Don't fail fast
Posted on 31 March 2016
In a world where advice is reduced to pithy one-line sound bites and memorable catch phrases, ‘fail fast’ is the new black. But the whole concept sounds awful, defeatist and like a self-fulfilling prophecy; we don’t want to fail do we?
Elon Musk’s motto isn't to fail fast nor was Steve Jobs’. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela didn't capture the attention of millions with the catch cry of “if this doesn't work we'll just try something else”. To succeed we must first wholeheartedly believe in the potential of the idea, then persist and persevere until this is realised.
If that doesn't work we iterate, improve and rally again. And this is the essence of this ‘fail fast’ doctrine. It is not to about speed, or giving up, but about pivoting, tweaking and trying again.
But it’s the generic plastering of the ‘fail fast’ mantra that is fuelling the confusion. I know it means don't be afraid to fail. I know it means don't be afraid to take risks. I know there is the large nod to the Thomas Edison light-bulb filament challenges and all that. But striving, effort and the drive to give your best with your eyes wide open every day are the hallmarks of success. Not failing. Nor doing it fast. So, if we are going to evangelize this principle lets market it correctly.
Let's say be brave, focus on the war not the battle, climb the mountain of your vision and if you slip, climb again. Change and improve the small stuff. Listen to others that have faltered and learn from their mistakes. But, don’t fail nor do it fast because if it’s worth it, it matters, otherwise why bother.
The lessons of failure provide the meaningful fuel to make improvements and change. It's an experiment; hypothesize, test and collect data and move forward again. That equips you for your next ascent. That and the stick-ability to get knocked down four times and get up five.
Remember language controls your outlook, the way you talk about something is the way you think about it, and if failure features heavily in your vocab, then it will rest easy in your mind. So, don’t fail fast; instead forge fast and pivot with perseverance.