A Natural at Failing II – By@mjclacroix
By Matthew La Croix
A Natural at Failing: Part II
Ingmar Bergman, Franz Kafka, Yukio Mishima, Kate Bush, Bob Dylan, Walt Whitman, Siegfried Sassoon, Francois Truffaut, and not to mention Chris Packham, to only begin to name a few, all challenged poor mental hygiene, never let it be said that these people didn’t super-charge their prospective fields or get s***t done. Indeed, it took me 32 years of failing to realise ad-land might be for me. No-body will tell you these things. You have to fail to get there. It took Abraham Lincoln eight defeats business fails and job losses, including a nervous breakdown and grief, to become the archetype in perseverance in his successful presidential bid in 1806.
When one begins to look at the relationship between failure and success, risk and defeat, innovation and washouts, there is huge profit in the currency of making mistakes. Indeed, we are encouraged to fail, fail, and fail again in creating ideas at SCA, where there is no greater treasure than in our gaffes. It’s something to be embraced, not just learned from.
The easier we fail, it’s with haste that we kill our bad ideas, and scamp to new better ones. And then kill those. The quicker we throw poor or ill-defined ideas out without filter, the more rigorous our message is and more thorough our truths. Fail fast.
And accept defeat. In the US there was a ceramics teacher who announced on the opening day of class that he was dividing the students into two groups. Half were told that they would be graded on quantity. On the final day of term, the teacher said he’d come to class with some scales and weigh the pots they had made. They would get graded on quantity, and the the other half would be graded on quality. They just had to bring along their one, pristine, perfectly designed pot.
The results were emphatic – the most beautiful and creative designs were all produced by the group graded for quantity. The quantity group has failed fast and learned from their mistakes while the quality group had brooded on perfection. It took James Dyson 5,126 iterations and prototypes before his hoover became a household appliance. Hard work beats talent.
Creativity and insight is the endpoint of a long term, iterative process, rather than the starting point. As the neuroscientist David Eagleman puts it in The Secret Lives of the Brain: “When an idea is served up from behind the scenes, the neural circuitry has been working on the problems for hours or days or years, consolidating information and trying out new combinations. But you merely take credit without further wonderment at the vast, hidden political machinery behind the scenes.”
As with life there will never be a time when we don’t make mistakes or fail, creatively or emotionally. On contemplation, unhappiness can be an invaluable journey of self-reflection. As the Japanese proverb goes strong winds make tall trees.
It’s essential to celebrate failure; looking back being cashless in New York gave me resolve and taught me resourcefulness. I learned who I was and who I didn’t want to be through failing at relationships and grew resilience, and in a decade of ill-suited careers I recognised I was a bigger picture person rather than focused on the detail.
All these failures got me to SCA, and my attributes of failure, (procrastination, over-thinking) in turn were attributes of success, and I have to thank these failures. Perfecting our talents whilst recognising our (many) short comings, and applauding where our short-comings got us and the journeys they transported us to, one should try to be as big and as fast a failure as they can.