Taking “Fail Fast” to a whole… ‘nutha… level

your word against theirs

I hate it when writers resort to dictionary definitions to make a point.

“The New Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘authentic’ as ‘relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.’

“So true, so true, and that’s the perspective you must adopt to become adroit in social media.”

Yeah? ‘Cause from what I can tell “authentic” actually means “pretending to care about what other people think so that they’ll mention you on Twitter.”

But when I saw this thesaurus entry for the word “human,” I had to share (my emphasis obviously):

HUMAN — they’re only human — mortal, flesh and blood; fallible, weak, frail, imperfect, vulnerable, susceptible, erring, error-prone.

So basically, “human” means “full of error.” Couldn’t we — the entire English-speaking population of the last 200 years — have attached our species to a more uplifting synonym group?

But there you go. And where there’s smoke there’s fire.

So now back to those tired-but-true platitudes: Fail early, fail fast, fail often.

It’s not that you should fail, but rather that, like it or not, you are constantly failing. The platitutes are really saying: Admit it, then act accordingly.

Your assumptions are mistaken; are you testing them? Your gut knows your logic isn’t airtight; are you listening? Your current ideas lead you to better ideas; are you adopting them?

Success doesn’t come to those with the best ideas, but those most willing to seek better ideas.

It’s not about being smart or having the best theory. It’s about constantly looking for evidence that you’re wrong, that you could improve, that you should adapt, eagerly incorporating new information instead of wasting time rationalizing your old ideas.

You’re pathetically, irreparably, hopelessly human.  Ignore at your peril.

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  • http://www.straysoft.com Stray__Cat

    As this post has been written by a human being, maybe it fails to catch the point. ;o)

    long time ago, a boss of mine used to say: “the best are not those who, fixing all the issues, get through: the best are those who have no issues at all.”

    PS: actually I do not know if I agree or not with your point of view, but, being a fallible human, I fail to decide it.
    PPS disclaimer: I’m not related in any way with Kurt Godel
    .-= Stray__Cat’s latest blog post: The Income Statement (3) the sales events. =-.

  • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

    We’re failing every second. Within every thought we probably have a failure of misjudgement – it’s really whether we fail in public, or fail in private. Every time we learn something new, we find out we’ve been failing in private the previous entirity of our lives. It’s only when we apply that to an area of competition do our failures potentially come to light.

    The solution is fail in private, over and over, and then continue to fail in front of your friends in “public” private until you’re ready to move to the fully open arena.
    .-= Ross Hudgens’s latest blog post: 10 Bloggers Talk About Personal Development =-.

  • Amber Shah

    This reminds me of agile. People say that agile should only be used for more risky projects or that it introduces more risk. In reality, it’s just saying that since you’re working on a software project that is inherently risky, let’s acknowledge it, roll it into your process and move on already.

  • http://www.chrismower.com Chris Mower

    The definition for Human that you provide sounds like it’s basing it off of a Christian point of view, more specifically that man was perfect until Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and were kicked out of the garden. The only reason I bring that up is that among the adjectives describing Human are mortal, flesh and blood, fallible, weak, imperfect. — All adjectives and ideas that are brought about based on the fall of man from the presence of God who was immortal, perfect, and unable to err.

    I imagine if the dictionary was re-written today from a business point of view, you’d get a few different adjectives in there, like determined, opinionated, resourceful, etc.

    I’m just saying, that when it comes down to it, definitions are a matter of perspective. When I used to participate in debate both parties would have to agree on a specific definition, otherwise you’d both be arguing against your own thoughts on the matter.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents anyway. I enjoyed your post.
    .-= Chris Mower’s latest blog post: How to Brainstorm for Success: Part 1 – An Introduction to Brainstorming =-.

  • http://nickpoint.co.uk Nick Barker

    Nice post Jason!!

    I think one of the main problems with failing fast is the ego.. We don’t want to admit we are wrong.

    It’s not always easy to let go of something you have put so much effort and dreams into, like a startup or a new job.

    The problem is the ego gets in the way of quitting – self doubt kicks in. What will people think if I give up, ‘he’s a looser’ or ‘she’s a quitter!’, etc. This is the an unproductove way to look at failure.

    As you say its better “looking for evidence that you’re wrong, that you could improve, that you should adapt..” Keep searching for the right answer.

  • Marc

    You couldn’t be more right on.

    The most accurate guided missile is continually failing and correcting until it hits. We do that when we walk, when we run, when we pick up something, or when we catch a ball. It’s the nature of things. I know that…

    However, in walks my ego, who can’t stand the idea of failure. He thinks he’s doing me a favor by keeping me safe. Trouble is, he’s keeping me from doing the very things that must be done in order to become better.

    Most of the time he’s stronger than I am. But I’m working on it…

    I have a feeling I’m not the only one…

    Marc

  • http://www.johnstonsearch.com Brian Kevin Johnston

    Jason- Smart Post Jason!

    “Success doesn’t come to those with the best ideas, but those most willing to seek better ideas.”

    I find that there are alot of smart people with smart ideas, but often times they dont “apply” the knowledge because that takes “work”..

    Keep pressing! Best, Brian-

  • http://www.looknglas.net Looknglas

    What you’re really talking about is pretense and an inability to admit when you’re wrong, or you’ve failed. Failing is a part of succeeding, as probably everyone on this thread knows. Willingness to seek better ideas could also be restated as the willingness to persevere in the pursuit of success. That comes from a certain kind of drive and motivation that has nothing to do with the kind of idiotic arrogance that wants to pretend they’re never wrong. Trying to preserve a false image of infallibility is an exercise in failure wherein the practicioner is usually one of the last to realize their utter failure. That person never achieves true success, innovation, or genuine appreciative recognition by others because they are already so self deluded they wouldn’t recognize true appreciation when it was staring them in the face.

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  • http://www.readysetstartup.com Susan Jones

    “Your assumptions are mistaken; are you testing them? Your gut knows your logic isn’t airtight; are you listening? Your current ideas lead you to better ideas; are you adopting them?”

    Where is the line between failing and not giving yourself enough time to test the concept you are already working with? I’m conscious that moving from one idea to another too fast could be counter-productive too. How do I know if it is my assumption that is wrong – or the way I’m testing it?

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Of course in an absolute sense there’s not a good answer.

      One idea is to make sure you’re testing different things instead of just incrementally testing two similar things.

      Another point is that once something is working fairly well, it might be more important to tackle stuff that isn’t rather than continue to optimize the thing that’s working. Of course both activities are useful, but addressing the stuff that isn’t already at least “fine” might be most constructive.

      The goal is to find the right ideas, good ideas, not necessarily the perfect idea.

  • http://www.change2020.com/ Change

    Interesting post to ponder. I actually agree with the dictionary’s definition of human.

  • http://ricardodsanchez.com Ricardo

    “It’s not that you should fail, but rather that, like it or not, you are constantly failing. The platitutes are really saying: Admit it, then act accordingly.”
    This is one of my problems… most of the times I am too proud to admit I’ve failed… and this is probably true for many people. I always do something about my mistakes, to correct them, but sometimes I fail to communicate my failures and so I lost the great benefit of getting feedback or help from people around me. I need to correct that. Good post.
    .-= Ricardo’s latest blog post: How To: Edit a Visual Studio project file within Visual Studio =-.

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