What I Really Mean When I Say ‘Fail.’

Don't Stop Believin'

“There are people who build things and people who tear things down. Just remember which side you’re on.” — Sharon Ann Lee

There is a phrase I use a lot. I overuse it. A lot of my friends do, too.

The word is “fail.”

Fail can mean a lot of things. It can mean:

-Go try hard things, and see what works!
-Don’t be afraid to mess up!
-If it doesn’t succeed, that’s okay — it doesn’t mean you’re a failure!

But sometimes, when we just wrap all that in into that one word — fail — we lose a sense of what we’re really trying to say. Sometimes, I’ll find myself telling people that they should be willing to fail, and they think, “Dan doesn’t think I can do it.”

And that’s not it at all! If you’ve got the skill and hustle and the team, you can absolutely pull it off.

So if I’ve told you, “It’s okay to fail” or “Go fail fast,” I’m sorry. I can say it better.

This year, be willing to do difficult things. Be willing to go on adventures where you don’t know the outcome. Be willing to persevere.

Most of all: Be willing to do great work.

Yes, some of the work won’t live up to your standards. Yes, yes, some of the work will take you directions you didn’t intend.

What matters is you and your work, and that you keep going.

The only true failure comes when you decide that the work isn’t worth it anymore.

Everything else is just a stop along the way.