My friends Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh created the Silicon Valley Junto, an occasional invitation-only meeting that brings together all sorts of interesting people for a stimulating conversation. Somehow, I scammed them into inviting me, too. My schedule hadn’t permitted me to attend since 2006, so was elated to get to one today.
The topic for today’s conversation was Failing Forward: Dealing with and Learning from Personal and Professional Failure. Can I just say how much I love to be around people who are willing to talk openly and honestly about this? These kinds of conversations are incredibly stimulating to me.
Here are a few notes I jotted down from what I heard and what went through my mind during the conversation (which was at turns serious and humorous - the best kind):
- Every day, and before significant actions, one should ask oneself: Why am I doing this? This could be prior to accepting a job, calling a loved one, eating a cookie, going for a run - whatever. Positive answers (”For my health”; “To extend my gratitude and affection”) can be as useful as negative answers (”Because I use sweets to medicate”; “Because I’m afraid there are no better jobs out there”) if one is willing to learn and modify one’s behavior accordingly.
- Failure is the intrusion of reality into our perception of ourselves (or our products or our services or our relationships), to paraphrase Chris Yeh.
- Maintaining objectivity about oneself means dealing with reality, not what we wish was reality. This, in turn, helps us to avoid failure. Rigorous honesty - with others and about oneself - is part of this equation. Those who avoid rigorous honesty will fail more often and more spectacularly. (Discretion has a healthy place in a rigorously honest life.)
- Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen’s Quest to Invent a New World, about Dean Kamen’s attempt to make a success of the Segway, is a great book to read if you want to ponder what failure and success actually mean.
- We breathe a rarefied air in Silicon Valley and the world of entrepreneurialism and venture capital. We need to scrutinize constantly our own collective and personal standards for what success is. The trappings might be great, but they might also be traps.
Thanks again to Ben and Chris for letting me take part in these conversations, and to the dozen others who gave me so much to consider. What fun!
Filed under: Life