The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Sometimes Letting Them Fail Is What Helps Them Win …
August 15, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Contrary to what many may think, this is not a post about the W+K belief of ‘Fail Harder’.

When we say that, we mean it in terms of having the courage to try something different … that might redefine the category … that could impact and push culture … but what I’m talking about is literally letting someone fail because of their own inadequacy or laziness.

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I worked with a client who was universally acknowledged as ‘not being very good’.

Their colleagues said it.

Their agency partners said it.

Their researchers said it.

But this person stayed in their job.

Worse, they stayed in their job and got promoted.


Because people like me often did work way beyond our remit just to make sure we wouldn’t be embarrassed with what was going to be executed.

And what did we get for it?


Not a bean.

And then we got fired.

Yes, fired.

In essence, all we had done was give this guy credibility, wealth, promotion and over-confidence when what we should have done is let him fail because of his own inadequacy.

Sure, if we had adopted that tactic, the likelihood is we’d have been blamed for the situation rather than him – but that aside, the fact of the matter is we directly contributed to his success and our downfall.

So what caused this?

Well on one hand, there was the pressure from our employers to keep the client ‘happy’ but there was something worse than that and it was our own inherent need to not be associated with total and utter bollocks.

Sure, one persons bollocks is another persons gold – but the fact is, I’m one of those people who wants the ball when he sees everything is turning to shit.

Whether I have the talent to do that is open to debate, however at times of crisis, I will happily step up to try and do whatever I can to turn the situation around.

Sure, that hasn’t always worked because without doubt, I have been linked to more than my fair share of public humiliation … but that still hasn’t stopped me from stepping up when we feel everything is going down.

That doesn’t mean I suddenly start thinking I can do anything and everything … I don’t and I know I can’t … but what is does mean is that I will work a fuckload more hours with a fuckload more people trying to nudge, cajole, collaborate and push them into areas we feel are stronger and – to be honest – less embarrassing.

What gives me the right to decide what is – or isn’t – less embarrassing?

Absolutely nothing except my experience and standards.

Given I like Queen and wear Birkenstocks, I can see how scary that sounds – but if others are happy with coasting or worse, not being bothered, then taking charge isn’t about yout ego, it’s about self respect.

But as I said earlier, if you’re doing this over and over again – especially for the same person – then all you’re ultimately doing is helping them look good at your own expense.

While I don’t have children, I know that one of the best – and hardest – parenting methods is teaching through the actions of their actions.

In other words, letting them learn through failing.

Sometimes that is easy but sometimes that is incredibly hard – especially when your first instinct is to shelter them from any pain or suffering.

But it works.

It sets them up to be better and stronger and sharper for later life.

And while most of us don’t need such blatant lessons once we’ve entered the workforce, some of us do – and when that happens, it might be better for them [not to mention you] if some short-term suffering, humiliation and pain is allowed to happen so that longer term focus, responsibility and decisive, higher-standard actions can take place.

Or sackings.

Preferably not yours.

At the end of the day, life’s too short to deal with idiots so don’t feed the beast, help them learn from their own stupid, lazy, ineffective decisions. I know that doesn’t pay the bills, but neither does illness brought on by stress.

32 Comments so far
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I know first hand that you are incapable of sitting back and doing nothing when you witness a car crash in the making, even in the interests of providing a lesson in tough love. That means this post is good, but slightly hypocritical. It also means Jill will have to be the disciplinarian when you wake up to the fact you’d otherwise make an excellent father.

Comment by George

I’m glad you said that.

Comment by DH


Comment by Pete

I am ignoring this comment on the grounds it is making me take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

“Whether I have the talent to do that is open to debate.”

There’s no debate about it Rob. You don’t.

Hope that helps.

Comment by DH

Unless its giving a client a peace of your mind (which they all appreciate, go figure) or you’re trying to sell a concept of creating a new brand of car.

Comment by DH

Thanks Dave, helped make things much clearer for me.

Comment by Rob

I thought good management was about stepping in before everything was falling apart.

Comment by John

I thought good management was like santa claus and the tooth fairy.

Comment by DH

I think I know which client you’re talking about. If it involves the letters d c then you’ll be pleased to hear he did eventually get found out and was rushed out the building before he had time to fiddle any more expenses.

This is a good post Rob, but don’t you think it’s important to have some level of experience and competence before jumping in a project on the grounds you think a person is incapable an inadequate?

Comment by Bazza

I thought you were on gardening leave? I volunteered you to be Andy’s dog walker. He’s going to be pissed.

Comment by DH


Comment by Bazza

Follow this to the end

Comment by DH

thanks for fucking nothing baz. the least you can do is cough up some of your fucking millions for all the fucking inconvenience youve caused me. for 15 fucking years.

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy’s got a dog! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

Comment by Rob

Definitely DC.

Comment by Pete

Great point about experience and credibity.

Comment by Pete

Yes, it’s DC.

I know it’s not nice to wish hardship upon someone but I am sure you agree, he is worth the exception.

Comment by Rob

And your point about having not people judging others by personal opinion rather than informed experience is a good one. Of course it won’t stop people doing it [let’s face it, I used to – and still do – all the time] but sometimes, people definitely make unfair calls because they lack the breadth and depth of understanding the key decision maker is basing their choices on.

Note I said ‘sometimes’. Often it is because the decision maker is either being delusional or corporate toadieish.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob, especially the final paragraph. I have to agree with George though, what you’re saying and what you do don’t match unless some dramatic change happened to you in the past few years. I know w+k are great, but there must still be occasions where you’re faced with the scenario you describe in this post. What do you do then, pass or ask for the ball?

Comment by Pete

what you and george are too chicken shit to say is campbell cant help sticking his big fucking nose where it shouldnt go.

Comment by andy@cynic

If someone has to fail to recognise where they need to improve, then management are not doing their job correctly.

Comment by Lee Hill

John said the same thing earlier. But you said it much better, obviously.

Comment by Rob

That’s me – ahead of the curve but at the bottom of the heap. Next thing you know, someone will be writing a widely-read post abput a video I sent them. FML.

Comment by John

You might need to remind people of your comment John because I’ve done it for a post over a week away.

No, I don’t pre-write that far in advance, the good news for you is I’m away again next week. Yes, for work. Yes, for a task that the rest of you will regard as a holiday.

Comment by Rob

This would have to come close to the top of the list of “most annoying things about working in advertising”… working your arse off to make people who are shit at their job appear good at their job. Because you want to (as you said, Rob), but mainly also because you’re getting paid a shit load of money to.

Hey Andy, so what name did you settle on for the pooch?

Comment by Age

Andy Jnr?

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

what? so you can hunt her down, kidnap her and then hold me ransom? fuck that, i fell for that shit from ex numbers 1 & 2, im not going to do it again.

Comment by andy@cynic

Surely it will be called Campbell, just so Andy can shout “Here Campbell, fetch Campbell, sit Campbell, be quiet Campbell” and fulfil a long held dream…

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

now that is a fucking good idea. plus shes always under my feet being annoying so its even more fucking appropriate. good thinking mortimer, well consider that even if the last thing i fucking want is feeling campbell is in my house.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] + Life’s Too Short […]

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