A Global Experiment in Failing #failweek

Image by Thomas Anderson, available under CC BY 2.0.

A Global Experiment in Failing #failweek

Written by Emilie

Topics: Goals

Last week I put out a massive call to the blogosphere, asking everyone to publicly share their most spectacular failures. Much to my dismay, failure week failed to live to its name- It wasn’t an epic fail at all! (The irony of which has been pointed out repeatedly throughout the week. #failedatfailweek)

The Twitter stream was buzzing all week long, with daily reports of failures rolling in moments after they happened. There were also 19 unique replies published on other blogs since Monday!

Failure Week did precisely what I had hoped and more. I now believe that if this experiment were repeated on a larger scale, it could result in massive social change.

Below are some observations I made throughout the week.

The celebration of failure in a community results in:

Increased Innovation and Productivity

On Tuesday, Eleanor Dowling wrote about her idea of harnessing the global conversation on Twitter to find out what people really think during the 2012 American presidential elections. This is an idea that could radically affect the way humans interact with the political process.

Or it might not work at all. But because Eleanor was working in an environment that celebrated failure, she allowed herself to dream up this idea, share it publicly, and get feedback and support in the way of resources and potential partners.

On a smaller (but no less meaningful) scale, Susannah Dee-Lite overcame her hangups and launched the blog she’d been wanting to start for years.

Oh and lets not forget the 19 blog responses. Writers’ block?  resistance? Not any more! Remove the stigma of failing and you destroy the fear that makes it so difficult to ship new ideas out into the world.

Increased Comradery, Connection and Understanding

In a world where we invest way too much emotional energy in judging others and comparing ourselves to the competition, it was nice to see strangers connecting and cheering each other on. More than a few friendships were born out of this mutual sharing of humanity. We all fail. We’ve all been there.

Increased Overall Happiness

Everyone’s moods seemed to be elevated this week. I noticed it in my own life. Just knowing that I could brag about all the little mishaps that happened throughout my day, made my day easier. Everything seemed lighter, the way it does after watching a really good stand-up comic point out the ridiculousness of modern life.

Possible Future Plans?

This experiment turned into so much more than a survey of successful people and a look at their past failures. More than anything, Failure Celebration Week inspired action.

It also inspired me. My wheels have been turning all week, as I’ve been thinking about ways to enlarge the idea and create something that I believe could have long-term transformative effects on both a personal and societal level.

A Round-Up of Response Posts

Thanks to all the wonderful “failures” who participated! #Failweek wouldn’t have worked without your honesty and your courage. We built something here…!

Your Turn

What Observations did You Make During Failure Celebration Week? Do you have any suggestions for morphing this idea into a massive world-changing monster of a project?

Remember, failure is the goal here, so post all of your terrible ideas and we’ll praise the hell out of them!

11 Comments

  1. Morgan says:

    I think you should do a #FailFriday, where everyone can proclaim their fail of the week. Because I don’t know about you or anyone else, but if you’re not failing at something each week, then you’re not living! ;)

    Fail Week was awesome and I hope to see what bigger and better things you plan on doing with it!

  2. Rob says:

    Emilie, this was a fantastic idea! my own post on this regarded something I’d never really thought much about, never mind written about, so thank you for the chance to contemplate more deeply that period of my life, it was a great exercise :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Rob,

      Glad I could help. :)

      I loved your contribution! I completely know that end-of-semester feeling (how much better is life post-uni?!), though I never went through anything QUITE that intense!

      You’ve been through so much though. And like you said, there’s major power in knowing your physical and psychological limits, which you now do.

      Still though… wow !

      btw good call on the not going to law school. (I think I’ve already told you that, but still. :)

  3. Seth says:

    Maybe you could create some kind of failure manifesto for young people so they can unlearn what they’ve learned about failure in school.

    The thesis could be something like this: now that you’ve passed your classes, it’s time to start failing.

    • Holli says:

      Love this idea. It’s true that school totally programs us this way…and society as a result. We praise babies when they are learning to walk, falling down everywhere, but slowly and fearlessly persevering.

      Thanks to Emilie and Abe for their candid dialog about this too on the podcast.

      I really enjoyed reading all the other readers comments, and the neat list of prompted posts by others.

    • Emilie says:

      Not a bad idea. I’m very passionate about education. One of my life goals is to start up a program for high school students related to self-employment/entrepreneurship. This might be a nice little portion of the course… Hm. Thanks Seth.

  4. Annie says:

    A friend of mine read a post i made today and said it reminded him of your article (this article).

    I’ve had a fail 3 years, by which i’ve been able to turn seemingly horrible events into a catalyst for change. Would love it if you would read and leave your comments. The link is below. p.s. love your blog. I’ll be reading it regularly.

    http://www.annieandre.com/2011/05/when-life-slaps-you-in-the-face-smile-and-slap-it-back-do-it/

  5. Janet says:

    man i totally missed this!! I would have been all on it. i did a couple failure posts towards the beginning of this year.. :)

    as for how to take this project on a bigger scale, i imagine you could totally head this on twitter with hashtags, host twitchats, live on a whole entire blog dedicated to Failure, etc. etc.

    the case study i’m thinking of is Customer Love.

    it would totally do great!!!

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