Friday, April 25, 2014

Failure IS Success

Yosemite from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

Failure.  The state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

As evident from Ian Ruhter's video, Yosemite, his greatest failure came close to destroying his personal belief in his own dreams.  And yet a year and a half later, after regaining his courage to make a second attempt, he was capable of producing his vision, wet plate collodion prints of Yosemite created from a mobile camera truck.

I have often considered that "failure" is overlooked as the profound teacher that it has the capacity to be. With all the focus and attention on success, one misses all the learning that happens along the journey.  In hot pursuit of success, it's easy to become fixated on the final outcome and not being open to change or unexpected deviations.  Art is not science, it's not the mechanical pursuit of a finite outcome achieved on a linear path.  As a professional photographer, it's more than just focus, shoot, then move onto the next subject or project; anyone with a camera can do that.  Rather, true art is freedom of creative movement and progression with many interruptions, challenges, and being adept at constantly changing direction.

I was amused to find several quotes that provide insight into the great experience of failure; perhaps some will be familiar.
"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate."  Thomas J. Watson
"A great deal can be learned from things going unexpectedly, and that part of science's success comes from keeping blunders small, manageable, constant, and trackable."  Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine Editor
"Never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart."
"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely."  Henry Ford
"Failure is an event, not a person.  Yesterday ended last night."  Zig Ziglar
 "Fall seven times, stand up eight."
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is delay, not defeat.  It is a temporary detour, not a dead end." 
"You'll never be brave if you don't get hurt.  You'll never learn if you don't make mistakes.  You'll never successful if you don't encounter failure."
"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."  Henry Ford 
"Failure is good as long as it doesn't become a habit."  Michael Eisner
"I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  Thomas Edison 

In a nutshell, my 5 axioms or beliefs about failure can be summarized as follows.  Keep them in mind when pursuing your next creative vision:

  1. Never lose faith in yourself, your dreams or creative vision 
  2. If you're not making mistakes, you're not trying hard enough
  3. Embrace mistakes, they are your best teacher
  4. Allow yourself permission to be vulnerable and not be afraid of falling down
  5. Failure is NOT weakness, it's NOT fatal; it's the strength to see new opportunities 

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