Move Fast and Learn Something.

Move Fast and Learn Something.

“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you aren’t moving fast enough.”
— Mark Zuckerberg
“Move fast and learn something. Unless you are learning stuff, you are moving too fast.”
— Danee Pye


"Fail forward" tattoo. Original image posted by brunchfriend on Tumblr

"Fail forward" tattoo. Original image posted by brunchfriend on Tumblr

In start up culture, embracing failure is a familiar sentiment. If you have any connection to Silicon Valley, digital anything, or entrepreneurs, you’ve undoubtedly seen some iteration of the the “Fail Fast. Fail Often.” mantra on a poster, coffee mug, or Instagram post, maybe even tattooed on someone’s arm as a daily reminder?

But the “Fail Cult” has always made me a little uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that failure is a necessary part of success. I believe in taking risks. But I’ve often wondered if people really ought to be embracing failure so wholeheartedly. I mean, does anyone really set out to fail? More importantly, should they?

Even Facebook seems to have had second thoughts about the value of failing fast. At a conference in 2014, Mark Zuckerberg amended the company’s well-known mantra “Move Fast and Break Things.” The older and presumably wiser Zuck would now like Facebook developers to “Move Fast with Stable Infra[structure].” As Brian Boland, the VP of ad technology at Facebook, explains: “In the past we’ve done more stuff to just ship things quickly and see what happens in the market. Now, instead of just throwing something out there, we’re making sure that we’re getting it right first.”

All of this reminds me of two of my dad’s mantras:

  1. Drive Fast. Take Chances.

  2. Have Fun. Learn Something.

The first bit of advice was mostly a joke (I think). Given my natural inclination to rebel against authority, he knew that if he said “Be safe! Drive carefully!” to his teenage daughters as we walked out the door, at least one of us (me) would feel compelled to do the opposite. So, maybe it was a joke, or maybe it was his attempt at reverse psychology. Either way, I think there was a bit of sincerity in there as well. My dad was never one to shy away from risk, and consequently, neither am I.

That second dad-ism was 100% sincere. My dad believed that learning should occur daily, and that it could and should be fun.

Maybe, in combination, my dad's advice provides the proper approach to failure. We shouldn’t shy away from it, but a failure is only valuable to the degree that we learn from it.

Isn't that what "fail fast" and "fail forward" mean? 

Maybe that's the real intention behind the cult of failure, but I worry that a lot of people and organizations, especially those who call themselves “entrepreneurs” and “startups” are only attempting to  “Drive Fast. Take Chances. Have Fun.” without stopping to “Learn Something.” I include myself in this bunch.

For the past year, I’ve been pretty focused on taking the leap of starting Common People United, overlooking any obstacles or setbacks, and believing all my own hype. I’ve been less focused on stopping to learn from those setbacks or to learn from others’ setbacks. If you were conscious during the first dot-com collapse and corresponding housing crash, you should have a pretty good idea of where that mentality leads us.  

So, for our second year of life, I’m reigning in the optimism at CPU a little bit. It’s not exactly going to be the year of “Move Fast with Solid Infra.” But, it’s along those lines. This year the plan is to do what we know works, learn from what doesn’t, and take calculated risks on ourselves first. To this end, we will be taking more risks with our own content, social media, and digital marketing, so that we can fail as fast and as often as necessary, but with the goal of learning things along the way and pass our findings on to others.

So, hey, if you haven't already, go ahead and follow us Facebook or Twitter. We can’t promise daily or even weekly content. We can’t promise "the best social marketing tips." We definitely cannot promise any Pinspiration. But we can promise that behind the scenes of whatever we publish, we’ll be driving fast, taking chances, having fun, and learning something.

And we can promise to share what we learn along the way.