Failure is a Learning Success


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In our work, and personal lives, we’re constantly confronted with the question – whether stated or merely implied – will this work (or be good)?

This applies to marketing strategies, finding a favorite lunch spot, choosing a job, choosing an employee, deciding which route to take home, etc.  It’s pretty much the question you get across the board whenever trying (or reconsidering) something.

We can hedge our bets on these items to varying degrees.  It’s unlikely a very indirect route will be faster than shortest distance between points A and B – but will the interstate really be faster at rush hour?  Is the subway worthwhile if you’re only going 20 blocks and need to walk 8 to get to and from the stations (provided you walk at a decent clip and the weather’s nice)?

Other choices aren’t so hedgeable.  The preferred employee lives farther away so it’s more likely they’ll be late (since they rely on things beyond their control such as mass transit, etc.), but they’re still the preferred employee, and that uncertainty still nags at you.

There are mutually exclusive marketing strategies that can be rolled out for a client and all other factors are equal.  One will likely be more successful than the other.  How do you pick (and even when you do and your selection is made – the real kick in the pants is you won’t be able to know if the other one would have been more successful).

So here it is cats & kittens – at the end of the day – most decisions with unknowable variables, particularly when they involve human opinion, or emotion (and we all want our client’s customers to be emotionally connected to the client) will more often fail than be successful.

Consider your own microcosm – how many soap brands did you try before finding “your” brand?  How many different routes to work did you try before finding the most pleasant (whether consciously or not)?  Does your preferred subway route make no sense logistically but is the best because it’s the least crowded?  While courting – how many folks did/do you flirt with before going out; how many do you go out with before becoming committed?

The reason we don’t see failure as often as we probably should is because we, as a species, mimic success.  There’s a reason all the “As Seen On TV” spots are virtually identical – that format works.  Why successful e-commerce sites frequently look very similar – they work.  There have been plenty that failed, but when a new one would start they looked at the successful sites and lifted concepts that proved to be some level of similarly successful.

Disagree? Why do you think we’ve got both moral/academic (plagerism) and legal (copyright, trademark, patent) rules against copying – because it’s natural to want success.

If you’re out there, leading the pack (whether the pack knows it or not), and trying new things – you will fail, or more accurately – be unsuccessful.  And you’ll do it frequently if you’re out there enough.

The moral of the post (and this is probably more geared towards the younger staffers out there) – don’t be afraid of failure.  Definitely don’t seek it and do your damnest to make sure you’ve researched everything – but don’t be afraid to think ahead of the curve and for Pete’s sake – just because you don’t succeed doesn’t mean you’re wrong to try.  It just means you need to try again – to find out what does work … and be that first one.

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