I Hope You Fail!

I hope you fail.

Not because I dislike you. Not because I want to be seen as better than you. I simply want you to fail, and fail regularly. Believe it or not, failure is the number one indicator of success. Counterintuitive? You bet… but listen to this.

Successful people fail far more often than unsuccessful people

The reality of failure is inevitable. How you handle it will determine how successful you will be in life. If you allow failure to defeat you and undermine your sense of wellbeing you will probably never—truly—succeed. On the other hand, if you understand that failure is THE pathway to success you will use the rubble of each disaster to build a causeway to greatness.

The key is to train yourself to take Decisive, Specific and Immediate action upon failure. In other words; “Get up and try it again,” or “Try something different.” Those who slump back in disappointment or pity find those emotions to be enslaving.

So let me amend my first statement and say:

I want you to fail, but I want you to fail fast.

Last Note: Don’t keep going when you know failure is imminent. Don’t fall pray to the concerns of what others will say, think, do. Continuing on will result in a bigger mess to clean. Own it. Take pride in it. Start over, try it again, do something different… blow it up if you have to…

Fail until you succeed.

An Avoidable Tragedy

Fail Fast

I cannot remember the location, but I remember the story like it was yesterday. A man and his son facing that moment where the son’s right of passage meant an extreme hiking trip with his father. Big hopes and excitement confronted them both. At one point, during the hike, the son strayed from the path and began to stumble down an incline littered with shale. Trying to right himself, the boy began to run faster and faster downhill until he was out of control. His father, knowing that at the bottom of that shale was a drop-off of over one hundred feet, began to give instruction. The boy could not see it nor was he aware of the danger. The father began to scream at the top of his lungs, “Fall Down!” He even extended his arms and legs to instruct the boy in a futile attempt to force the child’s action. “Fall Down! Spread your legs out and fall! NOW! Do it!” Doubtless, all the boy was thinking about is how much pain it meant to fall, and he continued to try to gain his balance. To the father’s horror, the son plummeted to his death.

I remember telling my children that story to reinforce a truth that I wanted them to learn. That is, that they must trust my word and do as I say immediately. There will be times when I know better, even if it hurts.

What a fabulous lesson for us as leaders. Failure is never what we intend. However, if we are going to fail, we really need to fail fast. Prolonging your fall can lead to death. By failing fast, you may be battered and bruised when it is all said and done, but at least you are alive to rebuild.

Reality Check

These lessons go to hundreds of people each week. That means one thing. Some of you are failing! Are you that leader? If it is, you have choices. Call a colleague, a mentor, a coach, or another leader whom you trust. There are many of us who care. We want to help.

Final Note

Every organizational leader desires to lead transformational change. If that’s you, you will fail in some of your many endeavors. Fail fast. Seek the guidance, pick yourself up, and pour your energies into the idea that seems to be gaining ground. Remember to always measure and assess your failures. If you can, failing fast will make you stronger.

Lesson in Tragedy

(reposted from October 31, 2014)

Less than two hours ago SpaceShipTwo had a catastrophic failure resulting in the death of at least one of its two pilots. Though these pilots were groundbreaking individuals, and their sacrifice to push the envelope of exploration should not be minimized, their tragic loss is not the subject of this post. This day in the lives of their families—without debate—will not be forgotten.

I was there in Mojave California on June 21, 2004, when SpaceShipOne made its historic flight into space. My son Bryan and I sensed the gravity of that day as we watched Burt Rutan and his group of pioneers explore the future. I was… inspired.

The photo above is SpaceShipOne as Bryan and I saw her on June 21, 2004 in the Mojave Desert.
Today I am saddened. However, I am also excited for the future. Here is why… Mark my words… This tragedy will prove to the world that the entrepreneurial spirit in the exploration of new frontiers will always trump wasteful bureaucracy in the push of our society into the future.

We must take this moment to watch and learn. Learn how inspired private industry leaders differ from our super-agencies and let it inspire us to be leaders for tomorrow.

Allow me to preemptively compare this tragedy with either of the two Space Shuttle tragedies. Here are my predictions:

1. The investigation will be shorter, less costly and far more detailed and efficient.

2. The support of families, the flow of information and the care of loved ones will be far more personal and meaningful.

3. The return to flight will be quick with remarkable solutions to the discovered problems.

4. SpaceShipThree—when it flies—will be remarkably improved through the evaluation of this tragedy and the lessons learned.

5. The acceleration into a space tourism future will not be hindered because of the excellence in which this tragedy will be navigated.

At the end of the day, the world will see that the future belongs to entrepreneurs and not to the politicians, government agencies, and super-companies on contract. The future will prove to be in the small but creative, the uncompromising, the risk-takers, the dreamers. Oh yes, let us not forget that it will also be of, by, and for the people.

One last note: Let’s take this very moment to pray for the families of these brave leaders.

Make New Mistakes

Dr. Hermann Hauser, in a lecture at the Cambridge Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, spoke of the four big mistakes faced by the entrepreneur of today.

Time

“Everybody underestimates the time that a project takes. I was first introduced to the Einsteinian problem of time dilation early on in my physics career. The people in the workshop gave me a good rule of thumb, they said; ‘If you think something takes x amount of time, say half a year or so, multiply it by Pi.’ It usually takes just over three times as long as you think.”

Money

“Closely correlated with the time aspect is that of money. It always takes more money than expected.”

Market Size

“Over estimation of the market size is an enormous problem. Especially when it comes to over-enthusiastic young people who can see how wonderfully attractive this new product is… but nobody else does. This market size issue is a key problem…”

People Issues

“It is surprising how easily people fall out with each other, so watch out for that as well. It is a common mistake.”

“My conclusion is this, mistakes are going to happen all the time. Learn from the old ones and try not to repeat them. Try to make new mistakes. If you are not making new ones you are not trying too hard. Also, mistakes come in all guises. There is a very large number of different mistakes, although some are more common than others. Experience does actually help, so listening to some of us does pay off. You should at least listen. You don’t necessarily need to implement what we suggest, but listen, because we’ve come across most mistakes in our careers. Last but not least, learn the basics. People often ask me, ‘Aren’t entrepreneurs born, you can’t train them so you shouldn’t even try.’ Well, I always say, perhaps you cannot make a tone deaf person a concert pianist, but giving them a piano sure helps.”