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On failure : failing big (in which I curse oodles)

January 4, 2012

The big thing nowadays is why failing is good. Sure, whatever. I think anytime a meme catches fire and everyone who’s anyone is repeating it non-stop (if I cared more, I’d find you references, but I don’t, and honestly I hope you know what I’m talking about with, but every creativity blog loves interviewing prominent people about why failure is important nonwadays) I get a bit cranky. Basically I agree with the failure logic (which I see as essentially: you have to try shit. Sometimes you might not be good at it.) but as a person who’s failed many many times (though perhaps not yet catastrophically!), it’s not that great. It kinda gets you down and it’s only much much later, when you’ve had some success that you somehow make some narrative of your life about how this failure taught you the lessons you needed or whatever. But if you have a moderate success, you’re rarely thinking, man, I wish I’d failed harder last time so this success would be even more rocking? Or better yet, Wish I had failed instead of succeeded! Woulda really laid the groundwork for something big! Whatevs. Basically the point is, you gotta try shit, sometimes you’ll fail, so in that sense you better make your peace with failure. But I’m kinda over this culture of valorizing it and I hope my kids are mega-successful and never fail. Just sayin’. I’d wish the same for myself, but there’s not much hope for that.

ANYWAYS. That was sort of an irritated aside which was not really the point. The point is this Failure is Good Meme is hot right now, really hot. Which means that you, as the designer, or as the creative person might as well really shoot for the moon and fail hard.

I’m thinking about this with a project I’m working on right now. It’s ok, looks good, kinda makes sense. It won’t be crown jewel of my portfolio but I’m not scared to look anyone in the eye about it. (That’s what real failure really is, by the way, to all of you all who so valorize it*. Fuck disappointing yourself. I don’t give two shits about that anymore: it’s kinda non-stop and terrible, but also awesome and makes you self-critical like a hawk. It’s disappointing others that kills. Because design is a service profession, so when you fail big, there’s other people’s shit at stake: other people’s money and other people’s deadlines and other people’s projects. Real failure is failing on behalf of someone else so that it sucks to look them in the eye.) But there’s a lack of spectacularity about it. It’s neither here nor there. In some sense, it’s a failure — but not enough to get me the street cred for it! Better to have gone for the moon, either wildly succeeded and failed  –and then gotten the points for my super contemporary eagerness for the taste of failure.



*I said I wasn’t going to look for links but I fucking broke down. I love all these people individually and, honestly, even what they’re saying here. It’s just the whole thing — is so fucking smug and simplistic. I kinda think Sagmeister should know better.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 1:24 pm

    does it count if you fail big at failing?

  2. January 4, 2012 1:26 pm

    my gravatar isn’t showing up. i count that as a fail.

  3. Betsy permalink*
    January 4, 2012 1:28 pm

    Hahaha. NYC misses you!

    PS Failing big at failing == giant success, so you kinda win in any case!

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