Lately it seems everywhere I look there’s some enthusiastic looking ad or marketing chap grinning in a magazine and telling me how awesome failure can be. How you learn so much. Did you know that the great Michael Jordan missed a whole bunch of the shots he took? He did! So… therefore failure is great and somehow inevitably leads to great success at some point.
OR, you could just suck at what you keep failing at and maybe you should give it up and try something else. They never entertain that possibility.
Failure is painful.
I have failed miserably on numerous occasions. And it sucked every time. And I didn’t really learn anything except not to do THAT again. And completely avoid failure ever again. A lesson I’d already learned years before. Which isn’t really learning. Learning is exploring completely new and strange and exciting things. And new and strange and exciting things are usually not failures. Everybody loves them and gathers around you and your idea like moths around a flame.
When people talk about the liberation of the freedom to fail, they lose me. Failure sucks. It’s an inevitable part of life. But so are lots of things. Like dying for instance.
I kind of get what they’re saying though. I think they what they really mean is be open to the POSSIBILITY of failure. Complete and utter disastrous failure. Failure that’s so strange that it’s a victory of sorts.
Eddie the Eagle failure. Sinclair C5 failure. De Lorean failure. Now that’s failure on a big scale! That’s big thinking headed in the wrong direction. But it’s still big thinking. and that’s the important thing! That’s failure you can be proud of.
My fear is that what’s being encouraged here is mere mediocre failure. That’s what bothers me about the whole fail=win! crowd. That they are encouraging people to FAIL SMALL.
I once worked for a guy who embodied the of failing big. His name is Bill Heater. Bill used to say that he liked to approach things from “the wrong” angle. which was a brilliant way to look at things. took me years to figure out why. it made life more interesting for all concerned.
Among other notable things, Bill created the famous/infamous “rocks and trees” INFINITI car launch campaign from Nissan here in the USA in 1990. Rather than show this new car from Japan, he opted for showing waves crashing on beaches. and rocks. And trees. Zen videos. A voiceover (Bill’s voice) quietly recited haikus about japanese design philosophy. A logo flashed briefly at the end.
The campaign drove America nuts. HOW DARE THEY NOT SHOW THIS NEW CAR??? It became part of the cultural conversation in a very car-centric culture. When do we get to see the car? Why are you doing this? Why are you being so perverse? People got really angry about it.
Consequently there were lines around the dealers when the INFINITI cars finally arrived. People were dying to finally see the car!
Yet somehow this brilliant campaign was derided as being a failure.
That’s the kind of failure I can dig.
WC FIELDS: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No point in making an idiot of yourself.