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Necessary Fail

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"There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of. There were loose threads — untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads, it unraveled the tapestry of my life."
Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Tapestry"

A subtrope of the Butterfly of Doom; this trope is sometimes used to "prove" not why You Can't Fight Fate, but why you shouldn't necessarily want to.

Whereas the Butterfly of Doom trope shows you everything that goes horribly wrong when you try to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, this trope demonstrates that what was once wrong was actually needed to make the present (or future) better.

Perhaps that the whole village getting nuked caused folks to denounce war. Maybe losing his wife caused The Hero to launch into his crusade to save others. Or maybe being used by the villain gives the hero knowledge and experience that will come in handy later. This is almost certainly the case if the wrong involved Hitler.

Note, this is not strictly a Time Travel Trope; sometimes the characters or narrator may simply reference the fail as a part of backstory. But it can indeed be used in time travel stories to demonstrate how removing that downer event can lead to things being much worse on a bigger, different scale. Naturally characters who suffered personally from it and lost everything aren't likely to agree that it was all for the better after all. This often leads to the conclusion that one should not attempt to change the wrongs of the past as the trade-off will not be worth it, but it may also be pointed out at the same time that this doesn't make those wrongs right and no one should have to suffer for the betterment of the flow of history. Life is a mixed bag like that.

See also My Greatest Failure, Misery Builds Character, A Lesson in Defeat, It's a Wonderful Plot, Career-Building Blunder, Mistakes Are Not the End of the World, Enemy Mine, and Taught by Experience. Not to be confused with You Can't Thwart Stage One.


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  • A 2015 commercial for the New York Lottery shows a young woman about to grab a candy bar when a man in a business suit buys it first. We then see her as an old woman in the future who looks back and angrily comments on the incident. Then, the young woman decides to buy a lottery ticket instead. Her older self then laughs off the incident and decides to thank the man... by sending him a candy bar.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Jaco the Galactic Patrolman follows the titular patrolman as he crashes on Earth trying to intercept and kill a dangerous alien that recently landed there, though he fails to do so by the end of the mini-series. Given that this is a Stealth Prequel to Dragon Ball and said alien was an infant Goku, it was the best for the galaxy and beyond that Jaco failed his mission.
  • In Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, Horikawa Kunihiro worries about the fate of his old master Hijikata Toshizou when he's sent to protect Sakamoto Ryouma from getting captured by the Shinsengumi. He thinks if the Shinsengumi catch Ryouma and execute him, then Hijikata's life won't be so filled with turmoil in the years to come; Izuminokami tells him that failing to capture (or even get a glimpse of) Ryouma was the way History went down, and without the Shinsengumi committing that failure, Ryouma would have never brought on the changes to Japan's political structure that he aided in. Hijikata's ongoing struggles after that event were part of the figure they were so fond of, and changing such fundamental parts of him would be a disservice to their memory of him.

    Comic Books 
  • There would've been no Superman without the destruction of Krypton and the near extinction of their race. It was a little boy watching his parents get killed in front of him that led to the rise of Batman.
  • Batman has this in its origin and then zigzags the trope in a story named "To Kill A Legend". The Phantom Stranger sent Batman to an Alternate Universe, giving him the chance to stop the murder of the parallel Thomas and Martha Wayne. At several points, Batman and Robin wonder if this means there will never be a Batman in this universe. But Batman, understandably, decides it doesn't matter and stops the shooting regardless. In the epilogue, the readers are informed that the parallel Bruce was inspired by the masked man who saved his family in the alleyway and would grow up to become a Batman fueled by hope instead of despair.
  • This line of thinking is the very crux of Adrian Veidt's master plan in Watchmen which is what leads him to decide to enforce such a turn of events.
  • Many people consider The Night Gwen Stacy Died saga to be this for Spider-Man. Plus Peter indirectly letting Uncle Ben die. There's a What If? issue that shows what would have happened if Spider-Man had actually caught the Burglar. Uncle Ben survives, but Peter becomes a combination of arrogant Jerkass and Smug Super without any of the maturity and character he developed from being forced to accept the consequences of his actions.
  • Used in Booster Gold. His purpose is to travel time and Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but there's some kind of technobabble saying that some things have become so important to the timeline that they can't be changed. For instance, there's nothing he can do to keep Barbara Gordon from being assaulted by the Joker, because her resulting paralysis helped lead her to become information broker and super-hacker Oracle. He continues to be conflicted when Mission Control Rip Hunter tells him to let a disaster happen around him in order to preserve history.
  • Doctor Strange's story begins when he injures his hands and loses his career as a surgeon — unable to find a quick fix, he learns selflessness and, consequently, magic. One What If? issue shows what would have happened if he'd found the miracle cure he was looking for: He became an increasingly arrogant Dr. Jerk, alienated everyone, and eventually lost his license due to a malpractice suit.
  • In Circles, if Paulie had never accidentally contracted HIV, he would have never met the others or held the safe sex speech where he first met Doug.
  • Green Lantern: Green Lantern Tomar-Re's greatest failure was failing to stop Superman's home planet of Krypton exploding. Krypton fell under Tomar-Re's jurisdiction, so he gathered a bunch of Stellarium to absorb the explosion but got blinded by a solar flare and did not make it in time. But the Guardians of the Universe reassured him that, though he didn't save Krypton, his failure led to the rise of Earth's greatest superhero, so he was able to retire in peace.

    Fan Works 
  • Tragically deconstructed in Future Trading. As the user of the Rabbit Miraculous, Alix Kubdel is tasked with guaranteeing the best possible future. Unfortunately, that means allowing incidents like Lila continuing her lies and harming Marinette and Adrien, since preventing them could lead to either their defeat or even death by Hawkmoth. Alix is struggling to watch her friends suffer for the better future, and hopes she'll be able to live with herself after it is all over.
  • Hero Chat: While the creation of the Sentimonster feast led to the death of the other Guardians and Hawkmoth acquiring the Butterfly and Peacock Miraculous, it also meant that Fu couldn't have been indoctrinated to see the Kwamis as tools rather than individual beings. This would also lead the Kwamis to end up with Marinette and the others, with the former using the Eagle Miraculous to free them from the older Guardians' control.
  • In Memento Vivere, a Final Fantasy X fanfiction, this is the general conclusion to Rikku’s frequent moments of reflection.
  • In the Persona 5 series fic Start Again, while Haru loathes the idea of letting Kamoshida remain active, she decides to let his Palace and thus his perverted desires remain standing. This is because the Place was the earliest known location where Morgana met Akira and Ryuji, and might be the only place where the latter two and Ann can regain their Personas and/or their memories of the future.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Everything bad that happens to the main characters in Kangaroo Jack turns out to be saving them from a hitman hired to kill them. Go Jackie Legs!
  • The whole point of Slumdog Millionaire. If Jamal's life had sucked any less then he never would have been on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? let alone won the million and his happily ever after with Latika.
  • Star Trek:
    • In a non-time-travel example, Star Trek VI shows that it was the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis that caused the Klingons to even consider peace with the Federation.
    • Star Trek (2009): It is implied that the Kelvin's destruction at the hands of the Narada led to Starfleet developing a tougher, more combat-ready fleet, a trend that affected the Enterprise. Also subverted (and therefore ultimately zigzagged) in that one of the themes is, regardless of how their starting points had changed (particularly Kirk and Spock, whose circumstances had changed most significantly over the original universe), the entire main cast still wound up on the Enterprise in the same configuration as in the original universe.
  • Terminator: It seems that no matter how many Time Travel trips Skynet or The Resistance does, Judgment Day is doomed to happen. On a more positive note, John Connor seems to be always fated to survive the event. Zigzagged in Terminator: Dark Fate: even if Skynet kills John and John prevents Skynet's existence for keeps, Judgment Day will still happen, just with a different AI and different resistance leader.
  • In The Time Machine (2002) the protagonist invents the machine so he could save his fiancée's life. So, since if not for her death he wouldn't have invented it, she has to die in every timeline in which he and his machine appear. Consequently, his successive failures to save her life put him on a quest to the future in search of answers, ending with him both saving the Eloi from his enslavement at the hands of the Morloks and finding a new place where he belongs.

  • Played dead straight in Animorphs when Visser Four goes back in time to change history and make Earth easier to conquer. However, he screws himself when he gets to D-Day and realizes that Hitler is a nobody and there aren't Allies or Axis the way we usually think of them. When our heroes get the Time Matrix back, they struggle with changing things back so there was a Holocaust and think that maybe they should check out the current future and see if things are better. Eventually they come to the realization that some things are Necessary Fails and they shouldn't mess around with the past.
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a mistake in the Earth's distant past caused an alien ship to explode and provided the energy that kick-started the evolution of life on the planet. Douglas Adams, who wrote the book, also wrote the Doctor Who serial "City of Death", which shared the same scenario.
  • In the Discworld novel Night Watch, Sam Vimes considers and rejects this idea. Even if it costs him his future happiness and success, he consciously chooses to change events and saves many lives. The ones he wanted to save the most still don't make it, but he does make a difference.
  • In The End of Eternity, the protagonist works for an organisation that tinkers with history in an attempt to create and maintain a perfect timeline. His realisation of the existence of this trope is an important part of the story.
  • In Time Scout, this is why paradox never happens. It's never explained, it's just there.
  • Implied in the Mage Storms trilogy, where a medieval engineer is crippled by an accident with a prototype steam boiler. While he's lying in hospital, loopy from painkillers, he has an idea: what if he built a chair with wheels attached...? (This was likely inspired by Everest and Jennings, two engineers who invented the wheelchair as we know it when one of them was crippled in a mining accident.)
  • Wings of Fire:
    • This is often the case with animus magic. When you have the power to do or create anything you want, you tend to stop thinking about what you really need. For example, the animus mage Darkstalker desperately tries to create a simulacrum of his lost love, who died centuries ago. If he were a normal dragon, he would have had to accept his grief and move on, but having magic gave him the false hope that he could "fix" things, even though all of his attempts have failed miserably.
    • Disadvantaged Teen Genius Qibli is forever thinking that if only he had animus magic, he could solve all his problems. But the fact that he doesn't, and therefore had to be saved from poverty by someone else, is what taught him to trust and love other dragons. If he had been able to fulfill his fantasy of being completely independent, everything that gives his life meaning in the present day- his loyalty to Thorn, his friendships with the protagonists, his commitment to bettering Wretched Hives- would be gone or less valuable to him. Notably, when he gets his talons on a magical weapon in book 10, it doesn't help him at all, because he reverts to just smashing through problems instead of thinking up real, sustainable solutions to them.
    • Unlike the vast majority of dragons, the Dragonets of Destiny do not fear other tribes, because they were trapped together in a situation where their only comfort was each other. This lack of xenophobia gives them the courage to travel the world and talk to all the tribes- making the diplomatic ties that were necessary to end the War of SandWing Succession.
  • In the third book of the The Pendragon Adventure, Bobby and fellow traveler Gunny suspect that Saint Dane is trying to cause the crash of the The Hindenburg in First Earth (which is Earth in 1937). Just to be sure, they travel to Third Earth (Earth in 5010) to speak with another Traveler named Patrick Mac, who uses an advanced supercomputer to simulate what would happen if the Hindenburg landed safely: namely that German spies would exit the aircraft and steal plans for the nuclear bomb, which they bring back to Nazi German and cause World War II to escalate into a nuclear conflict that still leaves Earth a ruined world in the 51st century. This changes the Traveler's plans to make sure the Hindenburg crashes like in proper history.
  • Middlegame: Roger and Dodger can rewind time but don't have Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. At the finale, they learn just how many times they reset their lives and realize that all the tragedies they endured, from the murder of a friend to accidentally causing a catastrophic earthquake, were still the best-case scenario.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On 30 Rock, Liz called Jack a "class A moron" in front of a reporter. After she was quoted anonymously in print, Jack told Liz that as a child he was, coincidentally enough, labeled a "Class A Moron" by the Massachusetts Public School System and subsequently put in a weird special education class. Liz invokes this trope by telling him that having to overcome that made him the man he is today. Subverted at the end of the episode, when it's revealed Jack knew it was Liz all along and made up the whole story to guilt trip her into confessing.
  • In The 100, the group sent down to test whether Earth had recovered enough to be habitable were supposed to land near Mount Weather so they could take advantage of the site's shelter and supplies. They actually landed about twenty miles away — a good thing, since they would have been much easier prey for the Mountain Men if they had encountered them immediately upon landing.
  • Despite the stigma of the "cursed jacket" from an episode of Better with You, the characters realize that the horrible failures they suffered while wearing it actually led to something better. In one story, if his jacket hadn't fallen, interfering with the game and causing the Yankees to lose, giving him the stigma of "that guy who screwed the Yankees," he would have fallen to his death instead.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The 'freak mishap' Ranger 3 suffers is the only reason Captain Rogers survives the oncoming nuclear war that wipes out much of civilization and is able to return to help a newly united Earth battle its foes in the future.
  • In the Charmed episode "There's Something About Leo", Leo, who had recently become an Avatar, wanted to be able to convince Piper that the Avatars were not a threat (or at least not as far as he was aware at the time) by revealing to her that he had become one. Though the other Avatars did not agree with this decision (on the grounds that it would be better for her and her sisters to discover on their own), they allowed him to try. This all led to a chain of events that resulted in Leo nearly being killed by a potion designed to kill Avatars. And, so, when Alpha and Beta used some of their gathered power to reverse time to just before Leo had told Piper about his allegiance, he kept quiet about it this time.
  • Non-time-travel example that is both subversion and lampshading: in Chuck we learn that Chuck flunking out of Stanford was part of an attempt by his friend/rival to keep him from joining spy work. Of course, it didn't quite work out that way.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the famous serial "Genesis of the Daleks", the Doctor states that although the creation of his archenemies the Daleks will have horrific consequences for the universe, there is good that will come of it, namely the many species that will join forces out of necessity to defeat them.
    • In "The Waters of Mars", the destruction of the first station on Mars and all of its crew inspired the mission leader's granddaughter to explore space, leading to a long family line of people who would eventually help Earth make peaceful contact with other alien races and eventually become an intergalactic power. Still doesn't make it any easier to tell the people on the Mars station that they're all about to die.
  • The Guest Book had one episode invoke this. The episode revolves around drug addicts and their hitting rock bottom, but a couple points out that many addicts die before that happens. So they formed a company (fittingly called Rock Bottom Industries) where they make the addict think they have done something terrible because of their addiction and inspire them to seek treatment. It turns out that one of the proprietors of Rock Bottom Industries is an addict herself and their latest mark apparently dies as a result of her addiction compromising the scheme. Except it turns out her partner secretly conspired with the "clients" to perform the service on herself to send her to rehab.
  • The first season of Heroes demonstrates how this can overlap with Well-Intentioned Extremist. The episode explaining Linderman's motivations is titled ".07%" after the percent of the world's population he's going to wipe out as part of his plan for world peace. (Incidentally, in the scenes set in the future, it didn't work.)
  • How I Met Your Mother goes into this occasionally: for example, "Lucky Penny" shows how Ted needed to miss out on his dream job because it would have moved him to Chicago, meaning that he would not have met his future wife.
  • In the Lost episode "The Little Prince", the time-flashing characters discover they've jumped to the night Boone died and Aaron was born. Locke sees the light from the hatch and knows the earlier version of himself is nearby, but walks away.
    Sawyer: So why'd you turn us around then? Don't you wanna go back there?
    Locke: Why would I wanna do that?
    Sawyer: So you could tell yourself to do things different, save yourself a world of pain.
    Locke: No, I needed that pain to get to where I am now.
  • In Miami Vice, the two detectives come together over the loss of their partner/brother.
  • In Misfits, former Olympic-standard athlete Curtis re-winds time to prevent himself from getting arrested for cocaine possession (an event that ruined his career) but after he does this, it becomes apparent that he was meant to get caught in order to save the lives of his girlfriend Alisha and their friends Kelly and Simon, all of whom he met while on community service.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "Dimension Jump", the difference between Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) and the loser Rimmer is that Ace was held back in school one year. It made him determined to succeed.
    • Also, "Tikka To Ride" speculates on what would have happened had Oswald's attempt to assassinate John F. Kennedy been unsuccessful. The answer is not pretty.
  • One Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode had Sabrina go back to the past to try to stop the event that made her and Harvey have a fallout. She is unsuccessful, but eventually learns that the event was necessary for her and Harvey to understand each other better, so she just apologizes and they make out.
  • Stargate:
    • In Stargate SG-1 (and its movie), Jack O'Neill's son's death (he shot himself with Jack's own gun) is a major angst point, and it's clear that Jack blames himself for what's happened. However, it was because of Jack's suicidal depression in the movie that he was selected to go through the Stargate, and his history with the Stargate is what brings him back in the series. If his son hadn't died, SG-1 as we know it wouldn't have existed. And let's not even speculate what would have happened in episodes like Lost City, without the easy availability of, say, Jack's Ancient Technology Activation gene.
    • John Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis, whose reputation was ruined by his ill-fated attempt to rescue his friends in Afghanistan against direct orders. Had this not happened, probably no one would've discovered that he has the ATA gene and a natural knack for using it (on par with O'Neill) and he wouldn't have ended up as part of the Atlantis mission. It would've likely failed without him.
    • Eli Wallace in Stargate Universe, who was forced to drop out of MIT when his mother contracted HIV from a patient of hers. He probably wouldn't have spent his time playing MMORPGs and solving puzzles that the government had secretly planted there. He wouldn't have ended up on the Destiny and saved their hides multiple times.
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise, the faction from the future specifically state while they could've warned Earth about the initial Xindi attack that kills 7 million people, they figured it would only be after the sneak attack that Starfleet would heed the greater danger. Notably it is the attack that leads to the Enterprise being retrofitted into a warship and the introduction of the famous photon torpedoes.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • It is the defeat Starfleet suffered at the hands of the Borg that directly led to the design and construction of the Defiant class of ships. These came in handy when the war with the Dominion broke out.
    • After the Vulcans nearly warred themselves to extinction, they embraced logic and became a major starfaring power in the quadrant. So too, the brutal third world war humanity survived caused humans to embrace peace and turn their science from war and violence to space exploration and other peaceful goals. The Klingons even get in on the act, as their history states that it was the Klingons overthrowing an alien race that enslaved them that led to them becoming the Proud Warrior Race.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Tapestry", Captain Picard expresses regret for his hot-headed ways which led to him getting stabbed in a bar fight. Of course, he learns that if not for that bar fight, he wouldn't have become The Captain that everybody came to know and love.
    • Played with this again in "Yesterday's Enterprise" where it is discovered that the destruction of an earlier Enterprisenote  helped lead to peace between the Klingons and the Federation.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", Kirk prevents his Love Interest Edith Keeler from being hit by a car, only to discover that she would go on to campaign against the US getting involved in World War II, which would in turn give Nazi Germany the opportunity to develop the atomic bomb and use it to win the war. He then realizes that he has to let her die in order to prevent millions more deaths.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Profile in Silver", a 22nd-century Harvard history professor time-travels to observe the assassination of his ancestor John F. Kennedy. Unable to just stand by and watch, he intervenes and prevents the assassination, only to learn that his act will lead to nuclear war and the destruction of humanity. He finds a way to save JFK and prevent the war, making it a subversion, though it still involves a Heroic Sacrifice.

  • The Rock Opera Beethoven's Last Night revolves around Fate giving Beethoven the chance to erase miserable moments from his life. In each instance, Beethoven discovers his misery, heartbreak, and eventual deafness all contributed to his incredible music. In the end, Beethoven refuses to erase even a single moment.
  • Rush:
    • The group had some early success with prog on their second album Fly By Night, but the longer suites on their follow-up Caress of Steel were aimless failures, and the album failed to produce a radio hit. The tour was also mired by poor attendance, getting nicknamed the "Down the Tubes" tour halfway through. Their label wanted them to go in a more conventional direction, hinting they might be dropped if they produced another flop. Incensed, they wrote a side-long, 21-minute middle finger to the record company in the form of "2112", which was a much more successful multi-part epic. The album 2112 would serve as Rush's major breakthrough, considered their seminal record alongside Moving Pictures.
    • Rush would later try to expand on their synth-heavy sound with Grace Under Pressure, but results were mixed thanks to a prolonged recording time and little help from producer Peter Henderson. The follow-up, Power Windows, was produced by Peter Collins and integrated synths into the band's sound much more successfully.

  • The Christian concept of felix culpa (blessed fault) considers the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to have been ultimately good, as it allowed for Jesus' birth.
    • Milton, in Paradise Lost, suggests that an act of disobedience was necessary to give humanity free will, saving it from a meaningless existence. Jesus' birth is more of a way to fix the problems that went along with it, and apparently, He already existed anyway... It's complicated.
    • This is also one of the arguments in theodicy (the defense of the power and goodness of God despite the existence of evil): that sometimes suffering produces good consequences that could not have occurred any other way.
    • There was no rain in the Garden of Eden; the ground was watered by a sort of mist. Humans first experienced rain, and all the beauty and soothing sounds that come along with it, long after they fell.
    • And finally, Jesus would not have been resurrected (and fulfilled the whole Bible of prophecies) if he hadn't died in the first place.

    Video Games 
  • BROK the InvestiGator has multiple endings, with one labeled as "Canonical". However, the path to reach this ending requires protagonists Brok and Graff to actually fail their main goals at key moments, as the actions they take afterwards to fix their mistakes uncover vital information about Brok's case; if they instead succeed, it usually leads to a different ending where at least one of their friends suffers as a result.
  • In Chrono Trigger Lucca fails to rescue her mother from being maimed by a machine. Her failure drives her to become a mechanical genius so that she will never fail again. If the player manages to save the mother through time travel, she still studies science and machinery and becomes a mechanical genius - according to Young!Lucca's diary, it's in order to make sure close calls like that never happen again, ultimately averting the trope.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series
    • The series as a whole essentially invokes this, by having the plot of the games be the huge global conflict and Timey-Wimey Ball repercussions that result when Einstein prevents World War II.
    • Furthermore, at the start of Red Alert 3, the Soviets erase Einstein himself from history after he removes Hitler, to prevent their own defeat. This works in the short term... but both end up creating a new faction even more dangerous to them than the Allies were, and wiping out some of the most powerful weapons in their arsenal because nuclear technology was never developed without Einstein.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Teyrn Loghain decides it's necessary for the battle of Ostagar to be lost, so that the King could be killed in the battle and he could begin his struggle for power.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Locke's failure to save his first love in his Backstory gave him his hatred of The Empire and his protective nature towards women in trouble, causing him to rescue two pivotal characters throughout the plotline.
  • Life Is Strange:
    • Chloe's father must die in a car accident. When Max changes the timeline to save his life, he gives Chloe a car as a gift, and Chloe gets into an accident herself, which leaves her quadriplegic and dependent on expensive medicine. This alternate Chloe feels so guilty about the burden she's putting on her parents that she'll ask Max to give her a Mercy Kill.
    • The final episode reveals that Chloe's death at the very beginning was this, and that saving her life will somehow cause a tornado to destroy Arcadia Bay.
  • Mortal Kombat 11: In his arcade ending, past!Johnny Cage is tempted to use Kronika's hourglass to undo an upcoming low point in his life, marked by scandal and those closest to him losing respect for him. However, recalling the words of his future self, he decides not to meddle, since he ultimately came out of the experience a better man. He still uses the hourglass to save Sonya's life. After all, every Johnny Cage film has a happy ending.
  • On the Male Protagonist's route in Persona 3 and regardless of your choice, at rank nine the Moon will inevitably reverse. This is rectified shortly thereafter, though.
  • In the Tower Social Link of Persona 4, Shu, an overachieving student who's obsessed with staying at the top of his class, to please his mother, sees getting caught for cheating on a test and being suspended for it as this. Said event caused him to have an argument with his mother, but they reconciled and talked through their issues. He also got a permanent black mark on his record, but because he's no longer able to be perfect, he feels able to branch out and try new things, such as baseball. He also becomes friends with the boy who'd transferred into his class, who'd defended him when he got in trouble.
  • In Six Ages, the Riders never even consider allying with the Orlanthi until the disastrous Skyfall forces them to. This alliance is the only thing that saves their lives when the even more disastrous Darkness hits.
  • Star Trek: Borg: When you're part of an Away Team beamed aboard a Borg cube, you have to take the option to disregard what your fandom sense tells you, and start a fight with a few Borg drones who would have ignored you otherwise, even though you inevitably lose and get assimilated. This means you get the access codes to the cube's systems, and once Q sends you back in time to try again you use them to your advantage.
  • In World of Warcraft, this is half of the point behind the Caverns of Time. The Infinite Dragonflight is trying to manipulate the past to prevent Medivh from opening the portal for the Orcs to invade Azeroth, and your job is to guarantee the invasion is successful because it will later cause various races to put aside their differences and band together against the Burning Legion. One expansion later, they go into the past to prevent Prince Arthas from crossing the Moral Event Horizon by slaughtering the innocent people of Stratholme before it becomes a Zombie Apocalypse, and your job is to keep him alive so he can kill them all. The villains claim they are trying to help, but it is obvious they want a temporal paradox.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night Saber believes that the fall of her kingdom is proof that she was not the right choice of king and wants the Grail so she can undo her reign. In the Fate route, Shirou attempts to convince her that this trope applies and in doing so comes to an epiphany about his own Survivor's Guilt. The necessity of destroying the Grail makes this moot.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, Hisao's condition revealing itself at the worst possible time costs him any chance of a relationship with Iwanako, but if the player makes the right choices, he gets a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with a Yamaku schoolmate he most likely otherwise would not have met.
  • WILL: A Wonderful World combines this with Do Well, But Not Perfect, as the story is about multiple characters praying to gods (the player) in order to alter history and change their fate, but the outcomes they consider "perfect" are not always the ones that lead to the happiest endings. For example, Spottie the stray cat prays for his "Daddie" to avoid dying in a traffic accident, and averting it does lead to a decent life on the streets, but letting it happen leads to Spottie meeting a child that will grow up to adopt him in the future, with said human accidentally preventing nuclear war in the process.

  • In Homestuck, You Can't Fight Fate. This is because there is a predetermined Alpha Timeline, and any event that deviates from it creates a doomed offshoot timeline. Many events in the Alpha Timeline are, from the perspective of the characters, astounding failures, but must happen due to the nature of time in Homestuck. In addition, doomed timelines can exert influence on the Alpha Timeline. This influence is in fact necessary for the Alpha Timeline to exist. So the failure to create a Necessary Fail is itself a Necessary Fail.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko spends most of the show angsting about his banishment, scar, and what a disappointment he's been to his father. Finally, at his Heel–Face Turn, he tells his father that the banishment was the greatest thing he ever could have done. It allowed Zuko to see the evil the war inflicted, have a Heel Realization, and realize that he could make his own honor.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "The Time Traveler's Pig", Dipper uses a time machine to go back in time and undo a mistake he made that led to his crush Wendy going out with his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Robbie Valentino. Unfortunately, the only way to accomplish this would result in Mabel being beaten to winning her pet pig Waddles in a carnival game... by her Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Pacifica.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: The episode "Melty" had Lilo being embarrassed in front of her crush while trying to catch one of Stitch's cousins. She uses a time machine invented by Jumba to try and get a do-over, but each attempt ends with increasingly disastrous consequences that end with her and Stitch having to be saved from being stranded in another timeline by a Bad Future version of Jumba.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Fluttershy was teased by bullies at flight camp for being a weak flyer. If she hadn't been teased by them, Rainbow Dash wouldn't have challenged them to a race to defend Fluttershy's honor and wouldn't have made the sonic rainboom that caused the two pegasi and their future earth pony and unicorn friends to get their cutie marks at the same time, which is apparently critical to their ability to wield the Elements of Harmony. In the Season 5 finale, Starlight Glimmer uses a time travel spell to disrupt the race in several different ways, resulting in one bad alternate present after another. In one trip through the spell, she simply told the bullies to be nice, creating a timeline where the Changelings overpowered Equestria. The Cutie Map episodes tend to have this in mind when the map chooses which ponies to do the mission. In particular, Starlight's tendency for impulsive magic ultimately causes Celestia and Luna to eventually reconcile by switching their Cutie Marks.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) has two:
    • As pointed out by Donatello in the sole Clipshow, the mutation of the Turtles and master Splinter was thanks to the Utrom's failure to keep Ch'rell imprisoned.
    • The only way to kill the Tengu Shredder for good was to have Master Yoshi's spirit making the killing blow. Had Master Yoshi not been killed by the Utrom Shredder, the Turtles and Splinter would not have become mutants and the world would have been conquered by the Tengu Shredder. This was all foreseen by the Ninja Tribunal

    Real Life 
  • Tyler Perry, creator of the popular stage plays and movies featuring Mable "Madea" Simmons, used his abusive childhood and depression to help form the basis of his movies which often feature people overcoming similar ordeals through faith in God, hope, and love.
  • J. K. Rowling has stated that dealing with the loss of her own mother as well as coping with being an unemployed single mother led to many themes that would become famous in Harry Potter.
  • Self-publishing phenom Amanda Hocking says that it was her childhood depression that spurred her writing career.
  • James Cameron's career had stalled out with a failed attempt to direct the B-horror movie Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. This career bust and his subsequent bout with food poisoning resulted in a delirious episode and hospital stay in Italy during which he had a nightmare of a metal skeleton emerging from a wall of fire, which inspired him to make another B-movie. That movie was a success, and Cameron rose to fame.
  • George Lucas wanted to be a race-car driver, but a near-fatal crash preempted that career path. He turned his attention to making movies instead. Then, in the mid-70s, Lucas wanted to do a feature-film version of Flash Gordon, so he set out to acquire its rights. But when he was outbid by Dino DeLaurentiis, he decided to create his own space opera, Star Wars.
  • Steven Spielberg wanted to direct a James Bond movie, but after he was turned down by Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, Lucas pitched a movie about an Adventure Archaeologist named Indiana Jones to him.
  • This is commonly referenced in many religions as an explanation/justification/excuse when bad things occur to followers, typically expressed as "God works in mysterious ways."
  • The investigation into the pad fire that took the lives of the Apollo 1 crew revealed a number of major design flaws in the spacecraft which might otherwise have gone undetected until later in the program and could have resulted in the United States missing the end-of-decade deadline for a manned lunar landing set by President Kennedy. The redesign was also one of the key factors that saved the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.
  • Robert Downey Jr. almost destroyed an acting career that seemed destined for greatness through heavy drug use, but thankfully he sought help and was able to overcome his drug addictions. The experience probably made him the perfect fit to play a rich genius who cares little for the consequences of his lifestyle, hits rock bottom, and finds redemption as a superhero.
  • Walt Disney's firstnote  live-action musical, Babes in Toyland, failed to make a splash at the box office. Consequently, Walt looked for some elements that he could improve on the next time he did a fantasy musical, such as production values, substance, and casting. By managing not to repeat the same mistakes of Babes in Toyland, his next foray into this genre became one of the most beloved movies of his career — Mary Poppins.
  • The first two pilots Jim Henson created for The Muppet Show weren't especially big hits with critics or audiences, but elements of them would be incorporated into the main series, which would eventually go on to become the most popular show of its day.
  • Julie Andrews wouldn't have starred in Mary Poppins if she didn't lose the leading role of My Fair Lady to Audrey Hepburn, as Warner was filming it at the same time Disney was filming Poppins. Andrews went on to beat Hepburn in the Best Actress category of both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
  • Nintendo views the Wii U as this. To make a long story short, the Wii U is one of the biggest hardware failures they ever had (second only to the Virtual Boy), but it allowed the company to come to grips with HD game development, served as an internal example of how not to approach future marketing and branding, and one of the system's core ideas (a home console with a portable factor) was recycled into its successor, which would go on to be one of their biggest hardware successes.
  • For many people who had fought with drug or alcohol addiction, they noted that it wasn't until they hit rock bottom that they started to seek help and ultimately changed for the better.
  • Similarly depression and other mental disorders are often not addressed until the person has reached the end of their rope. This is why therapy and anti-depressants get a bad rap for the large number of suicides that occur right after starting them. It's not the therapy/drug that's the cause but the waiting till things are as bad as they can be before seeking help.
  • A minor internet meme relies on this trope in regards to Hitler. Long story short, the United States bombing Japan twice in World War II drastically influenced Japanese entertainment. People, realizing this, took to Godwin's Law and thus: "Hitler created Anime."
  • Early in his career, Scott Cawthon's games (most notably Chipper & Sons Lumber Co.) were harshly criticized, which almost caused him to quit game development altogether. However, inspired by criticisms of how the characters felt like animatronics, he decided to create one last game before retiring for good. Cut to 2019, and that last game is now one of the most successful indie game series ever created.
  • In physics, the failure of the Michelson-Morley experiment led to the conclusion that the aether theory of electromagnetism had to be debunked. This, combined with the establishment of Hendrik Lorentz' transformation formulae, gave birth to Einstein's theory of relativity, one of the seminal fields of modern physics alongside quantum mechanics.
  • Drew Brees started his NFL career as quarterback for the San Diego Chargers from 2001 through 2005. In the last week of the 2005 season, the Chargers had been eliminated from playoff contention, but despite this, Brees instinctively tried to run after a fumbled football and suffered a torn labrum and dislocated shoulder. The Chargers let Brees go into free agency, and he signed to the New Orleans Saints, who also had an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina devastated their city so badly that there was talk that they'd be forced to relocate. Brees would help lead the team to their first-ever NFC Championship Game appearance, and a few years after that, make their first Super Bowl appearance, where they won against the Indianapolis Colts, and he would spend the rest of his career setting league records as among the best QBs in the league.
  • Rupert Everett was turned down for the role of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast because the directors felt his performance didn't sound arrogant enough. Everett took their feedback to heart and he remembered it when he went in to audition for Prince Charming in Shrek 2. His audition for that film was successful.
  • Judd Apatow was considered for a writer's job on Saturday Night Live in the early '90s but was ultimately passed over. He went on to write The Cable Guy instead, which led to him meeting his future wife Leslie Mann when she was cast in the film.