“Fail fast and often” is really dumb advice

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The idea that you should “fail fast and fail often” is just stupid. I understand that “getting it wrong is part of getting it right,” as Charles Handy said. And I get that we’ve raised up too many people to be risk averse. But the advice is still stupid because it concentrates on the wrong objective.

Failure is not the goal

The objective isn’t to fail. Failure is not a destination. It’s a waypoint that you can only identify looking backward. The objective is to make progress in some way.

That progress might be creating a sustainable public company from some notes on a napkin. It might be developing a new product or improving an existing system. The rules of nature and human nature will still apply.

How life works

If you want to make progress you will have to do things in new ways.

When you do things in new ways, many of them won’t work out the way you expected.

When things don’t work out the way you expect, some people will call you a failure. Get over it.

When something doesn’t work the way you expected, there are two things you have to do to turn “failure” into “progress.” You must learn from what happened and you must change your behavior.

Remember that life and business are a series of prototypes and experiments. The measure of your life is not how many things you try that don’t turn out well. The measure is how much you learn and how much you improve, and where you wind up.

There are only three real failures: not trying, not learning from the results, and not changing how you do things based on what you learn.

Two of my other posts on failure.

Failure as prototype

Return on Failure

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