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Some Times You have to be Prepared to Fail

SkydivingA couple of events have made me think about how people perceive failure lately.

I don’t want to draw your attention to the individuals but the basic sentiment I am seeing a lot is that people in the public spotlight shouldn’t do something unless they are sure of success.

I’m worried about that. Personally I think everyone should be given the chance to try, fail and yes, maybe make a mess. We learn by doing. Sometimes we learn the hard way, but we still learn.

Many times our biggest lessons come from our biggest and most public failures. We all try stuff and crash and burn. It’s easy to say that we shouldn’t care, and not take notice of what others think, but I think that is unlikely. What we can do though is not let those factors hold us back.

Financial loss, or harm to individuals is one thing, but trying something that doesn’t work out and might be embarrassing we can get over. People will laugh, but ultimately go on to the next news. Our friends will still be our friends and if we have been nice folk in the past we can usually count on support from our customers and readers too.

I’ve made some mistakes, some big and some small. It’s not so long ago that my most public contribution as a CEO of a well thought of company was shutting it down and telling 30,000 customers their data was no longer going to be available. Not my finest hour. Out of the ashes of that though I learned a great deal, still hold most of the contacts made as good friends, and I am still here doing what I do relatively unscathed.

Failure is one of those charged words. Just thinking about it can fill you with fear. Better to try and fail though than never try at all.

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Comments

  1. I absolutely agree! Since I’m not making six figures blogging yet I have to have a reqular day job. That job use to be a Unix administrator managing a very large installation of big unix servers and storage. I was tired of doing that after 15 years and applied for a network administrator position at my current company.

    This position is way outside of what I normally did, but management gave me the nod to move over. My learning curve for this is straight up…no curve yet. Could I fail at this…..yep sure could. But I believe we do some of our best work when we stretch and push ourselves and sometimes fail. I like to look at failure as experience.

    Experience is what you get when you expected something else.

  2. I absolutely agree! Since I’m not making six figures blogging yet I have to have a reqular day job. That job use to be a Unix administrator managing a very large installation of big unix servers and storage. I was tired of doing that after 15 years and applied for a network administrator position at my current company.

    This position is way outside of what I normally did, but management gave me the nod to move over. My learning curve for this is straight up…no curve yet. Could I fail at this…..yep sure could. But I believe we do some of our best work when we stretch and push ourselves and sometimes fail. I like to look at failure as experience.

    Experience is what you get when you expected something else.

  3. You are so right Chris. Failure almost needs to be embraced as an important learning experience. Our society is not set up like that, which causes problems.

    The kid in school who fails is not made to think that he/she should be getting a positive learning experience from that failure. More often than not the kid is, put down, yelled at, punished, made fun of…on and on. How are you suppose to think “learn from my mistakes” when everyone around you is acting like you just blew up the world?

    You learn all throughout your life. Which means you will encounter failure all throughout your life. Better to see failure as a educational experience rather than beat yourself up forever.

  4. You are so right Chris. Failure almost needs to be embraced as an important learning experience. Our society is not set up like that, which causes problems.

    The kid in school who fails is not made to think that he/she should be getting a positive learning experience from that failure. More often than not the kid is, put down, yelled at, punished, made fun of…on and on. How are you suppose to think “learn from my mistakes” when everyone around you is acting like you just blew up the world?

    You learn all throughout your life. Which means you will encounter failure all throughout your life. Better to see failure as a educational experience rather than beat yourself up forever.

  5. Those who have never met with failure either have been handed all the victories or just haven’t been putting themselves “out there” and risking possible failure. With so many children playing games with no one keeping score, they learn that everyone is a winner every time. At an older age, when they fail, they are devastated and learn nothing. It’s a shame that folks aren’t taught that failure is a learning opportunity, not the end of the world.

    Thank you for this reminder.

  6. Those who have never met with failure either have been handed all the victories or just haven’t been putting themselves “out there” and risking possible failure. With so many children playing games with no one keeping score, they learn that everyone is a winner every time. At an older age, when they fail, they are devastated and learn nothing. It’s a shame that folks aren’t taught that failure is a learning opportunity, not the end of the world.

    Thank you for this reminder.

  7. You are absolutely right. And the modern day web where you failure gets plastered across the net on blogs, social media sites, etc. makes it that much harder to get past that fear of failure.

    It’s like elementary school all over… Could make it harder for there to be another Thomas Edison. Imagine failing 999 times on the Internet…

  8. You are absolutely right. And the modern day web where you failure gets plastered across the net on blogs, social media sites, etc. makes it that much harder to get past that fear of failure.

    It’s like elementary school all over… Could make it harder for there to be another Thomas Edison. Imagine failing 999 times on the Internet…

  9. Chris, I hear ya. Failure teaches you a lot of things, but from I’ve learned was that it also builds your character, set more realistic expectations, and put life in a proper perspective. If life is handed to us on a porcelain plate, eventually someone is going to drop it. Except, in this case, we’re more likely to fail in many things before we actually reach an iota of success.

    I had to drop out of UC Berkeley b/c of a bad academic situation, lack of money, and a lack of will to finish (this was just beginning of last year). So I took a number of odd jobs (working at CompUSA and a coffee shop) until I worked at Mediachase. It was a rough stretch, but even through my failure at college, I still had opportunities in front of me. And now, looking back, I wish things could’ve been better, but all in all I have no regrets because things have been better than I could have ever hoped.

    So all in all, failure, if confronted the right way, will eventually lead to better successes in the future. And through that stretch, we’ll learn more about who we are, and the role we each play in this cosmic storybook.

    I’ve lost track of what I just said, but I hope I got the message out =).

  10. Chris, I hear ya. Failure teaches you a lot of things, but from I’ve learned was that it also builds your character, set more realistic expectations, and put life in a proper perspective. If life is handed to us on a porcelain plate, eventually someone is going to drop it. Except, in this case, we’re more likely to fail in many things before we actually reach an iota of success.

    I had to drop out of UC Berkeley b/c of a bad academic situation, lack of money, and a lack of will to finish (this was just beginning of last year). So I took a number of odd jobs (working at CompUSA and a coffee shop) until I worked at Mediachase. It was a rough stretch, but even through my failure at college, I still had opportunities in front of me. And now, looking back, I wish things could’ve been better, but all in all I have no regrets because things have been better than I could have ever hoped.

    So all in all, failure, if confronted the right way, will eventually lead to better successes in the future. And through that stretch, we’ll learn more about who we are, and the role we each play in this cosmic storybook.

    I’ve lost track of what I just said, but I hope I got the message out =).

  11. Chris,

    You are so right on the mark and I think that people are slowly coming to this realization, maybe we are ahead of our time.

    Read this post today from Bob Sutton of the “No Asshole Rule” book fame, great book, by the way!

    Changethis: More Interesting than Harvard Business Review?

    By Bobsutton

    A new round of essays were just published at Changethis, the online magazine of edgy essays published by the folks at 800CEOread. I just read through the titles and started reading the essays. Is it just me, or do these looking more interesting than the typical Harvard Business Review? Note this isn’t a bash on HBR, they do great stuff and it remains one of the most influential business publications in the world. And note I’ve published in both places and hope to publish in each again. But check out these titles and read the articles, and tell me what you think!

    09-April | Strive For Minimal Achievement
    Barry J. Moltz | “Failure is valuable only when we realize it is a normal part of the business process even when t… more »

    09-April | The Freak Factor: Discovering Uniqueness by Flaunting Weakness
    David Rendall | “My experience as an individual, consultant, parent and leader indicates that efforts to fix weak… more »

    Chris, You are right on my friend!

    By the way I do and have read both and I am in agreement with B.S. (that’s not an acronym, it’s an abbreviation). 🙂

  12. Chris,

    You are so right on the mark and I think that people are slowly coming to this realization, maybe we are ahead of our time.

    Read this post today from Bob Sutton of the “No Asshole Rule” book fame, great book, by the way!

    Changethis: More Interesting than Harvard Business Review?

    By Bobsutton

    A new round of essays were just published at Changethis, the online magazine of edgy essays published by the folks at 800CEOread. I just read through the titles and started reading the essays. Is it just me, or do these looking more interesting than the typical Harvard Business Review? Note this isn’t a bash on HBR, they do great stuff and it remains one of the most influential business publications in the world. And note I’ve published in both places and hope to publish in each again. But check out these titles and read the articles, and tell me what you think!

    09-April | Strive For Minimal Achievement
    Barry J. Moltz | “Failure is valuable only when we realize it is a normal part of the business process even when t… more »

    09-April | The Freak Factor: Discovering Uniqueness by Flaunting Weakness
    David Rendall | “My experience as an individual, consultant, parent and leader indicates that efforts to fix weak… more »

    Chris, You are right on my friend!

    By the way I do and have read both and I am in agreement with B.S. (that’s not an acronym, it’s an abbreviation). 🙂

  13. On the money Chris.

    And not just for us individually. On our little planet it looks like we need to find a very different way of doing things. This will take thousands of experiments to see what works and most of these will fail. But if we look only to what works and is sure of success we are assured of failure.

    I am so glad you raised this. It is important for us individually and for all of us together.

  14. On the money Chris.

    And not just for us individually. On our little planet it looks like we need to find a very different way of doing things. This will take thousands of experiments to see what works and most of these will fail. But if we look only to what works and is sure of success we are assured of failure.

    I am so glad you raised this. It is important for us individually and for all of us together.

  15. Fear is only found in the mind of the beholder. I guess having been born deaf, I never had to fear the loss of hearing so it made me more defiant than I would like. But failure does have some kind of fear, I am not sure what but I think it is more of the unknown than what’s known.

    Cuz if you fail, then you know what went wrong, even if you still don’t know, you will eventually. And once you do know, then you take it further next time. That’s what I am learning about blogging, I used to fear the Google slap and now I don’t.

  16. Fear is only found in the mind of the beholder. I guess having been born deaf, I never had to fear the loss of hearing so it made me more defiant than I would like. But failure does have some kind of fear, I am not sure what but I think it is more of the unknown than what’s known.

    Cuz if you fail, then you know what went wrong, even if you still don’t know, you will eventually. And once you do know, then you take it further next time. That’s what I am learning about blogging, I used to fear the Google slap and now I don’t.

  17. Isn’t fear of failure often the biggest stumbling block to success? I have to admit, I’m terrible when it comes to overwhelming fear, particularly of failing. But I am trying to learn to embrace both fears and failure. I think our failures make up as much of who we are as our successes do, only often in a more positive, character building type way.

  18. Isn’t fear of failure often the biggest stumbling block to success? I have to admit, I’m terrible when it comes to overwhelming fear, particularly of failing. But I am trying to learn to embrace both fears and failure. I think our failures make up as much of who we are as our successes do, only often in a more positive, character building type way.

  19. Yes, in another for “fail” is also can be mistake, and we all should learn to overcome those mistake. If you fail once, try stand up again. Failure of something doesn’t mean that you will always fail. And Chris, i know that you can make it as you’ve mentioned “Just thinking about it can fill you with fear. Better to try and fail though than never try at all.”, it is also same answer to “If you don’t try you get 0%, but if you’ve tried, you might get out of 1% or more.”

  20. Yes, in another for “fail” is also can be mistake, and we all should learn to overcome those mistake. If you fail once, try stand up again. Failure of something doesn’t mean that you will always fail. And Chris, i know that you can make it as you’ve mentioned “Just thinking about it can fill you with fear. Better to try and fail though than never try at all.”, it is also same answer to “If you don’t try you get 0%, but if you’ve tried, you might get out of 1% or more.”

  21. Chris, been meaning to respond to this since I received it by RSS feed … instead of filing it, I kept marking it as ‘unread’ so I wouldn’t forget it!

    I totally agree with you about ‘failure’ I always try and see it as a positive thing (like I see mistakes as lessons) … without risking failure, we condemn ourselves to limited lives and missed opportunities, but society has made ‘failure’ a thing to be avoided at all costs … strange!

    I hope you had a wonderful Blogger Appreciation Day! It’s a bit late now, but just wanted to let you know … I really appreciate all your fab tips and very useful advice, and your generosity in sharing your experience.

    :o)

  22. Chris, been meaning to respond to this since I received it by RSS feed … instead of filing it, I kept marking it as ‘unread’ so I wouldn’t forget it!

    I totally agree with you about ‘failure’ I always try and see it as a positive thing (like I see mistakes as lessons) … without risking failure, we condemn ourselves to limited lives and missed opportunities, but society has made ‘failure’ a thing to be avoided at all costs … strange!

    I hope you had a wonderful Blogger Appreciation Day! It’s a bit late now, but just wanted to let you know … I really appreciate all your fab tips and very useful advice, and your generosity in sharing your experience.

    :o)