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Failure in theory vs. in practice


"Fail fast", "fail harder", "Fail Fest" and more slogans like this are a good internal mindset to have. In our fast moving global economy, small iterative risks are a way to learn and grow rather than plan and hope things turn out in reality as they did on a spreadsheet. We learn and progress as individuals, organizations and a society by trying new things. But when we embark on these unknown adventures and experiments, some inevitably will not work. I often cite the scientific method around this point of a conversation. Scientists do not prove something works, they rather prove what doesn't work.

Despite the growing annals of the efficiencies and importance of failing, there is another human truth around it. Realizing you're wrong is rarely cause for a celebration. Looking like you don't know what you're doing isn't enjoyable. Realizing six months into a project that you've been going about it the wrong way, while more efficient than completing the project and going to market with it, is a blow to momentum and pride. You just fu&%ed up.

Comfort with failure and marching into the unknown is possible but like with many things, its about practicing it and exercising it as a muscle. This has become a regular part of my day-to-day in the past couple months. My role at work shifted a little bit and it went from "comfort zone" to "courage zone" (h/t Stephen Covey). There are moments when I simply don't know how to tackle a question or situation in front of me and the best things I can do are:

  1. Break it down into small chunks and try things out

  2. Ask for feedback and guidance from others

There is no room for being the smartest person in the room when you're being pushed to the edge. Its about finding comfort in being out of your depth rather than being paralyzed by inaction. But I think its important to call out that writing these words about fear and failure are different than living them in the moment. We are all incapable of the task before us until we work at it and learn from it. All we can do is continue the practice.

Go Forth Boldly

"the pose begins when you want to leave it", a yoga quote that translates well to our life's work


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