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Failure Isn’t a Dirty Word

Posted by Andrea Keating on December 4, 2013

The word “failure” usually doesn’t evoke a positive reaction from the majority of individuals that have experienced it before, especially in the film and video world. Its negative connotations generally manifest our desire to avoid it at all cost. The fact that we try to avoid failure and the beautiful lessons that can be heeded from the experience can breed redundant shortcomings. If you desire to have more forward-thinking, innovation, and creativity within your current work environment changing the way failure is perceived can drastically turn things around.

Perception of Failing

The perception behind failure can certainly encumber one’s ability to be creatively productive. A famous quote by Thomas Edison comes to mind in which he states, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When we decide to take risks and challenge ourselves to break out of our comfort-zone failure can sometimes take place. It’s going to happen on occasion and your willingness to accept that it’s a possibility is essential. Another way to look at it would be ignoring its existence entirely or not validating the stigma that surrounds the word. When you consume yourself with thoughts of success you may deliberately try to avoid situations that pose a challenge. The fear of what’s at stake and the anxiety of dealing with the repercussions take precedent over the learning experience. Failure is a necessary and healthy learning experience that spawns leadership and critical-thinking skills.


Calculated risk-taking and a little stubbornness to accept that failure exists can render some fascinating outcomes. Dr. Seuss the now world renowned children’s book author had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers before getting that first yes. Henry Ford’s first auto business went out of business. These events did not signal failure to them, but actually laid the foundation for their future success. In the world of video production working through limitations and problem-solving issues are certainly common place. When you experience sync problems, camera malfunctions, or storage media problems how did you learn to remedy those issues as they arise? How did you discover and develop those new workflows you rely heavily upon now? The simple answer is you learned from trial and failure. The ability to provide viable solutions to remedy the obstacles that stand in front of you originate from the experience you gained over your career. That experience often times stems from failure, and the lessons learned from them can serve as the predecessor to future successes.

Video: Larry Smith “Why you will fail to have a great career.”



The Challenge

When you are untested, unchallenged, and comfortable with systematic mediocrity you will never be prepared for when more difficult challenges occur. Effective leaders cannot be born out of mediocrity. It’s a must that leaders are groomed through the process of failing. A good leader knows what it is like fail and then recover. The trial and error methodology comes to mind when thinking about how effective leadership is fostered. A director of photography learned how to manage personalities on set through application. The exploration and implementation of new practices were founded through the failures experienced on set. The wealth of knowledge veteran directors of photography have originates from years of trial and error. Growth cannot be developed or sustained without challenging yourself. Festering upon the implications that stigmatize failure will certainly thwart your ability to grow.

Share Your Experience

Let’s make this an open conversation. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from failure during your career? How did those lessons help you progress along in your career? Do you think one’s ability to handle failure makes them better suited in leadership roles? Let’s talk about!

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