As the pace of life speeds up daily, along with the pace at which we need to reinvent ourselves and our companies, adaptability becomes an increasingly valuable skill. At the same time, our desire for instant gratification grows by the minute as well, reducing our tolerance for failure at any level. And yet, failure and experimentation are exactly what teaches us how we must adapt in the first place.
As the economic downturn makes us all reconsider taking risks, and phrases like “too big to fail” ripple ominously through the news cycle again and again, I thought it might be worth taking a moment to meditate on the benefits of failure via the sage advice of some particularly successful creatives:
“Sooner or later, all real change involves failure—but not in the sense that many people understand failure. If you do only what you know and do it very, very well, chances are that you won’t fail. You’ll just stagnate, and your work will get less and less interesting, and that’s failure by erosion. True failure is a mark of accomplishment in the sense that something new and different was tried.” – Twyla Tharp, Choreographer
“We're taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven't, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that's very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It's exciting, actually.” –
“ So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.” –
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of
Jocelyn K. Glei, a creative strategist with expertise in editorial, design and publishing. She regularly collaborates with Scott Belsky and the Behance Team, who run the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develop knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.