“If you aren’t prepared to fail, you’ll never do anything creative. So you have to put yourself in a position to go outside of what you know, and when you’re there you’ll fail, and when you fail you’ll learn, and then you’ll become a better artist. And then you can even fail harder the next time. And then you continue to push the boundaries by failing and failing and failing.”
Photographer Mark Wallace
“I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know”
Jonathan Livingston Seagull(written by Richard Bach)
Orville & Wilber Wright made history in 1903 (after four years of experimenting and failures) when they designed and flew the first powered airplane. Lesser known is that in 1908 Orville was the pilot when the first airplane fatality occurred. The history of flight is full of spectacular failures. Fortunately, when most of us fail it is not followed by smoke and flames.
Now is a good time to look at the importance of spectacular failures. This past weekend I caught part of photographer Mark Wallace’s excellent creativeLive workshop online Anatomy of a Photo Shoot. Wallace covered a lot of ground in just the small percentage that I was able to watch of the three-day workshop. But what really stood out to me was his openness to failure. From his perspective failure is not something to avoid, but something he encourages people to do on purpose. To “have a strategy for failure.”
This is the core of his message: Work hard outside of what you know. Push yourself to go to the next level of incompetence. If you only work in your comfort level you’re not growing. You need to push yourself where you think, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” Come to grips that everything you’re going to do in life won’t succeed. Release yourself from the expectation of success. Sometimes you’ll fall on your face. Most successful people have had catastrophic failures.
Wallace also credited his views on failure to Sir Ken Robinson (TED speaker and author of The Element:How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything). If you’re a creative person who failed, or didn’t do well in school, you’ll get a kick out of the following video featuring Robinson:
Failing forward is another phrase that’s kicked around. In the case of my Kickstarter campaign several people from behind the scenes have contacted me about some alternatives ways of getting my book published. Opportunities that wouldn’t be options if I hadn’t at least taken steps to try something new.
Waking up this morning knowing that I had fallen short of my goal wasn’t dreadful. You have to take this kind of thing in stride—and in perspective. Falling short at Kickstarter is not hard. Hard is my friend Loyd (one of the most creative people I’ve ever met) waking up today for his 71st day in the hospital following a stroke. Hard is the news that three days ago an eight year old died in Florida after a six-year battle with leukemia.
The odds are pretty good that eventually all of us will have our health fail and we’ll die. (I think it was Mark Twain who said the odds were 1:1 on the later.) That should take some of the sting of failure away. Help you take a few risks in your life to do the things you feel compelled to do while your hearts still pumping.
P.S. Special thanks Patricia Lytle for her last minute backing—just before my Kickstarter plane went down.