Shame and failure


Failure is not fun. But failure is required.

Failure in the service of learning, of experimenting, of trial and error, of making things, this is essential.

When you are learning to walk, no one criticizes you when you fall down.

Parents understand that you do it wring, and then you do it right.

But that’s about the last time you get that benefit of doubt.

After that, we shame you when you fail.

We shame you as a way of gaining compliance and obedience.

We shame you for your D-.

We shame you for the missed shot on goal.

We shame you what you wore to the dance.

We shame you when your business fails.

Is it any wonder we associate failure with shame?

Can you imagine what would happen if we cheered you for all these things like we cheered a baby learning to walk and falling, giving you the benefit of doubt and encouraging to do it again and again until you get it right.

How about we don’t stop cheering with our kids learning to walk, how about we cheer them through out their schooling years and adulthood.

How about cheering your partner who is struggling to get her business off the ground.

How about cheering that person who is trying to get a job.






Away from the noise


When we are overwhelmed by the clamor of our day-to-day routine, we can take a moment to untangle our mind from the noise.



Breathe in.

Slow down.


Let go.


Sure, the chaos is out there, but it can wait.

The silence is right here, right now.

The joy of missing out [JOMO]

Trial and error: and lessons learned


So you tried and it didn’t work out.

You gave it your best shot and now the failure and rejection feels like you just took a bullet on your stomach.

One way of looking at is to feel like a loser.

Another way is to look at the experience as a lesson in trial and error.

You tried, made some errors, learned certain things, and now you are wiser, and more experienced…

For every error, learn the lesson.

Forget what hurt you in the past, but never forget what it taught you.

However, if it taught you to hold onto grudges, seek revenge, not forgive or show compassion, to categorise people as good or bad, to distrust and be guarded with your feelings then you didn’t learn a thing.

God does not bring you lessons to close your heart.

He brings you lessons to open it, by developing compassion, learning to listen, seeking to understand instead of speculating, practicing empathy and developing conflict resolution through communication.

Yes, I know, it is easier said than done.

But then again most things worth doing are easier said than done.

‘As soon as you say ‘failure is not an option,’ you have just said ‘innovation is not an option.’

Trial and error: Are you an Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King type of innovator?


So, as an innovator, are you more like Albert Einstein or Martin Luther King?

In the world of innovation there are two types of innovators:

  • Conceptual innovation; and
  • Experimental innovation.

Every time we deal with new situations we try to make sense of them based on our portfolio of (old) concepts.

Once we detected that something is new, we try to make sense of it by making analogies with others things we already know. We do that by using old concepts and bringing back our past experiences.

Gradually we go through the process of extending and changing the old concepts, and in some moment a new concept emerges.

New concepts emerge as new questions are made. This is what conceptual innovation is about.

Einstein’s key insight into the theory of special relativity came from a burst of inspiration.

He was riding a bicycle and thinking about what would happen if his train travelled at the speed of light.

This thought problem triggered an insight, and as he asked himself, we eventually arrived at his special theory.

So that is one model of the creativity, the conceptual innovator, well known by the signature “Eureka!” or “light-bulp” moment.

Experimental innovation on the other hand is innovation by trial and error, we experiment until we find what works.  

In an example that I have never seen unpacked before, Adam Grant, in his book: Originals – How Non-Conformists Move the World, uses Martin Luther King’s approach to writing the “I Have a Dream” speech as an example of how years of speaking about civil rights led to the creativity and one-of-a-kind impact of Dr. King’s words:

“Despite being just thirty-four when he gave his “dream” speech, it was his twentieth year of speaking publicly about civil rights.  At fifteen, he made the state finals for delivering an original speech on civil rights”.

Is there any greater way to refine your approach than twenty years of struggling to convince numerous audiences?

Clearly, it was a long road that led to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and a true innovator who spoke to the nation that day.

In virtually every field, experience informs innovation.

Experimentation is the backbone of scientific discovery. 

Even Picasso said “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”  You get the feeling that Picasso knew just which rules to break to give his art the jolt of the new.

Some innovators follow a script: they have a strategy for the music they write, or the paintings they make.

But other innovators continually refine their product until it’s perfect.

While we all have the image of new ideas arriving as a bolt of lightning, many innovations are the result of years of experimentation.

Conceptual innovators are sprinters and experimental innovators are marathoners.

So, are you looking for a Eureka moment, or using your experience to gain new insight?


Trial and error: accepting the error


Accepting trial and error means accepting error.

It means accepting errors being part of the journey.

It means accepting that errors does not mean the end, but that they are part of the journey.

It is when we seek errors that we don’t see them as a threat.

It means taking problems in our stride when a decision doesn’t work out, whether through luck or misjudgment.

And that is not something human brains seem to be able to do without a struggle.

Straightforward trial and error produces better results than endless vacillating.

Failure’s lessons are essential to success.

Excessive pride lead to you believing that you are never wrong.

Believing you are never wrong is an error that afflicts great men.

The refusal to accept when you are wrong is what delays progress.

Trial and error: Success from failure…


The hard work of running a business is coming up with new ideas and innovations.

You test an idea, see what works and what doesn’t.

If it works, do it more.

If it doesn’t work, do it less.

Forget the notion that one person or even a smart team has the brains and education to think through a complex challenge.

Having a great team is important, but even more important is to establish a process that forces the consideration of many options.

Test various options, analyse the feedback, narrow in on the best only after first considering and rejecting the many.

You will fail, and that’s okay, as long as you fail eliminating what doesn’t work and moving forward and closer to what works.

I continue to make lots of errors.

Sometimes it is painful, well most of the time, but I think it is much better to make errors and learn from them than not do anything hoping to leap to success.

Success, a lot of it is trial and error.