Go For The Epic Fail

When’s the last time you failed big? Like epic fail?

You probably can’t remember the last time. Most likely because we tend to minimize our risk of failure. Especially big failures.

We feel big epic fails aren’t pretty. Epic fails are nasty, dirty things. But are they really?

In his book Untitled: Thoughts On The Creative Process (Great book, btw), Blaine Hogan shares this story-

I know all too well the painful reality of standing in front of something I’ve made, only to feel the sobering sting of awareness that comes from realizing the “thing” didn’t live up to the pitch.

This failure can be seen as an epic fail. We pitch, we promote, we hype. Only to see what we imagined fall flat on it’s face.

Epic. Failure. It’s all there.

And then Blaine goes on to ask this question-

So how do we avoid this in our creative endeavors?

I have to go in a different direction. While we shouldn’t actively go looking for epic failures, we shouldn’t be so scared to experience them either.

Epic fails teach us about life. Epic fails teach us about ourselves. Epic fails teach us about others.

Jeremy and Jason of Internet Business Mastery have talked about their epic fail. These internet business gurus launched products and their only buyer was their dad.

Apple had an epic fail with their Maps app. Imagine leading your users in the wrong direction. The Apple maps app didn’t live up to expectations. Tim Cook went so far as to apologize for their fail and recommend Apple users use other mapping programs.

Nintendo experienced their epic fail with the Virtual Boy. The Virtual Boy was to be the next step in immersive 3D gaming. Yet it was one of their biggest flops, being discontinued less than a year after it’s release. Ouch!

Epic fails are going to happen as you lead. Your vision for the future may be way off. A competitor may swoop in and steal your thunder. Or you may not be able to motivate your tribe.

It’s Not About The Epic Failure

You know failure is going to come. You’ll face it many times while leading. In the end, it’s not about the epic failure.

Instead, it’s about the rebound from the epic fail. What you do with what you’re given.

Pursue failure. Failure is success’s only launching pad. (The bigger the goof, the better!) – Tom Peters

After Jason and Jeremy’s epic fail, they picked themselves back up. They continued to make products people would be interested in.

Tim Cook took on the responsibility of Apple’s epic fail. He acknowledged their product was subpar and you shouldn’t use it at that time. They’re continuing their work to improve the app and make it suitable for use.

And Nintendo didn’t stop producing consoles after their Virtual Boy epic fail. Nope, not at all. They quickly killed their bad product and continued moving forward.

You see, it’s not about the epic fail. It’s in the way you react to the fail that determines whether or not you’ll succeed.

Don’t let failures, even epic ones, derail you from leading well. When you do fail, pick yourself back up, learn what you can, and continue leading well.

Question: What do you do after an epic fail? Please share your insights in the comment section below (I know there’s people out there that need your guidance, so help them out!).

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post Joe. Epic fails have been the fertilizer for my times of greatest growth. For me, epic fails in the beginning can lead to bigger success in the long run. When I first put my book out, the sales were not anywhere near what I expected or hoped they would be. That failure solidified my resolve to learn more and work harder. Now it appears it will hit bestseller status next week. I have grown and become better equipped to share my message because of my original epic fail.

    • Awesome work Jimmy! Hitting bestseller status is a great honor. BTW, you reminded me that I owe you a phone call. There’s an epic fail for me )-:

      • No problem Joe. I’ll try to catch up with you the first of the week. Great Post.

  • What to do? Pick up and keep going! I’ve had many, many failures, some epic, even leading to bankruptcy once. Then there was the cancellation of 75% of the events in a new arts festival in its first year (er, that would be this year, in fact.) Look for the lessons learned not how to avoid such a failure in the future, but to figure out how to do something better, and assess whether or not the approach was right, etc. Maybe redress the project, or scrap it and start again. Whatever. Persistence! That (and many other) Peters’ quote is part and parcel of my daily activities 🙂 Thx for sharing this, Joseph 🙂

    • I like that Stephen. Thanks for being honest and open about your epic fails.

  • After I fail I get back up and keep going. Like you’ve done a good job pointing out failure is a part of life. Only those who are determined to get back up and persevere win.

  • Epic, eh? Well in all and complete
    honesty I would have to say most of last year was fairly epic in it’s
    unbelievable and unstoppable FAILS. Continuing on this line of thought, I
    believe it was a first. Ever- for the business, for the Boss and through both,
    for most of us. It was humiliating and really ~ I think even more so was how
    incredibly HUMBLING it was. Yes, even us- living as caretakers of this wild
    land, dealing with things we have worked with for generations, training for anything
    and absolutely anything to go wrong (that’s what we do under it all)- FAIL.
    Total and utter FAIL. So many dreams- poof! Up in smoke.

    So. What did it do to us? What did/do we do? First, it certainly showed us
    where our strengths were and who was along for an easy ride. It drove home
    exactly what was truly important to us all. Next, we took a deep and cleansing
    breath and got to work. Fixing what could be, replacing what could not.
    Dreaming. Yep. That is when I knew beyond a doubt we would make it, together.
    When the dreams instead of the heartache became the focus once again. It
    brought to light changes that could (and were) be made to help prevent these
    new fails from ever touching anyone of ours again.

    Walk the Walk and Stay the Path.

    Never quit, never give up.

    • That’s an awesome way to recover from failure Amber-Lee. You focused on the dream and on moving the business forward once again. That’s the key to recovery!

  • I need to read it, but I love the title of John Maxwell’s book Failing Forward. I feel like that is a great way to look at failure. I had an epic failure in my first career as a counselor but if I had not experienced that failure I wouldn’t have discovered my career passion.

    • That’s on my reading list as well Adam. So often we see failure as the end, rather failure can move us forward.

  • Reflect, Resolve, and Rejoice. I reflect on what happened to cause the failure. I resolve to remove anything that caused the failure, and I resolve to move forward. Finally, I rejoice in the hope of a bright future.

    • Great ways to deal with an epic fail Jon.

  • Considering that I’m attempting my first Ironman event this weekend I really hope an epic fail is not in my future! But, I love the concept and embrace the journey ahead!

    Failure is all about perspective!

  • I really like your comment that it’s not about failing but about how we handle the failure. That is so true. Life is full of failure. We need to lick our wounds and then get back up and get in the game. Often it’s through the failures that we learn important lessons, grow as people, and gain empathy for others when they fail.

    • Thanks Ida. I think if young leaders can grasp the concept of failures and dealing with failures, we’d see so much more success.

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  • Diana Flegal

    Great post. What do I do? I used to minimize the chances of an epic fail but now I go for it. And then I examine it- and see what I can learn. Sometimes it takes a night out with the girls. Other times it’s easier. But I am learning- if I am not going for it- I am losing out.

    • Awesome change Diana! We’ve got to be willing to risk it to make it big.

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