When failure is success

9 April 2017
9 Apr 2017
West Lafayette, IN
3 mins

There are crafts in which we must deliberately try to fail in order to succeed.

In writing, often the best pieces of writing are the ones in which the author has gone through and taken out as many words and syllables as they could without obscuring meaning. Whenever we write, we need to thoughtfully avoid writing as much as possible to write the most — writing isn’t about the words; it’s about the ideas behind them, and how much (or little) the words get in the way. Some of my most favorite essays are only three lines long, but send me thinking the whole day.

In conversations, the best people to talk to are those who listen to our life stories. Try to learn something — anything even trivial — from your conversation partner rather than teach them something. Try asking for a life story before reaching for one. Conversations are about getting to know someone else a bit more, and you can’t do that by talking. Conversations are about talking the least, and listening the most.

In spreading the word about your event, a cause, or an idea, we reach people best when we forget about the advertising and focus on the people. Advertising isn’t done to markets or audiences or cohorts; advertising is about reaching the right people, and giving them something interesting or valuable. The less we talk about ourselves in any campaign or ad, the more likely we are to be delivering a valuable and effective message. Make sure you’re helpful before promising them your product is, too.

In programming, I’ve recently been pushing myself to subtract more lines of code than I add every day — removing old, unused bits or just writing an algorithm or a pattern more elegantly. Code is a series of instructions, and like human-read instructions, the less there are of them, the less the likelihood of a fault or a mistake. Programming well is the art of programming as least as possible.

In entrepreneurship, the majority of the skills we need to succeed are far from theoretical. Taking an idea or a problem to a solution, and then taking that solution into a market where real people spend real money is, over and over again, the hardest problems I’ve ever had to solve. And every time, the solutions come from mistakes or lessons learned from previous failures. It’s impossible to solve problems without having failed first. Fail a lot — in the process of failing a million times, succeed once.

Simplicity over complexity;

least over most;

enough over plenty;

lessons over success stories.

You can’t fail if you don’t try, so try. Then fail until you succeed. Isn’t that a nice idea?

I think it is.


If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy my next post, My information diet.

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