Why do people think failure is such a good idea? After all, failure can hurt. You get up, you fall down, you break your toe. Or your nose. Your nose! How can that be a good thing? And yet, people in the startup world, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, think of failure as the Holy Grail.
Trial By Fire
Failure is often defined by its opposite. It’s a lack of success, a falling short, the inability to reach a milestone or goal. Even by its definition, failure fails to deliver. And yet, businesses need failure. If everything was rosy all the time, we would always think we were doing well. And would you have any motivation to do better if you always got an A+ on every test? Probably not.
Here in Silicon Valley, failure has always been touted as admirable. It’s a way to build character, a way to determine how startups operate under pressure, and, a way to find stories to tell later. Failing forward–that is, learning from mistakes–is a badge of courage. And naturally that Silicon Valley icon, Steve Jobs, was our greatest failure (think NeXT Computer). That is, until Apple came along.
Baby Steps to Failure
Maybe you aren’t ready to have a massive failure of the ilk that would make Steve Jobs proud. Could you start small? Say by experimenting in a tiny way with how you do your job, how you create your to-do list, or which route you drive to work? After all, starting with a small failure earlier is better than having a huge failure later, as this Forbes article about failing forward outlines. Being comfortable being uncomfortable is what it’s all about.
Failure Makes You a Better Social Media Marketer
As social media marketers, we are always experimenting. My friend Bridget Willard was just saying that she’s always trying new things. Partly, we test things so that our clients don’t have to go through what we go through. So the new plug-in goes on our blog first. The new method of posting with an image goes happens on our Twitter before theirs. Once the new method works, it’s ready for prime-time. And speaking of failure, maybe you’d be interested in reading about Ten of the Worst Social Managers.
National Failure Day
Here is the part where I was going to cleverly propose a National Failure Day. However, someone in Finland has beat me to it! You might not be surprised that the creator of Angry Birds has something to do with it. Rovio, who created Angry Birds, made 52 other games before finally creating Angry Birds. The other surprise is that the Finns traveled to Silicon Valley’s Failure Conference before going home and creating National Failure Day. So there.
Failure Is the Secret Sauce
If there was no failure, there would be no grit. There would be no workarounds. The “Aha” moments would be few and far between. Also, there would be no contrast. Without contrast, there would be no humor. And humor is something we need more of, don’t we?