Failure is the new success

Guest blog from Kyle Van Blerk, creative partner at integrated agency Meteorite on how failure is the new success.

We’re all brought up learning to fear failure. From formative school sports days, to exams, to the relative banality of washing the dishes, our parents have taught us that failure is, well, failure – and should be avoided at all costs. Especially since they’re covering the school fees.

Fair enough I guess (that’s my school fee-paying, mortgaged-to-the-hilt parent voice speaking), but living in a society where the fear of failure has become ingrained in our everyday existence is frankly starting to kill my buzz.

I say we should embrace failure, even actively encourage it. On a mass scale. Every day. And it seems I’m not alone.

WK12, the experimental ad school at Wieden + Kennedy Portland, recently created an artwork for their foyer using 150,000 drawing pins simply spelling out the phrase ’Fail Harder’. This kind of attitude can only lead to one thing: bleeding fingers. Okay, two things: bleeding fingers and bold new thinking.

Fail Harder
Fail Harder. Credit: Wielden + Kennedy

The message echoes Dan Wieden’s famous (if you’re in advertising) quote: “You’re only good to me after you’ve made three tremendous mistakes.” And Henri Cartier-Bresson’s version: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” And Thomas Edison’s take on it: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

You get the idea.

Diesel’s recent ’Be Stupid’ campaign follows a similar path, encouraging us all to embrace our less rationale inclinations and just do something for the hell of it, because it’s new and, well, stupid. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Diesel Be Stupid
Be Stupid. Credit: Diesel

Even Google’s well-documented policy of stipulating that 20% of all staff’s time should be dedicated to personal projects is a form of encouraging exploration, and by default, taking some time out to fail. On the company dime no less.

I  wish there were more pressure to fail from clients, as getting something wrong can sometimes lead you down avenues you’d never thought of pursuing otherwise. And probably avenues no-one else thought of pressing either. And that can be very good for business.

In fact, failure is the very thing that teaches us what success is, so shouldn’t it be held in the same high regard?

So, get out there and be a loser.

Actively aim for the EPIC FAIL.

It might just set you free.

Hide Comments (3)Show Comments (3)
  • Scott Smith November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Rubbish piece, must try harder.

  • Jen November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Exciting can cause a failure, but safe is so boring.

  • Steve November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Surely the primary source is the famous Beckett quote?

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