Failure Is The New Black!

(Rerun from 2013 – This one still holds up very well!) 

This inspiration came from my friend William Tincup.  If you don’t know him, you need to know him, he’s brilliant.  Like my head hurts after talking to him brilliant, in a good way.

He made a comment recently which was just this:

“Failure is the new black.”

Another friend of ours, Jason Seiden, has been saying this for years, in a little different way, with his “Fail Spectacularly” motto.  Either way, you get the point, it’s now ‘in’ to talk about your failures. It’s a really popular and motivating thought process for a lot of people. Basically, it’s alright that you failed, go do it again and eventually you’ll get it right.

Past generations would go to great lengths to hide their failures.  Think about your parents and grandparents, you never heard them talk about things they failed at.  Think back about how your own parents spoke to you. Was failure really an option?  It wasn’t in my household.  We’re Sacketts, and Sacketts are winners, and winners get to do what they want (oh wait, that was me weekly to my own kids!).

I’m just wondering who originally decided that it was alright to fail?

You can’t go anywhere anymore without everyone telling you “Success starts with Failure” or “The Secret to success is failure”.  This comes from the concept of traditional scientific theory.  Have a theory. Test theory. Fail. Try another approach. Fail. Keep trying and eventually, you’ll be successful.  Straightforward. Makes sense.  But that really only plays out when you’re testing scientific theories.

Can we agree real life might be a bit different?

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book David and Goliath talks about the concept of failure and what it does to the brightest college students in the world.  His research found that the top 50  PhD students going into schools like Harvard, are all smarter than the smartest kid going into Missouri.  But at the end of their schooling the brightest kid at Missouri is more successful than the number 50 kid at Harvard.  Why is that?  The number 50 kid believes they are a failure because they are not as smart as the 49 kids above them at Harvard. While the kid at Missouri, who wasn’t as bright as all the Harvard kids, became a rock star at Missouri. That success, that confidence, led him/her to more and more success.  Put that same Missouri kid at Harvard and he/she would have failed miserably and may have even dropped out of the program.

Let me give you an example.  Your kid goes up to bat.  Strikes out, which is a failure. Goes up the next time and strikes out.  Goes up again and strikes out. Continues game after game, never hitting, only striking out.  Continued failure will not lead to this kid’s success.  In fact, continued failure will lead to more failure as their confidence is shattered.

The path to success, for most life situations, is not through failure, it’s through success.  Continued little successes that will eventually lead to big successes.

Celebrating failure, like it’s some sort of a success, doesn’t lead to success.  Is it alright to fail?  Of course it is. But should we be celebrating it?  I have children.  I want them to be successful at anything they do.  When they fail, we don’t throw a party.  We talk about where failure leads, what we/they need to do to ensure we don’t fail the next time.  Many times that entails a ton of hard work.  Failures enemy is hard work.

I don’t like that we are getting comfortable as a society with failure.  That failure has become something to celebrate. Something that is now cool.   That we give a trophy to the team that lost every game.  It doesn’t make us better as a society.  It doesn’t make our organizations better.  Failure leads to more failure, not to success.

Here’s hoping ‘Success’ becomes the new black!

6 thoughts on “Failure Is The New Black!

  1. I enjoyed this post. Great points!

    “Success is not about not failing, it is about getting back up and trying again.”

    I’ve learned over the years, that this is key on the journey to success.

    I learned to celebrate the “small” wins. It helps me to stay encourage.

  2. Ugh, I’m so with you on this one. Failure. Somewhere along the way the real message was denigrated by too many people trying to generate clicks and pass out hugs.
    Failure sucks.
    Failure should suck.
    You should hate to fail.

    But, failure is going to happen. It’s the resiliency, and self awareness to understand that you are failing and that you need to change things. Failing isn’t cool.
    Knowing that you failed and swallowing down that pride and getting after it again with a new strategy and understanding that you need to do something differently and not just curl up under your desk and wipe away the tears.. that’s what who I want on my team.

  3. The trick is to succeed DESPITE failure. You’re right – repeated failure gets you nothing. But if you learn from the failure and don’t make the SAME one over and over again…well, then you’re getting somewhere.

    Don’t pretend failure won’t happen. Decide what you’re going to do about it.

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