“Failure is Not an Option?” Bulls**t: Failure is Part of the Process

by Hugh Brownstone5 Comments

Ever been paralyzed by the fear that what you’re writing, filming or editing is crap? Welcome to the club. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not — but in either case it’s NORMAL, so embrace it and plow through it.

Sure, I’m pulling just one item from a broader conversation between Ramit Sethi and filmmaker Brian Koppelman, and yes it’s the first thing they talk about.

But as a relatively new screenwriter and filmmaker, I can relate.

Watch and enjoy.

‘Being Creative Requires Massive Failure All the Time'

Via No Film School:

In a recent interview with Ramit Sethi, a prominent writer and entrepreneur, Koppelman shared some candid advice that applies to all people who do creative work. Check out the interview below:

Instant creativity: the secret to producing great work, with Brian Koppelman and Ramit Sethi

There are a few things that stand out to me from this interview:

First and foremost is the “rigor” that Koppelman describes as a necessary part of the creative process. Of course, everyone knows that you have to work hard to produce great work. That's just common sense. But what Koppelman is describing is more about being honest with yourself, and being objective about the shortcomings of your creative work. Sometimes your ego can get in the way of making meaningful progress on a project, but giving yourself honest, critical feedback, and applying a sense of rigor to said feedback, can help you break through those creative barriers.

Read full article at No Film School “‘Being Creative Requires Massive Failure All the Time'”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from No Film School)


  1. Yes, we fail at times. However, I do in fact subscribe to NASA’s Gene Kranz adage, “Failure is not an option.” As video producers our customers are not at all expecting us to fail. They want results. Training and experience should minimize failure. Unfortunately the “embrace failure” has become an aspirational cliche spread by internet marketers and so-called business experts. It’s bunk.

  2. planetMitch TheCarlOlson  I figured you were link baiting me since we had discussed this before 🙂

  3. TheCarlOlson Failure is not an option for sending men into space – but it happened anyway. If you look at the history of rocketry, failure has been part of the process all along, and with each failure came new lessons to be applied that have helped us get to where we are now. If you look at the invention of the lightbulb, failure WAS the process. The overarching point is that bad stuff happens, and the key is to learn from it.

  4. As I mentioned in my first reply, “yes, we all fail at times.”

    Feel-good internet marketers and self-styled aspiration life coaches and podcasters often throw out the quote: “Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he succeed in making the electric light bulb.”

    Thomas Edison never actually said that. To the contrary, he viewed his experimentation on thousands of materials for use as a success. One source quotes Edison as saying: “I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated, ten thousand times, materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.”

    Another source relates relates: “When Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Mr. Edison if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now. Perplexed, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.”

    Frankly, there’s no verifiable proof he said 10,000 times, but let’s give this a benefit of doubt and go with 10,000. Did Edison really fail 10,000 times?

    What really happened, according to Edison, is that he experimented with many different materials for the light element. Without experimentation, Edison would have never created a working, practical light bulb. Edison himself did not consider it a failure. What he did was successfully identify which material would work and which materials would not.

    Edison did not stop with the light bulb… to make it a viable business he recognized that it would need cheap energy and an extensive reliable infrastructure to distribute it. Indeed, the refinement of the electric light bulb was the culmination of thousands of experiments and continual refinement.

    I think this process of refinement is sometimes confused with failure.

    Anyhow, to me it’s glib advice – to expect multiple failures, to fail often, to fail fast, and related ilk of that sort. It’s really a disservice to you. It’s expensive. It hurts you. It can hurt others. It delays and puts off success. Failure is a huge time sink. That being the case why on earth would anyone want to “fail often?”

    While it is true we will make mistakes, we can minimize those mistakes by applying the lessons of those who have succeeded.

    How so? Learn from those who have succeeded. Emulate what they did right. Put what you learn into action. Knowledge in action is practical wisdom. With practical wisdom, success is the goal, not failure. That wisdom may come from a trusted, proven mentor. Apply the good bits. If you do, you will fail less often.

    Yes, the space program has had a few tragic failures. Interestingly, Gene Kranz’s few of failure was shaped by the tragic failure of the Apollo 1 space capsule during testing. The interior full of 100% oxygen ignited creating an explosive fire that killed the three astronauts inside – unable to escape. The men died in the Apollo 1 because of shoddy mistakes that could have been prevented. The contractors of the space program had become lax in the quality of work. They had, in effect, come to “embrace failure” as a process. To Gene Kranz this was unacceptable.

    When the Apollo 13 mission was imperiled, the mission controller Gene Kranz said to his team, “Failure is NOT an option.” Had they failed, the three crew members of Apollo 13 would have never made it home. An “embrace failure” mindset would have resulted in a premature waste of energy – a resource that was very limited in the crippled spacecraft. Instead, Kranz’s declaration “Failure is NOT an option” focused the engineers to carefully think through the situation and come with a solutions to get them home.

    Many digital media creatives do their art for a living. Our clients are paying us for success. The last thing they want to hear is “oops!” We want to focus on what it takes to succeed. When failure does happen, it should be a rare event (and we should definitely learn from it).

    The process and mindset we should embrace is one of success.

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