The gospel of FAIL

Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 6:13 pm
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I’ve been preaching the gospel of fail pretty openly for the last year or so. It seems so obvious in hindsight but something that is incredibly hard to grasp from a nice safe landing point. What I mean is when you everything is working out OK for you, the idea of trying something that might not work out so well is pretty scary. I talk to people all the time who have an idea that they are “working on” but haven’t taken the plunge on it because they aren’t 100% sure of all the angles and they like their current job or whatever so don’t want to walk away from that until they are positive the next step they take will be successful. There might even be someone else out there working on their same idea but these folks are convinced their version of it is light years better.

These are the same people who 2 years from now will still be in the same job because they still aren’t 100% sure about their idea, and likely someone else or many someone elses will have had their same idea and run with it. I know this because that is the same situation they were in 2 years before.

These people, and I’ve been plenty guilty of this myself so don’t think I’m pointing fingers, are hesitant to try because they are afraid they might fail. There’s this little voice in our heads telling us that it’s irresponsible to take chances until you know all the ducks are in a row. That trying something and it not working is the worst thing that can happen because then everyone will think of you as a failure. This little voice stops us from trying so many things.

The gospel of fail is about telling that voice to shut the fuck up.

In his book ‘The 4-Hour Workweek
‘ Tim Ferriss runs through a little thought experiment about time usage and productivity and opines that the amount of time and effort most people spend trying to prevent problems (fires as he puts them) from happening is much more than would be requires to fix the problem after it happened, if it happened. His argument, which is a damn good one I think, is that very little time should be spent on preventing problems which then opens up so much more time for you to do things with your life, and if something does go wrong you can deal with it after the fact.

I think this relates to my fail theory in that most people I know spend so much time and effort trying to figure out how to prevent their idea from failing that they never actually get around to making the idea happen. I know people who have spent over 4 years talking about this thing they are almost ready to pull the trigger on but just need to work out a few more things. If they had just started it when they came up with it they would be so much better off right now, even if it failed miserably.

The problem is we are taught failure is a bad thing. In fact its the best thing.

No one is successful on their first try. And rarely on their second, third or fourth. The truth is the only way you ever win is by failing and trying again, failing and trying again, failing and trying again. It’s those failures that teach us more about our ideas and ourselves than any observation or analysis or excel calculation ever could. There is something profound about just doing it. At least that results in something actually being done. You can spend your entire life trying to plan the angles on something and then never get a chance to do it, or you can just keep trying things and in the worst case, you at least gave it a shot and likely inspired many others to do the same. But more likely, if you keep trying you’ll pull it off sooner or later.

I know I’d rather work with people who I know aren’t afraid to actually do something. It might not work, but we’re going to try. And if it doesn’t work, the lessons we’ll learn from that will make the next attempt that much better. You may have heard the old saying ‘the journey is more important than the destination’ and that’s true to some extent but I like to think that the destination isn’t guaranteed in anyway, and all we have is the journey so might as well make the most of it. I can’t think of anything more depressing than looking back on a life of things you think you should have done. I’d much rather see a lifetime of carnage of all the things I went for. How about you?

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2 Comments »

  1. I absolutely agree with what you are saying. The hardest part for me is that I have a bunch of ideas but I don’t feel super psyched with butterflies in my stomach about the majority of them and it takes me some time to just let things noodle in my head before I feel convicted. Unfortunately sometimes it takes years.

    That being said, I think the only way to know if you are convicted is to start down the path of doing it because as everyone knows, very rarely what you start out doing is what the end result ends up being.

    Comment by Tara — February 12, 2010 @ 9:19 pm
  2. I totally agree. I’m literally screaming at this little voice sometimes. You only fail when you don’t learn from your failure, which is not the case if you want to pursue your thing.

    Get the hell out of here, Fear! (comment powered by R3515T!)

    Comment by harold — February 16, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

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