Samuel Beckett (1903-1989) was an Irish born novelist, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. He is known for minimalist writing and being a leader in the theatre of the absurd. In 1969, he won the Nobel prize for literature.
Beckett’s writing was quite spare especially as he aged. In WORSTWARD HO, from 1983, he wrote--“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This concept of “failing better” has been adopted by many in Silicon Valley almost as their mantra and has even been picked up some professional athletes who are clawing their way to the top. Entrepreneurs are often creators and many of the ultimately successful ones work on being brutally honest with themselves. They ask for criticism and, unlike most of us mere mortals, they do not get defensive when you give it to them both barrels. They have a self-awareness that few of us have. They do not run from failure or hide it from others.
Historically, we have all seen this work in the arts. Allegedly, Hemingway re-wrote the ending to A FAREWELL TO ARMS some 39 times before publication. Michael Curtiz shot seven different endings to CASABLANCA and Frank Capra did the same thing with MEET JOHN DOE. And, most of us at some time in our lives heard the famous Thomas Edison quotation of, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
There is also a misconception from my perspective that most entrepreneurs and private investors tend to “bet the ranch” on every new idea that they think is promising. If you study breakthrough technology or successful businesses with a bit of care you will find that the business generally succeeded by surviving a series of small bets. As a very successful entrepreneur told me recently, “By taking lots of small risks, you avoid catastrophic mistakes. I keep seeing what works and what does not every step of the way. I never stop testing and I know that most of these small wagers will not work. I can live with that.”
If you want to fail well you need to be able to move through even dicey situations. Learn to reframe, improvise and keep moving forward on the fly. And, amazingly, embrace the words of Samuel Beckett and FAIL WELL.
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