Failure Is An Option

Failure Is An Option

I received an email today that my good friend’s company is shutting down, pulling the plug, closing up shop.

This is something he poured himself into…

Rush prep for impromptu big meetings…

Stressed late night presentation tweaks…

Early morning service calls from the east coast…

Blood. Sweat. Fight. Hustle. Muscle… and now tears, packing up, figuring out how to sell the servers, saying goodbye and good luck to employees. I’m gutted for them.

Another app I enjoyed, Readmill, has this on their homepage today:

Readmill shut down notice

“Readmill has closed. We can’t find this page for you because Readmill has closed. Please read our epilogue to learn more.”

Readmill was a beautifully designed app with a decent community and a good story. Regardless, they had to close up shop and move on.

And one of our recent favorites here at Fizzle, Editorially, has this message on their homepage today:

Unfortunately, it failed to attract enough users to be sustainable. Editorially closed its doors on May 30th, 2014.

Editorially was a useful product, extremely well designed, but what strikes me most is that the people involved were some of my heroes. These are amazing writers/editors like Mandy Brown and sensational designers like Jason Santa Maria and Ethan Marcotte. It’s a team of legends of the internet and yet today the product is retired.

These companies closed up and moved on even with excellent design, writing, team members.

It scares me. If they can fail so can I… and so can you. Failure is an option.

Note: there are reasons why these companies failed. Some ideas are better than others, etc. We can unpack those questions at a later time. For now, stick with me on this.

I was at WDS this past weekend. It’s a conference, lots of people, lots of connections. At every conference I can remember I’ve heard a nugget from someone that’s changed my mindset in some way. Normally it happens in conversations, not in presentations.

This time it was something James Clear said over dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (Pok Pok is the gift that keeps giving… i’m still getting some of those chilies out of my system).

Have you heard of this Jim Carrey commencement speech? I’ve heard a bunch about it and hadn’t watched it yet.

James quoted a line from the talk that reverberates in me still (much like the chilies). Jim Carrey was telling the story of his dad, an accountant who could have been a great comedian but went the safe route instead and, several years later, was fired. That’s when Jim said this:

“…you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.” ~ Jim Carrey
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Ugh… so simple. Failure IS an option, both for jobs/projects/relationships we despise AND for things we love.

See, the stories above about companies closing up — companies I thought were doing a stellar job — terrified me. I think we’re doing a stellar job here at Fizzle. I think so many of you are doing a stellar job. And yet, we are all capable of failing… it’s an option for all of us.

This line from Carrey undercuts that terror. You can fail at a goddam accounting or gardening or house cleaning or cold calling sales position. So why not give something you enjoy a try?

It also undercuts that “ra ra rally caps!” and “failure is NOT an option” bullshit we used to think we needed to be motivated. This is a much deeper motivation… because it’s true.

So here’s my question to you: Failure is an option… for both things you hate and things you enjoy. So why not pursue the latter?

ace ventura spears gif

Failure is an option… for both things you hate and things you enjoy. So why not pursue the latter?
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Here’s the Jim Carrey commencement speech in its entirety:

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  • Sambarnes90

    I’ve tweeted the quote from Carrey in this article.

    It’s so very very true. Sometimes accepting failure can be incredibly difficult.

    However, I’m still supportive of people that choose to fail when they know that they’re only digging a deeper and deeper hole. If you are failing, choose your time to get out wisely. Don’t waste years on something that’s never going to happen!

  • Jeff Claassen

    Great post Chase!

    Not only do I think failure IS and option I also believe that it NEEDS to be an options. I have lived my entire life in fear of everything especially failure. I avoided failure at all costs because I did not want to embarrass myself. I felt that failure was a negative thing you can’t from back from. Something that signifies the end of a journey.

    I have lived a mundane, mediocre life because of this and it was time for me to change.

    That’s why I joined Fizzle so I could have the guidance and generate the confidence to try something new. Something that I want so bad, and as hard as it is for me to say… Something that I deserve if I put the hard work in.

    Failure needs to be an option. If you aren’t failing you aren’t trying hard enough.

  • Clay

    This is now one of my favorite articles that I have read, not only from this website, but out of all of the internet. Awesome job Chase!

    • Chase Reeves

      Thanks, Clay.

  • Gemma W.

    In the UK, failure is usually seen as an undesirable and embarrassing event. Most people I know are pretty fearful of failing, especially when it comes to education/career/business. If we can genuinely shift our mindsets from fearing failure to viewing all failures as opportunities to learn and grow, then I think we would do so much better in all aspects of life.

    • Chase Reeves

      Well said, Gemma.

    • Gerald D. Vinci

      Taking a copasetic view on failure on leads to more of the same though. For example, the same can be said with obesity, or with racism, when people socially or culturally feel it is acceptable the propensity to follow suit is way higher. While failure IS a learning experience let us not dismiss it away. Give it the respect and attention it truly deserves.

  • Faith Watson

    hmmm, my take is from a side door I guess. The Do What You Love mantra has been around a long time… the book I originally read had the follow up line, “and the money will follow” … After not having that quite work out a few times, when raising my kids I found a better ending was Do What You Love and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. And now, Do What You Love but you can’t always sell it online.

    There are still “starving artists” and social workers who live with the poor, and extreme couponers and people who live off the land, etc. So if you want to try to make it as a poet or mountaineer, you, and everyone, can judge your success or “failure” differently–think, how many unsold paintings does an artist have or lost auditions does a dancer have? But people don’t *see* all those because they aren’t online.

    I guess I was raised in times when we were told we were quite likely to fail! Everyone had to have a real job and something else to fall back on. Having survived through bad decisions, brave risks that didn’t pan out, bankruptcy and perfectly good closed businesses, I can say, yeah, it wasn’t all bad advice. I mean, I didn’t turn out to be Jim Carrey.

    But I have had to negotiate between loving what I do and raising my family in the way I did, probably like Jim’s dad, with a house, sports teams, proms, help with college and stuff. Me? I love reading, writing, gardening, cooking, and dancing. Yet so far, I still need to work the marketing thing, or tend bar, to make ends meet for the lifestyle I lead/chose. It’s not luxury, but it costs more than the novel I’m working on is bringing in right now. I like writing copy. I love helping people. It’s close enough for Sallie Mae. ;-)

  • ingkavet

    Great article and loved the video clip. What I found most compelling in Jim Carrey’s speech was his epiphany of his purpose in life. By reframing his purpose as to free people from concern, it allowed him to move forward with a mission. It’s far different than saying I’m hear to make some silly faces and make people laugh. Or I’m just a joker. That’s powerful! He even called it the Church of Freedom from Concern – it’s a new religion. The other quote I love was “your effect on other people is the greatest currency you have.”

    • Chase Reeves

      Oh, that’s a good one! “Your effect on other people is the greatest currency you have.”

  • Krista Summitt

    A sobering fact, especially with the news today of the 18K people being laid off from Microsoft. I’ve had one or two unplanned “left turns” in my career due to reorganization and just “universe realignment” which left me in jobs I had zero interest in. I vowed the last time never to take a job that I was not truly passionate about.

  • Caelan Huntress

    Failing sucks. But if you’re not willing to do any work that sucks, you’re never going to make anything great. At best, you’ll end up mediocre, and safe.

    The biggest winners are all failures who tried again.

  • Jeff Jones

    Hi Chase,

    After spending the better part of my life doing work I couldn’t give a crap about, I suddenly realized I wasn’t going to be here forever. Or even tomorrow. I joined fizzle and have been slowly working to build something that’s all about making sure nobody else thinks they’ve got forever to do something they love and can be proud of.

    I totally agree with the evisceration of the ra ra mantras as well. You can’t fool yourself for very long if you really don’t believe it. You can’t make yourself believe something either.


  • kimanzi constable

    Failing makes you appreciate your successes more. It can teach you how to help those that are where you’ve been.

  • Seangspence

    Like love, you need courage to embrace the ending of something that Matters, in order to truly experience it. Then failure is a real, deep failure that matters and brings real grief. In my experience the ra-ra stuff doesn’t cut it – but it’s still true that failure brings deep learning. Sometimes you just learn that you’ve failed because you’ve outgrown the situation and wouldn’t let go gently. Then you’re ready for the Next Big Thing that your life prepared you for!

  • Bree Brouwer

    This is the BEST reason I’ve ever heard for pursuing something you love.

  • KC Procter

    Dude, Jim Carrey blew my mind with that speech. Really appreciate the challenge to go after what you love and risk failure in that space.

    I find myself in a day job that can not be further divorced from my college major and passions. Learning to hustle despite the disconnect and find fulfillment in side projects in the margin. Building on the side to make it the main thing sooner than later.

  • Gerald D. Vinci

    A great friend of mine was just commenting on the irony of such a Debbie Downer article written on a site called “Fizzle” haha that lightened my mood immediately. I’ve really been struggling with the notion that even while building an empire and having massive success you can still ultimately fail and have it all come crashing down. You see so many entrepreneurs who have amassed a small fortune and now I’m wondering when does Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride come to an end? Is it sustainable? Is anything? Can we ever truly have that moment where we can say we’ve “made it”… whatever “it” is? I feel like I’ve put enough precautions in place and am always adapting my business to the needs of my customers, so I do not have the same risk of failure that someone with an “idea” or “invention” or uber-niche target market might. But even still, whatever might come my way failure is always an option. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but hey, life isn’t fair for anyone, because its unfair for everyone right? So we are all given opportunity we just have to keep our eyes open and understand how to channel it, monetize it, and sustain it.

    • Chase Reeves

      Great fodder for conversation in here, Gerald. So much so that I’d like to put together an article about it. Look for that in the future!

      • Gerald D. Vinci

        Thanks Chase! great article and glad my thoughts will help generate more food for thought! Can’t wait to read what’s in store next.

  • Sunday

    Indeed, I would prefer to pursue the things I love. There is the high tendency of getting motivated in it instead of that which I don’t love. This is just the reality. Yes, I couldn’t agree more with Jim Carrey -“…you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”

    I upvoted this post in kingged where it was shared for Internet marketers.

  • Chase Reeves

    Good point, Mifty! Wasn’t aware of the DropBox purchase. I was simply going on the emails they sent. Aqui-hires like this are what they are.

    Regardless, it doesn’t change the reality: failure is an option, both for things we WANT to pursue and things we DON’T WANT to pursue. The other two examples work just as well, but I need not look any further than my own experience to have enough examples to sense the truth about this.

  • Alex Mosocw

    Brilliant post and essential questions that I often find
    myself wrestling with.

    When I do I always think about the contestants on the
    X-Factor (and similar talent shows).

    There are those that are in it for fame and fortune. Nothing
    wrong with that.

    And those who are in it because they are passionate about
    what they do and want to build a career doing what they love.

    As a viewer I always prefer the people singing for the sheer
    joy of it. They feel more authentic and bring more emotion to their
    performances. They bring the WOW.

    For them fame and fortune is not the goal but merely a
    by-product of doing what they love and a nice reward for perfecting their craft.

    Perhaps this is the way to look at business. Money shouldn’t
    be the goal but merely a by-product of what we do.

    Far better to fall in love with the process of doing
    business and focus on wowing the people you serve. Find your sweet spot and
    work to perfect it.

    Rather than a pile of cash, build a clear and detailed
    vision for your business and your life so you know what you are working

    But like one of my mentors used to say. Your goals should become
    your floor not your ceiling. Keep setting yourself bigger hairier arsed goals.

    Because like the 100 meter runner who wants to beat the
    world record, once you’ve done it, there’s nowhere left to go.

    Except perhaps the 200 meters and the 400 meters…

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    Wow I had no idea Jim Carrey had so many brilliant insights about life. He’s Canadian you know!! ;-) Great thought provoking article.

  • Sergio Sala

    Great post, Chase! I also feel bad when companies fail and I’m always curious to see why. It’s just that I realized I love watching the history of a non-conformist or company, how they evolved, how they win and how they lose.
    One of my favorites (top fav, you may say) quotes in my life is “You never know”. You can apply that in anything.

    I’m happy that I had the chance to meet you there. Thanks for everything!

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