Archive for April, 2013

Failing Forward
April 7, 2013

This column first appeared in the April All Month Friday Am in Salmon Arm, BC

WD 40 is called WD 40 because the formula for WD 1 through 39 didn’t quite work out. The inventor failed forward.

Failure, believe it or not, is critical to success. Leading thinkers in the emerging creative class are embracing failure. All they ask is that you fail forward. Or keep going. Or don’t give up.

I’ve failed on more than a few occasions. Most publicly, for example, I failed to win a seat on council. But that wasn’t really a failure as I learned so much meeting residents and discussing community issues in a respectful manner. I also learned the toll failure can take on individuals attempting to do something well intentioned in a very public way.

We live in a judgmental society. The brand of your t-shirt, the logo on your coffee cup, the emblem on your car. We judge and failure is one way we do this. They failed. They’re wrong. They screwed up. It’s their fault. On the other hand, if you’ve never failed, you likely haven’t done much of anything.

More recently, I’ve failed to contribute to respectful dialogue among strangers on matters of community affairs. As a result,  I got slammed on facebook for things I write here as a blogger and in print as a columnist. Pretty epic fail actually. By many accounts, I’m a rotten, no good, radical extremist freak. That certainly was not my intention. Nor is it true, by the way, if you’re keeping score. But I hope you’re not. I’m not worth the time it would take.

What I fail to see is how slamming my views contributes to any forward momentum. At the very worst, it keeps others from participating in the conversation, lest they be insulted as I have been. And that’s the real failure here. We’re never all going to agree on everything. If we fail to accept that, we truly are failing – badly and backwards at that.

But back to failing forward and the great thinkers who embraced it. Their lessons are our opportunities. I embrace failure. We all should. Apple nearly failed. Einstein was a terrible student. Bill Gates dropped out of business school. The Wright brothers nearly didn’t make that airplane fly. Steven Spielberg wasn’t accepted into film school at first. Henry Ford went bankrupt many times before the Model T. Walt Disney’s first boss told him he had no good ideas and no imagination. And that Dyson guy, he made over 5,000 versions of his vacuum before he found success. He credits failure.

So I’ll keep failing to the best of my ability. I think I’m in good company. And I don’t plan on giving up anytime soon. There’s too much at stake to give up failing now.