“The secret of being
wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The
secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal. The only thing that makes people
and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The
desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of
success.” ― Seth Godin
Seth Godin, author, blogger, marketer, and
motivational speaker, says that wrong is not fatal and being willing to fail is
part of success. His experience suggests that companies that achieve greatness
are those that were willing to be “not great.” In fact, he says that people
and organizations need to “desire to fail.” I encourage us to think about these
words for a few minutes. There are definitely ways in which these words may be
true. In Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
makes a case for failure. He points out that Pixar would never have become as
successful as they have become without some of their failures (e.g., the
accidental deletion of Toy Story 2). The willingness to take big risks and
chase down big dreams has been at the heart of Pixar from day one. So, in this
context, Godin’s words have a kernel of truth. They likely make good sense for a number of
organizations, churches, companies, and not-for-profit enterprises.
However, there are some places where Seth Godin’s
words should give us pause. The desire to fail at marriage as a means to
reaching a bigger goal is not a secret to success. Raising children, learning
to fly a jet airliner, and defusing bombs also come to mind. There are some
enterprises where the risks of failure are simply too high. There are likely a
few specific operations within organizations, companies, and not-for-profits
that are also too sensitive for failure.
I say this partly to engage our
discernment processes. A quote like this one from Seth Godin circulates rapidly
and shows up in a variety of contexts and on many different blog sites. It is
incredibly enticing and thoroughly plausible. It is hard not to simply run with
it. After all, isn’t Godin some sort of expert? Here is where it is good to
examine the credentials of the expert to whom we may listen.
I am not suggesting we ignore the words of
this quote. As a means of reminding ourselves that we need not fear failure,
and as a reminder that failure is often not fatal, these words are helpful.
Yet, as I have attempted to show, there are times and places where wisdom will
suggest that we forget these words, no matter how expert the author may be. Have
a great time driving your car, teaching your kids how to
ride a bike,
defusing bombs, or wherever else this day may take you.

Dive in!

Join The Great Journey with KeithShields.ca subscribers, and see new posts as they happen.

We promise we’ll never spam.