It’s (Not) Okay to Fail

Generation Y does not need permission to fail. We got medals and ribbons for that very reason as kids. Gen Y normalized failure. Failure is not scary. It means you get to stay in the status quo, which most of us are very comfortable in. You get to keep being who you are, and that isn’t all bad.

It’s success – that’s scary. Indeed, we’re not changing stuff up because we’re afraid to fail, but afraid to succeed. We need to let people know, “It’s okay to succeed.”

Part of the reason we are so obsessed with normalizing failure is that we want to feel good about ourselves. And that’s hard right now, no doubt. It’s hard to find a job, to get out of debt, to pursue meaningful work. It’s hard to make time for family, get away from our computers, and engage face-to-face. It’s hard not to compare our bottoms to everyone’s top on Facebook.

So, we embrace failure. In its call for speakers, the Dare Conference says, “If you’re willing to be vulnerable, admit your failures, and share what you learned from them, we want to hear from you.” Apparently people aren’t doing that enough on the Internet?

So, we court failure. This guy goes around trying to get rejected on a daily basis. He intentionally tries to fail as if that’s an accomplishment.

So, we sleep with failure. We dream of failure. We live with failure — as a point of pride.

I don’t want to fail. Failure is boring. Failure usually means you didn’t try something; you didn’t follow through; you didn’t finish. Most people don’t really fail. They succeed at being lazy, and call it failure. But at least they tried. Er, right?

Lazy is not failure, it’s just lazy. Practice moderation, instead of binging on inspiration. Practice patience, instead of quick wins.  Start something, but then finish it.

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the modern web browser, Netscape and leading venture capitalist, said pivots used to be called fuck-ups and begged for the startup community to put a little more stigma back into failure.

“We joke around the office that the worst is the fetish for failure,” Andreessen said. “You don’t want people to be intentionally encouraged to fail. Maybe it’s time to add a bit more stigma. The entrepreneurs I admire — I admire the ones who pivot but I really admire the ones who have persisted.”

Persist. It’s okay to succeed.

the notebook is a bunch of short items on my current obsessions.