My name is Saul! I'm an award winning Word of Mouth Marketer, Professional Speaker on the subjects of Social Media, Customer Service and best of all... Word of Mouth. I collect Air Force One sneakers and think you should hire me... (as a consultant) to teach you how to get your company doing interesting things!
the smartest man in the world.

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Photos from the Drupal Conference in San Francisco, CA 2010

Sunday, Jan 01, 2010
10

When did it become cool to romanticize Failure?


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I am not sure if this is just a tech thing or perhaps a version of modern day political correctness but it seems like it is ok all of a sudden to aspire to fail.

Failure has become not only acceptable but also fashionable.
Not only is the concept of failure appearing on Magzine covers but was recently the topic of a panel featuring Ben Huh (I Can Has Cheezburger), Micah Baldwin (Graphic.ly), Lane Becker (Get Satisfaction), Charlie O’Donnell, and Rashmi Sinha (Slideshare) at the Web 2.0 Expo Conference.
Failure used to be shameful and something you tried to put behind you. Failure was bad. The shame of failure used to be motivation.
There is no denying that you always learn more from the bad times then the good and adversity makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker but as a community I think we need to stop romanticizing failure so it doesn’t become a self full filling prophecy.
I have been around a while and seen a lot of things and if there is one thing I do know is that failure finds everyone eventually (sometimes big and sometimes small) but success doesn’t….so from now on why don’t we try to make success (even small ones) sexier then failures.
What says you?


[Please Note. I don’t consider any of the above noted folks failures and consider a few of these friends…I am using their good names and stellar reputations for SEO purposes.]

Response
  1. I think it's hilarious… mainly because the best example of romanticizing failures comes up in a political race. With the Toronto Mayoral race on, local newspapers are heralding candidates who have only lost elections.

    When did failure turn into a pre-requisite for running the city? Seriously.

    Leadership #FAIL!

    😉

    Great post, Colt.

  2. I think it's irresponsible to romanticize failure.

    Bottom line, failure SUCKS. While being an entrepreneur is inherently a risky endeavour rife with the possibility of failure, we shouldn't make failure fashionable as you've stated.

    Failure is ugly, humbling and terrifying to most entrepreneurs (myself included).

    Let's not go down this road for the sake of future entrepreneurs. It doesn't give them faith or reason to take risks.

  3. As a generation we've been brought up softer than any before us. Participation medals, sports where you can't lose, etc…

    In a way our generation was raised with the idea of failure pushed into the background like the bogeyman, with the notion that kids are unable to cope with it. When it inevitably hits us in adulthood it knocks the wind out of us. People don't think they're allowed to fail, like something is fundamentally wrong with them, and for some people they stop taking the big, good risks in life.

    I like the recent romanticization of failure (to a degree). Not because it condones failing, but it implies that you should always try, and keep trying despite failure being a distinct possibility.

    As long as people experience failure, learn, and put it behind them, it's a good thing.

  4. Wanted to be more concise now that I've collected my thoughts!

    Failure is never going to change. The romanticization of failure cannot make failure anything less than it is.

    The real subject here is the fear of failure. It is this fear that paralyzes individual risk and innovation by discouraging action. Romanticizing failure does nothing to failure itself, but it does help alleviate the fear of failure so people can be free to take their chances.

    There, that was much less long winded than my previous comment!

    -Wayne
    @waynesang

  5. No one ever got to the top without making some mistakes along the way. An entrepreneur, who has failed, learned from her/his mistakes and is hungry enough to do it again and again – that's sexy. **Swoon** 🙂

    Fail Fast is something I hear a lot at Bootup Labs. And in the consumer Internet space, where you can build and launch a company in a matter of months – the notion of failing fast is important. Failing feels anything but cool but smart entrepreneurs know when to call it quits and/or change course.

    If by sharing lessons learned, we can encourage more entrepreneurs to face their fears and dive in with an understanding of how to measure success, then romanticizing failure -if that is what we are doing – can only lead to more success.

  6. I think in some cases failure is nothing to be ashamed of. If you've learned a valuable lesson from a failure then it was worth it. However, these politicians who claim that even though they lost a race, they had a victory are just deluding themselves. It just shows they haven't learned a thing.

  7. Didn't someone say that we don't fail far often enough?

    From what I've seen I agree with you that it has been a romanticization of failure. Whether it's necessarily bad I'm not sure. But is it "hip"? Sure.

    If you look at both success and failure from the point of view as sources of valuable new information, what worked or what didn't work, they are both the same.

    In either case they are stories or lessons taken from actions people have taken (you can only have done something that failed or succeeded, not thought something). If you want to try to celebrate the act of doing things and taking risks they should be taken for the same amount of value.

    What I think is the wrong path to take is to believe that sharing only stories of success will build better people or businesses, and that only sharing stories of failure is somehow laying the foundation to some imminent psychological torture.

    As to Wayne's point, the idea in our culture that failing means your a failure, and that society should avoid being like you or people who succeed should be the role models is the real problem that should be solved.

  8. I actually know 3 people who have commented on your post. 2 years ago I thought all these people where digital media superstars!

    They still are but…i digress….

    I think the point that Wired (I actually have that edition) is pointing out that we MUST learn from failures.

    Failing sucks when we don't learn. But failure can be great if we learn and become better people as a result.

    That's just my opinion. 😉

    kk

  9. I think this whole post is a failure since you misspelled my company – Graphic.ly!

    Sheesh.

    The real problem is that people get failure and losing confused. One is a process the latter is a destination.

    Failure is fine; losing sucks.

  10. Sorry Micah,

    all fixed!

    saul

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