Have been reading Forbes and Fortune today and they are all with their different “lists”. Forbes – updating the rich (gender, age, trade etc..), Fortune – going for leadership and failures. Especially how the successful ones (who also happen to be rich) relate to failure.
And here is where the twist of the examples kicks in. Because in our modern insta-times to give Thomas Edison or T. Roosevelt as a role model is totally missing the point. First of all, how many of the younger generation can say who they were? Want to have a wager? And then, Stephen King and JK Rowling….Excuse me, how many parents today encourage their kids to take up writing or arts as their vocation?
And on the other hand, you have all those insta-billionaires Zuckerberg/Dorcey/Karp style who, coming up with the silliest idea become incredibly rich over night. Why silly? Can you compare Tesla or Edison to Zuckerberg? Can you compare the impact of the first’s discoveries to social networks “finger-print”? Hope not. Because Tesla and Bohr generated progress for humanity, as opposed to turning human beings into extremely extrovert social zombies, in a 24/7 online emotional, physical, mental strip-show. Moreover, the internet mavericks are all projecting this illusion of constant success. For every “Zuckerberg” or Kum, you have thousands entrepreneurs who failed. But we don’t hear about them, do we?
So what happens in reality is, that people whom the modern generation barely know and don’t relate to, are peddled as a positive example of a perseverance, despite the numerous failures, whereas the high tech celebs, who seem to have the infallible touch of Midas, motivate us not fear failure, which they seem to be acquainted with only by a hear-say. Both cases are irrelevant and detached from the our everyday lives and aspirations.
Thus, the important moral conclusion of failure, the ‘benefit of failing’ misses the target crowd and does not permeate into the designated audience. Not only that the scientists and leaders of ‘old’ (funny to think that only 60 years back is considered “old”.) mean nothing in our light-speed pace of life, but it also changed the “go-to-market” time frame of success. The Internet and communication technology have totally altered our perception of time! Which is relevant to both failure and success schedules, shrinking it into the insta-bytes. Meaning: you can fail in a second, but if you want to be considered a success, you must recover even faster.
No time to spend years on trial and error, Edison style. No time for countless literary rejections, until that one breakthrough: when you can open a channel on youtube and become a narcissist vlogger, peddling your make up skills to the world, securing multimillion deals from the advertisers. You have only that tiny time slot to make a financial kill, because a second after, the crowd will crown a new king, and you will become a failure, ceasing to digitally exist, cast into cognitive oblivion.
The failure and success are tied up together even stronger in our light-speed reality. Their “marriage” is a Catholic one, eternally indissoluble. And the masses don’t buy into these fail-till-you-succeed-in-a-zillion-years-of-hard-work stories anymore, because the role models relevant to them made it over night! And they “Do No Wrong” (to paraphrase Google) since. Have you heard of the Page and Brin throwing in the towel, closing a business down? Or maybe Zuck? Karp who suckered Marissa into paying him $1B for what, exactly? And a bunch of other quirky useless apps who made their founders deliriously rich in a sec (like all those food delivery, countless videoconferencing, cleaning “technologies”).
Oh, but you have Bezos and Jack Ma, you may wish to retort. What about them? Bezos has been growing Amazon for 20 years now and Ma, well, who can contradict the rags-to-riches continuous-failure-to-success of the rubber mask face? Well, I see them as an exception to the insta-success prevalent stories. They are those shiny outsider cases of the old-economy in the era of a new one rule. However, again, what weights heavier on our intuitive reflexive cognitive scale: the logical slow success of Bezos and Ma or a quicky Sinderella story of Karp? What narrative do we embrace unconsciously, in a knee jerk reaction, as our model for emulation? Kahanman and irrational decision making process anyone? Hard to admit, but we have to be honest with ourselves: even in our techy, machine age, we are still ensnared by the ancient romantics of the instant happy end. We just transferred it from the personal realm into a professional one, courtesy of the nerdy engineers. So yes, the Snow-White (who is probably fashionably transgender now) is alive and kicking, with the 7 dwarfs working harder than ever to allure that VC Prince ASAP.
Coming back to the “embrace the Failure” sermons of the uber-rich – as a marketing professional, here’s a re-branding tip, that may also contribute to straighten our fragmented sick society: make the effort cool again!