Late in 2011 the incredible Meg Bear gifted a number of her colleagues and friends with a neat gift - a Year 2012 'Despair' desk calendar - you may be familiar with it, but if not I am sure you are probably familiar with the cheesy, hacky, inspirational 'Successories' posters which the Despair calendar lampoons.
The image on the right of this post shows the 'October' page from the Despair calendar - a funny take on perseverance that reads:
Perseverance - The Courage to Ignore the Obvious Wisdom of Turning Back
Funny stuff, right?
But also raises what is I think a pretty interesting question and points out a kind of pop-leadership paradox, or at least something that gives me pause for a minute which is this:
Failure, the need to have experienced pretty profound and sometimes public failure seems to get more and more acceptable all the time, (Yippee!). There are more and more pieces about the value of failure, and failing fast, and having fun with failure, you get the idea.
But as we simultaneously embrace failure, and even celebrate the ability to admirably overcome failure, we also seem to fail to acknowledge that turning back, bailing out, walking away, and yes, even the Q-word, quitting, particularly early enough so that the inevitable failure doesn't even occur, at least not to the level that could cause real and enduring damage, perhaps should also be celebrated.
Sometimes it is ok, and even the prudent and wise thing, not just to experiment and fail, but to experiment and withdraw when all signs begin to point to failure.
One last thing, while the 'celebrate failure' meme seems to continue to take hold and perpetuate, I have a sneaky suspicion that the people in charge, owners, investors, heck - even HR folks and average hiring managers, 'embrace' people's failures a whole lot less than the meme suggests.
Too much failure in your story might not be as wonderful a thing as you've been led to believe.
A history peppered with a little less failure and a little more 'got out while the getting was good' is better.
Of course, a career litany of resounding achievement and success is best, but that advice is about as useful as the Successories posters themselves.
Happy Monday! Try not to fail too much today!
Just kidding. Kind of.