A Will to Fail

Martin (Chaim) Berlove
Jul 11 · 3 min read

If you attempt a life goal and fail (the subject doesn’t matter), that’s your choice, and your burden. It’s your choice to try, and your knowledge that you may fail. If you should fail, you may fall back on your routine, or your savings, or the support (mental, physical, or financial) of a friend or family member, or on nothing, depending on the goal you attempted and the level of risk you deemed acceptable (or perhaps you didn’t think of the outcomes at all).

In any case you deemed the action worth the risk.

Typically, the risky ventures, of any kind, are those which stray from the norm. Some of them are good ideas which simply need acceptance or adoption. Others depend on a chain of smaller successes, or other supporting situations to enable them. Yet others were terrible ideas from the start; it’s not always easy to see the flaws at the outset.

Are those risky ventures worthwhile? Should the risk be taken?

We want to say, with clarity of hindsight — no! At least not for the obviously poor ideas.

But what makes an idea so obviously poor? Ideas have been denigrated and gone on to wild success. Others have been lauded and failed miserably. And some others meet their expectations, good or ill. It’s not so simple to know at the start whether an idea is good. Yet surely we must discard at the outset the truly insane notions — or must we? And if a project has potential, is it worth risk? Small risk? Great risk?

Open questions all, but worth turning over for anyone involved in an idea, process, product, or goal that requires an investment. Investment not necessarily just of money, but possibly time, effort, mental capital, favors owed, or other contributions.

When you start a project, whether you have gotten someone to do the thing for you and are giving them something in return for it, or are doing the thing yourself and intend to sink your time and spirit into it, you weigh the risks — most likely you do this already. Are you willing to fail? With even minor risk involved, you can’t succeed if you aren’t willing to fail.

It seems silly to accept the outcome of failure, see it as the end of the path you tread, as your intent is of course to succeed. But to fail is just as likely, or perhaps more likely than success.

For some, the burning intent to succeed lets them leverage their own mentality, and by disregarding any notion of the possibility of failure, achieving a certainty that success is inevitable, they make that success a reality before long. It’s an exceptional trait, but I wonder if we don’t hear more often about those for whom it worked than those for whom it did not. I suspect, though I do not know, that this strategy is not for most.

Consider, at least, accepting the outcome of failure. Not so for the accepted reasons of learning from failure, of gaining new insight, of treasuring the journey, for these (while true) are mostly cited for the benefits of feeling better and starting anew. Accept the outcome of failure instead for providing you an invitation to risk. If you have measured failure, and know what it may be at its worst, and find it tolerable and worth the attempt, then you may jump at the risk you conceive with no fear — the bottom line is known, but the sky is the limit.

Martin (Chaim) Berlove

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Software engineer and renaissance man. I love the human side of computing.