Tuesday, December 1, 2015

On the Matter of Failure

Yes, but...

Failure has consequences. You have to survive to learn from it, and you have to survive such that you can recover in a timely manner so that you can make proper use of what you learn from your failure. Guess what the vast majority of people that are alive now, or have ever lived, are in no position to do.

That fear of failure isn't bullshit. Failure is a luxury that most people cannot afford. That's why they take the sureshot. That's why they avoid risk like the Plague. That's why they gladly choose security over all other concerns. They literally cannot afford the price of failure. The common man knows that the majority of risk takers end up like Porkins and not Skywalker.

In case you forgot.

Get into any serious reading or talking by successful folks and you do hear the failure survival stories. What the honest ones will also tell you is that they (a) had seriously good luck going for them, (b) had properly prepared for disaster ahead of time so the downside (and downtime) would be minimized before setting off on the next attempt, or (c) both. Guess what the vast majority of people don't have.

This is where my criticism of what "success culture" and its emphasis on "Abundance Mentality" over "Scarcity Mentality" rests. People are not afraid of success. They are afraid of failure, and rightly so, because taking a risk when you're not in a solid position to absorb consequences for failing routinely wreck--even kill--people. It's bad enough when your life is your own, but it is utterly fucking irresponsible when others are depending upon you to support them.

You want an explanation for why people don't start their own businesses? That's why. Why don't they rise up against the dictator or the crime syndicate? That's why. The price for failure is far too fucking high. The secure life of a corporate drone, a government agent, or some similar counterpart is preferable (however disliked) to the certain demise that comes from a failed attempt at one's own ambitions for most people.

This is why the real factor in success comes from the steps taken to eliminate the cost of failure. When failure's consequences are minimized, the mood shifts and the desire to act on less-than-certain options rises with that mood. For every success story, there are a legion of corpses (literal and otherwise) left to the carrion to feast upon. Remember that before you decide to follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade. Otherwise, risk only becomes acceptable when it's the least bad of all available options.

So, next time you see someone succeed look past the platitudes and dig into their actual resources and support network. Copy what they do, not what they say.

1 comment:

  1. This post is a sobering and necessary counterweight to the "if you're unsuccessful, you just haven't failed enough" ethos that's currently gaining traction.

    Example: I know of several indie authors who have no business trying to self-publish right now. A startling number of them expect to make $1000 a month selling a raw MS on Amazon as if this were 2008, think that ordering several crates of their own POD books to sell at local cons is smart marketing, shell out hundreds of dollars applying to Book Bub despite having only a handful of Amazon reviews, and other self-delusions.

    Even worse, some of these folks are neglecting careers; or worst of all, leaving careers, to pursue the dream of being a writer. "Don't quite your day job" holds just as true for indie authors. Unless you're prepared to take on all the responsibilities of a publisher, this pool is too deep for you.

    You're right that most people who take the sure thing are making a rational decision. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the "sure thing" ceases to exist. We're speeding toward a world where there are only risks. God help us.