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Slip, Don't Fall
Failure has consequences. Should we ignore them?
I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday evening. After a week of vacation with my family in the Adirondacks, I’m slowly absorbing the time I had in the mountains and getting ready to get back to real life tomorrow. Time away from the normal hustle and bustle always provides new ideas and I’m excited to explore those in the coming weeks.
For this week, we’re taking a closer look at failure and its consequences.
As always, thanks for reading!
Slip, Don’t Fall
The key to risk management is never putting yourself in a position where you cannot live to fight another day.
Richard S. Fuld, Jr.
We’re often told to fail fast. Mark Zuckerberg famously used “move fast and break things” as a mantra when building Facebook and although we instinctually try to avoid failure, there’s a mainstream philosophy to embrace it.
Embracing failure carries us past overblown fears and allows us to accomplish things that we didn’t think we were capable of. In many cases, the “failures” we are so afraid of are simply embarrassment or temporary discomfort. Broadly speaking, getting comfortable with failure is a powerful path to accomplishing bigger and better things, but we should be careful of the consequences of each failure.
Hiking up a huge mountain is a difficult and scary proposition for most, with an awesome reward at the end. Embracing failure in this context can be very different depending on how we think about it. At its best failure is not making it to the top, and at its worst, it’s falling and seriously injuring yourself. Both are “failing”, but the consequences for each failure aren’t even comparable.
If the worst-case scenario is embarrassment and disappointment, then we should be brazen and bold. The consequences are small and the rewards are high.
If the worst case scenario is serious irreparable harm (physically, professionally, financially, etc.), then we should hesitate before we “move fast and break” things to “fail quickly”.
Plowing our life savings into an untested business venture fits the popular narrative of embracing failure, but puts us in an extremely vulnerable situation. There’s an extremely high likelihood of life-altering consequences.
Thinking back to hiking, slipping is fine, but falling is not. The faster we try to move up or down a mountain the more likely it is that we will slip or fall. Slipping is a micro-failure with negligible consequences. We should avoid it if we can, but it’s not the end of the world.
Falling can be deadly. We need to avoid it at all costs.
Before we brazenly attack the world in the hopes of accomplishing something great, we should carefully consider what the consequences of failure are. Embracing failure may be a helpful heuristic to move us forward, but there are more exceptions to this rule than we might think.
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What is your attitude toward failure?
Where might you be taking too much or too little risk?
How can you mitigate severe risk moving forward, while still working to become a bit better each day?
A podcast episode highlighting successful folks who look like risk-takers, but in fact do everything they can to mitigate any and all risks.
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Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.