Does the idea of “Failing fast” ever get on your nerves?

19 February, 2020

Does the idea of “Failing fast” ever get on your nerves? Have we lost the motivation to get things right first time?

Ignore what those motivational gurus on social media say. Success is a much better outcome than failure. Let me explain.


You hear it all the time. It’s one of those buzzwords people post alongside a motivational picture on Instagram. Fail fast.

Everyone is always sharing their wisdom on how failure is great and the best way to learn. However, I’m not so sure. I think people may be using ‘fail fast’ as an excuse to deliver speedy but poor quality work. Their casual attitude to failure makes them less likely to get it right the first time.

In this article, I’m going to explain what these entrepreneurial ‘thought leaders’ mean by ‘fail fast’. Then, I’ll tell you why they’re wrong.


Why fail fast?

Fail fast. Fail often. Fail forward. Why do people want to normalise failure?

In their mind, failing at something is the best way to learn. They believe that when you try something and it fails, you’re one step closer to finding success. For them, failure is part of the journey. It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg have all made missteps in their career. It’s what made them great entrepreneurs today.


Why they’re wrong...

For so many reasons, I believe that this ‘failure is a badge of honour’ viewpoint is wrong:

  • You don’t have to fail the first time – If you go out looking for failure, you’ll probably find it. Rather than do something quickly and see what happens, I believe it’s better to take enough time to get it right.
  • Getting things wrong while you learn isn’t really failure – All through our lives, we learn from our mistakes. We fall over when we learn to walk, we make spelling mistakes as we learn to write, we hit the kerb as we learn to parallel park. That isn’t the same as failure; it’s the learning process.
  • You never hear ‘fail fast’ from people who actually failed. You only hear about the people who found success in the end. The people that failed are written out of history.
  • ‘Fail fast’ is small-time thinking – It’s a cover story for our insecurities. Failure shouldn’t be something you just shrug off as ‘part of the journey’. Truly successful people take failure seriously and try to avoid it wherever possible.
  • When you fail, it’s because you didn’t do something right. You have fallen short of your goals and you need to own it. If you were trying to do something too quickly and it ended up being of poor quality, that’s down to you.


A balanced approach?

Are there any positive things you can say about failure?

There’s nothing like a bit of disaster to keep you humble and stop you getting too big for your boots. Plus, if you are willing to own your failure rather than write it off as part of life, you will find learning opportunities.

Perhaps, there should be a more balanced approach. Successful people take risks all the time, but they are calculated risks. When they take these risks, they give it everything they have and try not to let it fail.


So, next time you see a motivational meme on LinkedIn or Facebook telling you to ‘fail fast’ or ‘fail often’, don’t fall for it. Instead, think of that quote from Apollo 13 instead; ‘Failure is not an option!’

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