I’m not so much a fan of Seth Godin’s blog as I am of his books (I think the focus in his books is better than the blog which often I find too ethereal). However, I found this post on failure from him to be very good.
Seth writes on the levels of failure that we should have:
FAIL OFTEN: Ideas that challenge the status quo. Proposals. Brainstorms. Concepts that open doors.
FAIL FREQUENTLY: Prototypes. Spreadsheets. Sample ads and copy.
FAIL OCCASIONALLY: Working mockups. Playtesting sessions. Board meetings.
FAIL RARELY: Interactions with small groups of actual users and customers.
FAIL NEVER: Keeping promises to your constituents.
This reminds me of a book I read many years ago by acclaimed leadership expert John Maxwell called Failing Forward (affiliate link). In it, John discussed the mindset and the methods of making failure a positive – to literally ’fail forward.’
I remember being so afraid of failure that I would go to any length to avoid it (even if a project clearly was going to fail, I put an overload of resources in to minimise its failure, which of course took precious resources from other projects), and I’d certainly cover my failures up. One day, if we get time to sit down and chat, I’ll go through the list with you!
The point was that reading Failing Forward, I began to think very differently about failure, and actually began to see it as being part of success. You can’t talk of this and not, of course, think of Google who celebrate failure. In fact they don’t just celebrate it – they see failure as a necessary part of success – which when you think about it is very true. You have to fail to succeed.
Seth’s post, John’s book, Google’s philosophy – they all serve to help us embrace failure and learn from it, rather than fear it. I find, however, than many embrace failure but still don’t learn from it. It’s easy to say “FAIL OFTEN”, but how do you fail often?
Your Leading Thoughts
- When, exactly, did you start failing forward? What changed your mindset about failure?
- How have you learnt to learn from your mistakes? What methods fo you have in place?