09 February 2014

Fail to succeed

The secret of success is to be unafraid of failure. We may fail repeatedly on the journey to success, but if we are afraid to fail and ashamed to fail we will never experiment and so we will never reap the amazing rewards of success.

Success!
Success!
Paul Saffo is a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley.

When the BBC asked him to identify the secret of Silicon Valley's huge success, here is what he said.

The secret to Silicon Valley's success? We know how to fail and we have been doing it for decades. Failure is what fuels and renews this place. Failure is the foundation for innovation.

Failure is essential because even the cleverest of innovations - and businesses - fail a few times before they ultimately succeed.

Consider Google: at least half a dozen other companies tried to turn search into a business, but Google was the first to crack the code and turn search into a huge business.

And even when companies succeed, the only way to survive in the long term is to flee into the future by relentlessly innovating.

Church life fail? - If church in the West is to survive and flourish, we need to change the way we do things and the way we think. Church as we know it in the West has been retreating gradually for as long as I can remember. The same old ways will not do better tomorrow than they did yesterday.

How will failure help us succeed? It won't! So what does Paul Saffo mean by 'knowing how to fail'? What does he know that we don't?

It's not failure that brings success, but the willingness to fail. When the key to success is to do things differently it's essential that we experiment. Sometimes experiment fails. Perhaps it fails often. But sometimes it succeeds.

Trying new things, experimenting wildly, and not being afraid to fail - this is what has made Silicon Valley so successful. To succeed it's essential to have a dream and to run with it. And if it fails, try again with something else.

Church in the West needs to experiment madly without fearing failure. It's like surfing. Keep trying to catch the big wave. Sometimes you will miss and be left behind and will have to try again on the next wave. Sometimes you will catch it just right and be propelled forward at high speed. It will be exhilarating. The successes redeem the failures.

So if  you are involved in church life and there seems to be little or no progress, go and try a load of new ideas [Tweet it!]. When something works, run with it. You will be propelled forward at high speed and it will be exhilarating. Go for it!

Questions:

  • Which of the following strategies is most likely to succeed? Doing again what failed last time, or trying something new and untested.
  • You have never tried surfing. Do you expect to succeed or fail on your first attempt? Where will you go for advice, an experienced and successful surfer like the one in the photo or a novice like yourself?
  • Success is a common goal and driver in Western culture. Does this make it easier or harder to try out new ideas?

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