I have decided.  I want a Fail Whale of my very own.

When Twitter experiences an outage, users see the following image and an error message “Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.”

Instead of making excuses or blaming others, Twitter accepts its failures gracefully and with a sense of humor.  Hence, my idea of having my own personal Fail Whale.  I love this image – the birds representing support and someone kindly lifting up the whale after his failure.  The whale looks relieved, doesn’t he?

Too often, we are so rigid with ourselves and so afraid of failing that we never try anything new.  The “what if’s” start eating at us and before you know it, we’re sticking to things that are safe and familiar.

Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody” and one of the keynote speakers at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in April, addressed our (as in nonprofits) fear of failure in his speech.  Some quotes from that keynote:

  • “We spend more time figuring out whether something is a good idea than we would have just trying it.”
  • “Fail informatively – Fail like crazy.”

I recall him saying that it’s better to have five good ideas then one great idea…and even better to have 20 okay ideas than one great idea or five good ideas.  That we nonprofits tend to over-analyze and over-plan instead of just jumping in and giving new ideas a try.  Sound familiar?

Why do we spend so much time in the analysis and planning phase?  I think it’s because it puts off the implementation phase…the phase where you actually have to do something rather than just thinking about doing something.  See, when you are simply thinking about doing something, that’s failure-free.  (If you daydream about failing, please call me and I’ll Google a therapist in your area.  That’s just not normal.)  It’s when we take action that the possibility of failing becomes a reality.

This is not to say that failing should go unnoticed or unaddressed.  We just need to be less harsh with ourselves when we fail.

Ever beaten yourself up about anything?  I have…loads and loads of times, for days and days, even.  Sample mental self-talk:  “You are such an idiot.  Why did you do that?  Why did you say that?  Why didn’t you say this?  People are going to think you’re a total moron.”  And so on and so forth.  What we should be doing instead is dealing with ourselves in a nurturing manner.  Accept the failure, glean the lessons from it, and move on:  “Yes, I made a mistake.  Yes, I see where I could do or say that differently next time.”  Put up your Fail Whale and keep at it.

Watch the entire Clay Shirky keynote here:  http://blip.tv/file/2148546/