Mario Schulzke of IdeaMensch is back, and this post shares some of his — and his interviewees — views on trying, failing and the power of hanging on in business. –Pamela
Don’t fail fast, try fast.
When I was in sixth grade, I saw that a lot of the older boys on the bus started to have girlfriends. While I had no real interest in girls, I decided that it was time for me to have a girlfriend too.
I spent the next four weeks keenly observing every girl on the bus before deciding to ask out the one I thought was the prettiest girl around. She was in eighth grade and was about six inches taller than me. When I decided to “cold call” her after finding her parents’ number in the phone book, she had no idea who I was.
Note to self: only ask out women who actually know who you are.
Believe it or not, it did not go well.
And to be honest, it did not translate into lifelong boldness and bravery when it came to asking out women.
In the startup world, the concept of “failing fast” is popular. The notion is that by failing fast, you start learning fast, iterating fast and ultimately getting it right fast.
That definitely works for software.
But if I approach my own projects thinking I will fail, well, I get reminded of the little boy cold calling girls from the bus.
Don’t get me wrong, many of the things that I try fail at some point. I’ve made many mistakes with IdeaMensch, which led to revisions and then to ultimately getting it right. On the other hand, I’ve also tried things that worked like gangbusters the first time around.
So other than if you’re a software company that’s in the business of just identifying new features and fixing bugs, my advice is to forget about failing fast but instead do whatever you can to try fast.
Because you still need to execute. Neil Patel got it right in his IdeaMensch interview: “You execute! That’s the key to bring ideas to life. If you can’t execute, then your ideas won’t be worth anything.”
Have an idea? A new business venture? Or just have something you want to test? Approach it with the mindset of trying as fast as possible.
When you try, one of two things will happen: you will see that it can work or that it won’t.
Here’s why I like to try fast:
- You get it off your mind. That will either lead to building on your idea or it will allow you to move on to the next idea. Either way, there will be no regrets.
- You have the opportunity to build momentum. Ideas and businesses live off momentum. Momentum creates inspiration and energy.
- You will learn. Whether your initial attempt succeeds or fails, you will be smarter after trying. That I can guarantee.
How can you start trying fast?
- Look at it as a test. Whatever you’re going to try fast is just a test and not something you have to live with permanently. So come up with two or three metrics you want to use to measure success and then go do it.
Scott Brinker told us this about testing in his IdeaMensch interview: “Start small. Don’t spend all your time mapping out elaborate plans in your head. Jump in with some sort of concrete implementation, however simple, in order to start getting feedback and momentum. It’s through this act of creation that ideas become real — and take on a life of their own.”
- Copy best practices. One of the best ways to never get around to trying anything fast is to overthink how to do it. Look at what others are doing, apply what they are doing right and then innovate in the next stages of your idea.
- Share it with others. I often have an idea that I want to test. And then I get another idea. And another. And I never execute any of them. That’s an easy rut to get stuck in. So announce your idea to others and tell them when you’re going to launch it. That makes you committed. Then pick some folks who you trust and who support you and tell them what you’re going to do. Get their feedback, announce a due date to them and then go do it.
If you have fully embraced the concept of failure, that’s great. Don’t worry; you’ll still fail. Often.
I fail all the time. And that’s ok.
Like my friend Bjorn Borstelman said in his IdeaMensch interview, “I always say the difference between thinking and doing is doing.”