Tag Archives: fail

Failure and Why You Should Embrace Your Inner Screw-Up

screw up embrace your inner screw up failure jade luck club jadeluckclubI read this email newsletter for search engine marketing  (SEM) called Search Insider. It’s true that SEM is a kind of new, wild, west frontier that is an ever very rapidly changing landscape. This article by Gord Hotchkiss encourages digital marketers to embrace failure/screwing up/mistakes. He gives good advice that applies well beyond search engine marketers. Embrace your inner “screw-up” because it’s the most efficient way to learn and also has the biggest payoff. Risk = Reward. And it’s a fun ride too if your stomach can take it.

p.s. If you want to know what the pundits think children should be learning NOW to prepare for the next 10 years, here’s a great article from Xeconomy to get a “view into the future at a time of  breakneck technological change and increasing economic uncertainty. Their answers paint a picture of the world that is fascinating, and occasionally, sobering.” Let me put it this way, Tiger Mom Amy Chua’s strategy was to memorize and regurgitate. This doesn’t fly in the new economy if you want a front seat.

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Humans hate making mistakes. But the fact is, making mistakes is an essential part of being human. Somehow, we have to learn to live on the edge of this paradox. For digital marketers, our entire industry is balanced on this particular precarious precipice.

There are a few rules of thumb to “screwing up” successfully:

You Can Only Learn from Others if You’re in the Middle of the Pack

If you’re a digital marketer, you’ve decided to travel at the head of the herd. Congratulations. But here’s the thing. You’ve volunteered to make mistakes. The mark is on your forehead and it’s your job to poke the bushes and test the waters, flushing out danger for others to take heed of.

Humans have a long history of leveraging the principle of safety in numbers. But in that dynamic, some have to live on the edge and let others learn from their mistakes. The advantage of that position is that you’re also the first to take advantage of the unchartered wins that come from conquering new challenges. The risks are greater, but so are the rewards. If this balance doesn’t appeal to you, move back to center and follow the leaders. Just realize it’s a lot more crowded there, and there might not be enough perks to go around.

The More Unstable the Environment, The More Important it is to Make Mistakes

You don’t need the safety of a herd in safe and stable environments. We call it civilization. It’s on the frontier, where things get precarious, that you need safety in numbers. Ironically, it’s on the frontier where the herd thins out and you often have to go it alone. That really leaves you no choice. There is no beaten path to follow. You’re going to have to be the one that forges it. And that means you’re going to make mistakes. Get used to it. Embrace it. Take solace in the fact that while taking action may cause mistakes, not taking action pretty much guarantees you’ll end up as somebody’s lunch.

If You Can’t Get Comfortable, Get Courageous

I often tell aspiring digital marketers that this is not a comfortable career. If you want security, become an accountant. But if you want a challenge, you’ve found the right niche. Digital marketing takes courage. It means trusting your gut and betting on long shots. It means embracing opportunities without a mound of evidence to rely on. To succeed in this business, first you need passion — but courage runs a close second.

Mistakes = Learning

I don’t know where making mistakes got such a bad rap from, but I shudder to think where humanity would be without them (read Ralph Heath’s excellent book, “Celebrating Failure”). You can’t learn without making mistakes. You can’t gain ground without occasionally falling down. I’ve spent the majority of my life as an entrepreneur, which pretty much means the regular making of mistakes, so perhaps I’ve become used to it. But I honestly don’t know why screwing up has been stigmatized to the extent it has.

Learn to “Do It Wrong Quickly”

My friend Mike Moran wrote a book a few years ago calling “Do it Wrong Quickly,” which uncovers one of the essential elements of successfully screwing up: to build learning into the process. Understand that failure is an essential part of the equation (especially in digital marketing), and go in using it as an opportunity to learn quickly, adjust and iterate your way to success. By going in anticipating failure, you won’t be surprised when it happens and can quickly move beyond failure to learning and adapting.

Realize You Don’t Have to Be Perfect — You Just Have to be Better than the Other Guy

Finally, this is a game of percentages. If you bump up the level of activity, you’ll make more mistakes, but you’ll also win more battles. You’ll “fail forward” — and soon you’ll be looking at the competition in your rearview mirror.

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Embracing Failure: It’s the New Success

failure is the new success JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Celebrating Asian American Creativity

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”

I’ve been thinking about failure since reading this excellent post on Embrace Failure on my favorite children’s literature blog, From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. As an entrepreneur, I embrace failure. It is the surest and quickest path to success. Why? It’s life’s best teacher. You never forget a failure. You learn from it, deeply and profoundly as in:  it keeps you up late a night, pondering, questioning, wondering. It provides options in the form of a nicely forking road. Do you get back in the saddle and try again, all the wiser? Or do you veer left, shimmy right, or duck down below? Failure makes you creative. If you are going to ram your head against the wall, the next time you will choose a nicely padded one.

“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.”

Not everyone agrees of course. Most pointedly, failure is not an option in Tiger Parenting. “The Chinese parenting approach is weakest when it comes to failure; it just doesn’t tolerate that possibility. The Chinese model turns on achieving success. That’s how the virtuous circle of confidence, hard work, and more success is generated.” Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Suffice it to say that I don’t buy the Tiger Parenting Model and I don’t buy the idea of failure not being an option. If you eliminate options that can lead to failure, you have very few options left. Worse, your few choices become the path of least resistance.

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

Don’t believe me? Look at Amy Chua’s career. “I went to law school, mainly because I didn’t want to go to medical school.” “After graduating [from law school], I went to a Wall Street law firm because it was the path of least resistance.” “…I decided to write an epic novel. Unfortunately, I had no talent for writing…What’s more, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Jung Chang all best me to it….At first, I was bitter and resentful, but then I got over it.” In fact, by (sort of) admitting her failings, her book became an international best seller. But in the form of her book, this is the most risk she’s taken in her life.

“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

I think what is daunting about failure is the publicity around it. Knowing that people will know that you’ve failed. That they’ll whisper behind your back about what an epic failure you are. Even laugh. But here’s the trick. If you own your failure, nothing anyone can say will bother you. That’s the secret. It’s simple really.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

Of course, you will own the knowledge that comes from failure. This knowledge is hard fought and very valuable. Use each failure to build, brick by brick, your success in whatever form that may be. Because success is never one big idea, or one very talented person, or someone who is “lucky, at the right time and right place.” No. Emphatically no!  It’s like most things: lots of little things added up together such that the sum is greater than the parts. Only the brave can try this. Are you that courageous?

“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”

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