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Ever Failed – four things I’ve learned about failure.

This blog was posted by Jessica Ziebland on March 8, 2015 as part of the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy. You can find out more about the project here.

My time as a Culture Hive DMA fellow has been a huge success, but that’s not because there haven’t been any failures – probably, in a way, it’s because of them (though the out-and-out successes are fun too).

Dealing with failure seems to be a big thing these days. My mentor Devon informs me that there is a thing called a ‘Failure Festival’ (shes right) where people just turn up and tell each other about ways things went wrong.

Circus and failure

Devon also pointed out a thing that I sometimes, weirdly, forget – I work at a circus school. A place where hundreds of people fail in much more painful ways than I ever will, every day, in order to become amazingly, shockingly good at something. They run over their fingers on a Cyr Wheel or drop juggling balls again and again or fall onto crash mats (we have a full-time physio to help mend them.) In order for our students to get better – to eventually be so good that you sit watching them perform in awe, thinking they must be some kind of super-heroes – they have to fail hundreds of times. To fall hundreds of times and every time to get up and learn from the fall and try again.

When you’re a circus artist, it seems, you have to know that failure is part of the journey to being a super-hero.

Digital marketing and failure

I’m not going to use that Beckett quote because it’s everywhere, particularly at digital marketing conferences, but the reason for that is that digital gives us a huge gift. We have the resource to learn from our failures and make them better next time.

There are four things about failure I’ve learned during my Culture Hive DMA fellowship, and they are these:

  1. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not taking any risks.
  2. If you’re too busy hiding your failures, you’re not learning from them.
  3. It’s not a bad failure if you learn something from it.
  4. When you’re setting up a scary project, build lots of learning opportunities into it. Track in a way that will tell you things not just about the successes, but the failures too.

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