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

Fail Yourself Forwards …

Once upon a time, Dan Wieden was giving a presentation to a bunch of executives from one of Wieden’s big, global clients.

Dan was talking about the power of failing and asked if anyone in the audience had ever been fired from their job.


Not one person raised their hands.

Dan surveyed the scene for a moment before leaning into the microphone and saying:


There was a nervous ripple in the audience before some people laughed … but Dan wasn’t saying it to be nasty – or to be funny – he was saying it because he truly believes in the mantra of ‘fail harder’ and the positive impact it can have for both creativity and commerce.

Fail harder is not about seeing how bad you can do something.

Fail harder is about …

+ the quest to push yourself.

+ the desire to challenge limits.

+ the goal to provoke change through complete openness.

And while many people get the concept of it … even agree with it … not everyone can bring themselves to participate in it.

Now that’s totally fine until you start criticising or judge others who are doing it.

Especially if the only reason you’re criticising or judging them is because they’re doing something you didn’t do.

Then that’s a dick move. An insecure, dick move.

I say this because lately there seems to be a lot of people doing exactly that … especially on twitter and especially in the planning/marketing groups.

Judging … dismissing and insulting people who are trying different stuff.

Not because they think it’s wrong.
Not because they think it isn’t valid.
Not even because they don’t think it’s clever.

But because they’re cowards.

Sure, some will have valid reasons for it.

Others relying on them.

But what is disappointing is – like the people in that conference – many of these people throwing shade are seasoned, senior individuals.

People who have the experience to push boundaries.
People who have the smarts to challenge the status quo.
People who have the knowledge to be more than capable.
People who have the voice to champion change.

And while it is absolutely their prerogative to not do it, sending our snide comments or subtweets about those who are, is pretty pathetic.

Ridiculing the way someone talks about their colleagues.
Questioning the ability to be taken seriously by clients.
Looking down on what they’re trying to do and what they’ve done.

Hell, some of these people have actually started their own company, so you’d expect them to be a cheerleader for the new … but instead it seems they see them as a more interesting competitive threat, so keep throwing out their barbs.

Oh they probably think they’re being so clever.

That the people can’t see what they’re doing.

But it’s so transparent you could grow plants in it.

However here is where it all goes wrong …

Because not only are many of these people pioneering a great business out of what they’re doing … everyone can see these insults are simply a way to distract thems from the fact they didn’t do what someone else has had the courage to try. That someone is trying to create their own story rather than simply follow someone else’s.

Personally, I think that is an incredible thing to do.

And thank fuck we have people willing to do that.

Not just because the old way isn’t working that well, but because the definition of ‘Fail Harder’ is the realisation that even if you fail in your attempt to do something audacious, you’re already further ahead than those who simply have followed the path of ‘achieving safely’.

There’s a few people I know who are victims of this.

They say it doesn’t bother them, but it obviously does.

Of course it does … it’s shit … especially when coming from people in the industry who are supposed to be ‘senior voices’.

So fuck those guys [and it is nearly always men]

Make them cry tears of regret, because regardless what happens next, you’ve already gone further them most of them could reach.

20 Comments so far
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what the fuck is the point of starting a company that acts the same as every other fucking company? delusional egotistical money grabbing fucks.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well I suppose it’s control and money. I have less of a problem with that – but when those same people then challenge people who are trying to do more than that, it’s pretty pathetic.

As usual, the worst culprits tend to be old, white men.

Comment by Rob

Old white men are the cause of the problems old white men say only they can fix.

Comment by Mary Bryant

what a fucking legend wieden is. except for the hiring you part. though you both seem to be able to insult the fuck out of people and they still like you where i get told to die for telling someone to get out of my fucking parking space. worlds not fucking fair.

Comment by andy@cynic

He is. But then he also had the nickname of Mr Magoo. Not because he was physically blind, but because he sometimes didn’t see the potential damage of his words. The main reason for that was not stupidity but – just like the cartoon character – things always worked out really well for him. Mainly because people recognised what he was saying wasn’t ever intended to hurt, but to help them achieve a better outcome than they could have imagined. He doesn’t see the world the same way as most, and that’s what makes him – and the company he cofounded – so special.

Comment by Rob

Is there any better advocacy of a company than having an ex-employee still speak so positively about them years after they have left? I am sure they feel the feeling is mutual. It should be.

Comment by George

that campbell wasnt fired by wk explains why wiedens nickname was magoo.

Comment by andy@cynic

Love the Dan story. I am sure there are people who were present at that meeting who are still confused by what he said about them.

This is an excellent post. We know first hand about the type of people you are describing. They are also the same people who attempt to undermine any success someone achieves as luck. I don’t know if that means they are cowards but they certainly are tragic.

Comment by George

Oh yes. Don’t we just.
Rupert Howell once said I was driven by hate. He was almost right. I’m more driven by revenge – even if the person I’m going after never realises it. Hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

Trust me Rob, you’re driven by all the bad things. Hate, revenge, anger, evil. You don’t discriminate against any of them.

Comment by Bazza

Good point.

My apologies to Mr Howell, hahaha.

Comment by Rob

I have long believed there are 2 types of personality in business. As you write in your excellent post, they often question the value of each other despite the reality that they need each other to achieve success. That said, to openly dismiss the ambitions of people who wish to try something new is insidious. Offer advice. Offer good luck. Otherwise mind your own business.

Comment by Lee Hill

Cynical cowards are the worst sort of cowards.

Comment by George

But cynical optimists are still ok?

Comment by Bazza

Always Baz. I would go as far as to say they are missed.

Comment by George

Cynical optimists is the perfect encapsulation of what made you all such special partners. You are missed, which is why I keep returning to this space.

Comment by Lee Hill

thats called stockholm syndrome lee. pay me handsomely and ill give you a fuckload of it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Interesting, I’ve always seen it as 3. The cowards, the courageous and the ‘couldn’t give a fuck’. Hahaha. Though I agree, they all need each other but the cowards tend to be the ones who try to make the others feel bad for not feeling like they do. Not always, but a lot.

Comment by Rob

Good post Rob.

I don’t know if it is like this in other industries, but people employed in marketing seem to believe they are immediately an expert in all facets of the industry, regardless of their talent, experience or quality of output.

Comment by Pete

I am sure it’s not an exclusive trait to marketing and advertising, but it is one we excel in.

Comment by Rob

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