Once upon a time, I was terrified of failure. I was scared to look stupid, to work hard at something that people laughed at or rejected. (Because really, wouldn’t that mean that people were laughing at or rejecting me?) Then I started a business making such products as Greeting Balms, Pamper Me Purses, and Conversation Heart Balms. If you’ve never heard of them, you’re not alone. They were utter failures.

Of course I made other products in my business, like Linzertorte lip balm and Citrus Rose lip balm and Butterfly lip balm…wait, those things also didn’t sell. And by most standards that would make them failures, too. In fact these are only a few of my failures. I have failed at lots of things. My first business was ultimately a failure, and many, many of my product ideas have not worked out as I hoped and planned.

If I ever felt bad about all of those failures, Steven Pressfield’s post last week about Seth Godin’s new project made it all better. In What I Love About Seth Godin, Pressfield says,

“The other thing I love about Seth is that he has failed at a boatload of ventures. Seth has started publishing companies, internet companies, high-tech companies. How many have crashed and burned? Lots. But before the flames have even been extinguished, Seth has generated another idea and he’s off to the races.

Poke the Box is about that. It’s about starting. Not talking, not dreaming, not planning. Starting and doing. Finishing and shipping.”

The next logical thing for me to do was to read Poke the Box (affiliate link). It’s fabulous, of course, with useful nuggets throughout. “The more you do, the more you fail,” he reminds us. And, “We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.”

But the part I’ll be thinking about all week is: “This might not work.”
“Change is powerful, but change always comes with failure as its partner. ‘This might not work’ isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you should seek out.”

It’s a new way of looking at failure, a new way to acknowledge this inevitable result of creativity and innovation. And for me, I guess it means more wacky lip balm flavors and experimental products, more blooper reels and funny Facebook anecdotes. I’ll “focus on the work” and continue to learn from my failures.

I highly recommend this new book/manifesto of Seth Godin’s (as well as Steven Pressfield’s excellent blog).

What do you think? Do you try to avoid failure, or do you embrace it, risk it, accept it, learn from it?