This morning, a Brain Pickings article crossed my Twitter feed. I love Brain Pickings articles, but this one was a little more eye-catching than others because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The article was Pixar Cofounder Ed Catmull on Failure and Why Fostering a Fearless Culture Is the Key to Groundbreaking Creative Work. A bit of a mouthful but it had a couple of interesting words in it: “Pixar,” “failure,” “fearless,” and “creative.”
Sometimes I look at where my life is compared to what I’d dreamed it to be, and I feel like I’ve failed.
Other times, I’m actually aware that no, I haven’t failed; that failure isn’t that straight-forward, because I really do believe that life is a journey, and that one day can totally change your life in ways you wouldn’t expect. (For better or worse…) So while today might not be what I’d wanted it to be, tomorrow very well could be. Just need to ride it out to get there. (And since my current plans are pretty amazing, I’m very much looking forward to my tomorrows…)
That’s my bigger-picture view on failure. Smaller-picture: as writers, a lot of us struggle with this: not being published (although read my take on that here), not writing a good-enough story (good enough for whom? for what??), or just not writing well enough.
So. Back to the Brain Pickings article and a fantastic quote in it: ‘Most people, Catmull argues, would go to any length to avoid failure — but not Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, known around the studio for his frequent counsel to “fail early and fail fast” and “be wrong as fast as you can.”’
I love that: FAIL EARLY AND FAIL FAST and BE WRONG AS FAST AS YOU CAN. As in, if you’re gonna get anywhere with your work, you’re going to stumble around and hit wrong notes. So might as well get them out of the way as early as possible so you don’t have to worry about making them later when you feel the stakes are higher. Well really you’ll still make them then too, but at least you’ll be able to roll with them better and move forward with the confidence that it’s just a small bump, not a huge-ass crater you can’t crawl out of.
Even more, as Ed Catmull says, ‘We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).’ (And by the way, this book of his — Creativity, Inc. — is now on my to-read list.* Soon.)
Yes, yes, and YES!! Yes. Embrace mistakes. Embrace failure. Because failing isn’t bad. Not trying is. So go. I give you permission to make tons of mistakes, screw-ups, and failures. As long as you keep going after.
* On another note, another book that talks about failure (and needs to come off my bookshelf and into my hands this week) is, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams (Dilbert’s creator).