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 Facing Failure, Reflection and Learning

“Move fast and break things.” – Facebook

Move fast and break things used to be Facebook’s famous mantra. It summed up the need for speed in the tech and social media industry, and the fact that failing to get an innovative idea out there quickly meant risking someone else beating you to it. So, is the need for speed an attitude all new businesses must adopt to succeed?

What Could Go Wrong?

At Facebook, the attitude of moving quickly and potentially breaking a few things along the way indicated that speed of creation was deemed more important than quality of creation, or as Mark Zuckerberg put it: The idea here is that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs in order to do it.” Clearly, in a fast-paced industry, speed of execution is what separates the front-runners from the also-rans, but where there’s speed, there’s huge potential for mistakes. To be a front-runner, you need to accept the very real potential to fail, and you need the resilience to pick up the pieces, learn, and move on from failure when it happens – and move on quickly.

Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, once said: “Start-ups deal with unknown products that solve unknown problems at an unknown price point for a largely unpredictable customer. What could go wrong?” When you look at it this way, a start-up is effectively venturing into uncharted waters, but if you wait until you have all the answers before you launch… well, let’s just say you’re in danger of missing the boat altogether.

Embracing Failure…

The inevitability of failure in a large percentage of entrepreneurial ventures and innovative start-ups has led to many adopting the popular mantras of “Fail Fast, Fail Often” or “Fail Fast, Fail Better” to help them stay positive through challenging times. But, here’s the thing, unless action is being taken to learn from failures and the necessary grit exists to try again with no guarantee of success (therefore accepting and embracing the potential to fail – again)  then these mantras are empty words that amount to nothing more than lip service.

Failing fast and failing often is only valuable when it’s coupled with honest reflection and learning, and then used as a stepping-stone towards future success. Entrepreneur Mark Suster puts it this way: “The Fail Fast mantra needs to die fast because it’s wrong, irresponsible, unethical and heartless. Fail Fast? Tell that to the person who wrote you $50,000 of their hard-earned money and entrusted you to try your best… no one should ever set out to fail.”

… Or Embracing Resilience?

In recent years, the Facebook mantra changed from move fast and break things to move fast with stable infra. At the time of change, Mark Zuckerberg said. “What we realised over time is that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because we had to slow down to fix these bugs and it wasn’t improving our speed.” With these words, he backs up Mark Suster’s belief that while moving fast may be important in a fast-paced world, being your best and doing your best is of equal importance.

The bottom line is that speed of execution can only get you so far. To truly succeed, you need to get truly comfortable with the potential to fail, and then use the lessons learned from failure to come back stronger and better – not just faster. In this sense, success is not just about embracing failure, it’s about embracing resilience and developing the ability to bounce back.


Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach, Mentor and Key Note Speaker.

Next NLP & Life Coaching Diploma starts in Inverness in Feb 2020 for more details please email donald@zonedinperformance.com

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