Failure~. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m serious!
Ages ago I was listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR and heard this particular episode which still resonates with me years later. In short, it talks about the importance of not only failure but embracing it.
Why the hell would anyone want that??
Because failure, more importantly being open to failure, means you’re not closing doors before even entering the house. How often do people decide, without even trying, that they know how things will turn out? All the time! How often do they shoot down ideas in the spitballing phase? ALL THE TIME! But trial and error–experimentation and brainstorming–are how solutions are found.
A willingness to sound silly and say it anyway, that takes guts. That’s something good thinkers do. What good actors do. They don’t care how it looks when they get down on the floor. Or make a weird face, or affect a limp. Because they know they need to get into character and sometimes it takes a different approach to find the best way in. Sometimes it’s figuring out what doesn’t work to whittle down what does. Sometimes it takes rereading the copy with a different speed or emotion or accent. Or pretending to eat a sandwich while delivering the line. Or pretending to be on a freezing mountaintop. Whatever it takes to understand what the writers really meant. Because writers love to hide meaning and symbolism in their work. I know this from over 15 years of experience. (Always honor the writers. Always.)
The thing about trying is, more often than not, when we stumble upon something that works we don’t always know why. At least not at first. And it may still need improvement. But we roll with it. Like the Unilever example in the TED Radio Hour post I reference above: When the company hired professionals to design the perfect soap dispensing nozzle for their factory the pros couldn’t do it. It was too complex for them to figure out. “Unilever actually did solve this problem - trial and error, variation and selection. You take a nozzle and you create 10 random variations on the nozzle. You try out all 10. You keep the one that works best. You create 10 variations on that one. You try out all 10. You keep the one that works best. And after 45 generations, you have this incredible nozzle, looks a bit like a chess piece, functions absolutely brilliantly. We have no idea why it works, no idea at all. But the moment you step back from the God complex and you say let's just try a bunch of stuff, let's have a systematic way of determining what's working and what's not, you can solve your problem.”
Like with penicillin, the microwave, and anesthesia, experimentation and a willingness to try something new can lead to some wild results. A simple change to lithium-sulfur batteries, which have been around since the 1960s, significantly increases their range of use and could be a boon to green energy while reducing harmful cobalt mining.The use of misoprostol–an ulcer medication–changed in the 1980s when women in Brazil, who were not allowed to legally abort pregnancies, noticed the drug may cause miscarriages. Someone dared to follow the rabbit-hole into the unknown and something fantastic or wonderful or wild or interesting or just very, very helpful was waiting for them on the other end.
So follow Alice’s lead and go down that rabbit hole. Just maybe don’t eat the mushrooms.
Va the Vo
Actor, Vocal Pro, and Writer Extraordinaire!