Notes from the Discussion:

-How is failure perceived differently by different cultures (Mexico vs. USA, Bay Area vs. Cleveland, OH)? By different people (Optimists vs. Pessimists, Achievers vs. Status Quo, Manic Depressives vs. Even Keeled Folk)
-Accepting failure allows you to move on, but does accepting failure as a potential outcome make you more likely to quit when it gets hard? (self-fulfilling prophecy)
-Great Quote, Ben Casnocha: "Is failure like death? Accept and deal with failure when it comes, but fear it strongly before it arrives." [paraphrased, Ben -- feel free to clean up]
-Identifying yourself as a success makes you more likely to take on easy projects, because otherwise you might fail. Thinking of yourself as a success could seriously hinder reaching your potential
-"There are no failures, only games that aren't finished yet." -TK
-Lesson: Don't fail, stay in the game. Compared to Kobayashi Maru (paricularly pertinent quote from wikipedia: "Kirk replies, "I don't believe in the no-win scenario." Despite his having cheated, Kirk was awarded a commendation for original thinking."
-We can't beat ourselves up for not being immediately good at things, we must make an important distinction: "Things I can be good at w/o practicing vs. things I have to practice to be good at." This allows us to enjoy richer activities and be happier throughout the learning curve.
-Great quote, David Weekly: "Success doesn't provide introspection, failure does."
-True, but: "Adversity is not enough for a fool to become intelligent." - Cesare
-Elizer brought up the Happiness Set Cost Theory, which inspired a comment (from Dave Asprey, I think) about a researcher who's said to be using technology to incite a person's brain to mimic other "great" minds (Zen Meditation experts, nobel winners, etc.) with the goal of increasing potential, happiness and IQ.
-Perfection is about turning your error detection so high that you become neurotically detail oriented, this is the only way you can tackle problems "bigger than yourself."
-Great Quote, Chris Yeh: "Failure is signal from reality" -- it can be spun as either good or bad, but it simply needs to be accepted as a data point and dealt with accordingly.
- "Failure may be local, certainly perception of it is." -Michelle
- People handle failure very differently in every devided group.
-Further Learning Recomendations:
- "Codenamed Ginger" (book)
- "Hoop Dreams" (movie)

Afterwards, David Weekly said this to me, which I found amazing (this is heavily paraphrased, David please feel free to clean-up):
"Before starting a company, I read several business bios and learned that every business-person I admired had failed, numerous times, on their way to the top. So from that point on, I've looked at every failure in my business and checking off a long and annoying -- but finite -- checklist on the road to success."

Questions for:

Failing Forward: Dealing with and Learning from Personal and Professional Failure

If you haven't failed, you haven't lived.

Failure in pursuit of personal and professional goals is part of life. But this doesn't mean it is easy to deal with when it happens.

  • What behaviors and attitudes tend to lead to failure?
  • What are the best practices for dealing with failure when it happens?
  • How can we handle our emotions and maximize what we can learn from failure?

In this conversation seek to answer these questions, among others, through our normal mix of personal stories and experiences as well a more rigorous analysis of how and where we can optimize the failure process.


Menlo Park - January 15, 2009 - 11:45 AM - 1:15 PM
"Failing Forward"
Mohr Davidow Ventures
3000 Sand Hill Road, Building 3, Suite 290
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Ben Casnocha
Chris Yeh
Chris Byrne

Michelle Messina
Maria Pacana
Eliezer Yudkowsky
Cynthia Holladay
Chris Kelly
Jackie Danicki
David Weekly
Tyler Willis
Benjamin Abram
Bernard Moon
Dave Asprey
Katherine Barr
Tom "TK" Kuegler
Greg Putnam
Bob Karr

San Francisco - January 16th, 2009
"Failing Forward"
11:45 AM - 1:15 PM
44 Montgomery Street, Suite 4200
San Francisco, CA 94104

Ben Casnocha
Dane Holewinski
Steve Silberman
Jonathan Abrams
Tim Taylor
Anjan Sundaram
Dan Arkind
Andrew McKee
Brad Klapper
David Zetland
aguanomics, the blog
Susan Mernit
Jon Bischke
Jai Haissman