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No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better

Samuel Beckett

A link tossed in to the stream by Joe Tennis on Twitter, stirred up thoughts about failure. Joe’s pointer was to a blog posting on the process of creating computer games, and the ideal of setting up an environment where failure can happen faster and isn’t punished. That’s a unique idea in this day and age.

It brought to mind a quote from a late Samuel Beckett novel called “Worstward Ho.”

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

If you intend to participate in a creative profession, whether it’s writing fiction, making paintings or plays, creating companies, products or software— you’ll need to learn to live in, and with, failure. In a sense, success is the failure that we’ve made an accomodation with. We shoot for perfection, and we always fall short. Dave Winer summed it up in 1995 in his motto for Living VideoTextWe make shitty software, with bugs. Software must ship prior to perfection, in that way it’s like life. We must live our lives prior to perfection. If we wait, we’ll miss everything.

Failure is tied to risk. If failure is not an option, risk is not an option. If risk isn’t an option, only a very small kind of success is possible. The principle is the same as an investment portfolio. You can banish risk, but you can’t expect a high level of return. Risk is a requirement of potential high return. The same is true in any creative pursuit, if you want a big success, you’ll need to learn to live with risk and failure.

And not just live with them, but to call them friends. Learning how to fail faster means learning how to succeed faster. Creating a safe environment for failure encourages risk taking and exploration. It gets you there faster. But just as with success, not all failure is equally successful. Failures need to be crafted just as carefully as successes. Just ask Samuel Beckett…

Published in art artists collaboration culture design economics innovation interaction design performance philosophy value venture capital web design writing zettel

One Comment

  1. There’s a great book called Serious Play that goes into not only the practical application and benefits of prototyping, but the social and political ramifications within an organization.

    Of course, as my “social grid”, oops, friends, at Ideo always say, “Fail early, fail often”

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