What is failure – 200 words project

April 27, 2015

Here is this week’s 200 words project:


“For instance, if you’re driving a car, and after three hundred miles the car runs out of gas, no one takes offense because the “failure” is inherent to the car, not to you. It’s not your failure to operate the car correctly. We all know that you have to refill the gas tank; that’s just the way it is. So if we think of failure in innovation in the same way—as having to refill the gas tank regularly—we can take it much less personally.”

Sebastian Thrun in Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact (The 99U Book Series)


This is one of the most beautiful and easily understood analogy for failure that I have come across.

Applying this analogy to my personal failure – of updating this blog as per my published schedule – I can indulge in self-flagellation for this sin, feel useless and give up.

Or, I can understand that this aspect of failure is built-in to me as a human. It stems from the fact that I cannot do too many things at the same time. Also it stems from the fact that I am still learning to be a professional in blogging. And then I need to recognize that this failure is really an opportunity, a lesson, a teaching which points me to where I should look at to improve next time.

From a diesel/gas car which needs to be refilled every 200 miles or so to the airplane engines which need to be refueled every 4000 miles or so to possible future cosmic energy powered space vehicles which never need to be refueled – this innovation can occur only once we hit the failure, acknowledge it and use it as the limit marker and then improve those points of failure, extend those constricting limits.

And all this can be done only if we don’t take it personally. This can be done if we look at it as a marker that it is, telling us “this is not the right path. Try something else” or “You are close but not there yet. Why don’t you tweak something and try again?”


About the 200 Words Project

Once every week, on Monday morning, I will post my ‘200 Words Project’ post where I will ruminate on some idea which caught my interest in the current book I’m reading, or maybe (sometimes) from a blog post or podcast – in 200 words or more, never less!

Tags: 200-words-project

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