Andrew Stanton, director of the Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E, is known for saying “fail early and fail fast” and “be wrong as fast as you can” [via Ed Catmull].
They’re different phrases, but the sentiment is the same: If you’re working on a project–especially a creative project–it’s better to make decisive decisions, quickly assess whether you’re right or wrong, and then change direction immediately (if needed).
Failure is a possible outcome whenever you try something, and in most cases it isn’t fatal. What is a serious threat is failing late in the process–at a point where changes cannot be made. That’s when it might not be possible to learn from the failure and apply the newfound insight to the project.
There are times when failure is a great teacher, but that’s only when you follow Stanton’s advice. When you fail or are wrong late and slowly, it’s possible you’re not assessing during the process. And if you’re not assessing, you’re not learning.
I’m always suspicious of times when everything is going smoothly and it seems like I’m making all the right decisions. Usually this signifies that I’m not stretching myself by trying something new.
Failure is almost always inevitable with new stuff; hopefully it’s early and fast.