It’s common lore in the #startup world that we must “celebrate failure.” What that is supposed to mean is that we learn from our failures so that we can get better the next time. It makes sense, since nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, etc., that we should indeed celebrate failure as a stepping stone to the next great adventure.
But that’s all complete crap.
We say we celebrate failure, but when it happens, failure is not celebrated. Failure is hammered, mocked, laughed at, pitied, talked about quietly, gossiped about, hidden, covered up, smiled over, and even denied. And then there are all the wonderful platitudes offered up to console those who actually did the failing, none of which help, though most end up being at least somewhat true…in the long run.
In the short run, it just sucks. There’s no getting around it. Whether it’s a total business failure (been there done that 4X) or a big fat hairy mistake for a client (also have that T-shirt), it sucks. The very worst possible thing we can possibly do when (not if) we fail is to justify it, deny it, explain it away, or otherwise dodge it. That’s what our natural reaction will be, because nobody wants to face failure eye-to-eye at the time and own it.
But that’s what we have to do. We have to own it. We have to say, out loud, to the person or people we are accountable to (maybe the client), “It’s my mistake. It’s my fault. I did that. It was wrong. I was wrong.”
And then we have to move on, because despite what everyone in la la land runs around preaching, we do not celebrate failure…until many years later, when we can look back with 20/20 hindsight and see where that failure led us, what we learned from it, how we changed, how we improved, how we overcame our own failures.
Past failure is celebrated, but present failure? No. Present failure is punished. Hard. Get past it by completely owning it, and move on.
Also, I’ll be speaking about all my failures, past and present, at FailCon Atlanta in a couple of weeks. If nothing else, you’ll have fun celebrating my past failures, but I hope you’ll learn from them, too.