, John Heinz said "that's okay...you failed with integrity."
That was when that idea really clicked for me.
Failure, we are sometimes told, is not an option. But, as Seth Godin points out in his manifest Stop Stealing Dreams, if failure is not an option, then neither is success. If you really challenge yourself, whether in strength training, martial arts, or life, there is a chance that you will fail. If you honestly give every bit of energy and effort that you have into the process, and fail at some point that...that is okay. You can learn from that failure and move on.
Failing with integrity is an option. Failing without it shouldn't be.