I want to tell you a story about the most clear example of failure I know of.
In 2019, while I was living and working in Australia, a news story went around which was so crazy it was hard to believe.
A drug dealer had been caught by the police, and had therefore lost the 273kg of methamphetamine which he was transporting in his van.
These drugs were worth an estimated AUD $200 million, or about US $140 million.
By any stretch of the imagination, this could be classified as a failure for the drug dealer.
But it was the way in which he was caught which I could not believe.
The police were not suspicious until he crashed the van which was transporting the drugs …
… crashing into a police car …
… which was parked and not moving at the time …
… parked outside the police station.
After which of course the police chased and caught the perpetrator and found the drugs.
Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is a failure.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because most of the time, the reasons why people are so afraid to share their ideas, launch their new product or start that new creative project, is because they are afraid of “failure”.
Yet in reality, there are hardly ever situations that are truly pure failures.
What is the worst than can actually happen?
If someone does not like your idea, does that mean that you can never have another idea in the future?
If your new product does not sell well, does it mean it cannot be improved, or another product created?
If your creative project has some people who don’t give you the reaction you were hoping for, does it mean you cannot improve and do better later?
Of course not.
Instead of actually failing, many people are instead afraid of the judgement that comes with not succeeding first time.
But what we need to remember is that new and different ideas will always face unexpected hurdles and not go according to plan. And when you reach one of those hurdles, it does not mean you have failed.
It means it is time to learn and adjust.
In fact, successful creatives are more likely to think of failure like a scientist would. Each time things do not go as expected or hoped, it is not time to quit. It is a new piece of data that you can use to improve the experiment, and get closer to success the next time.
So treat each new setback instead as an opportunity to learn. This will take the stigma out of “failing”.
Although if you do end up losing $200 million worth of drugs, well, there is a limit to how much you can learn from that to improve for next time.