I was in conversation with my friend Thomas recently at the Creamery in Palo Alto, when he declared that one of his objectives for this year was “to double my failure rate.” This is based on his view that failure leads to success, Thomas Edison the iconic poster child for this viewpoint.
John Tamny adds emphasis to this point with his article in Forbes, “Congratulations to Ben Affleck, Hollywood’s Greatest Failure.” In recounting Affleck’s failed career trajectory since “Good Will Hunting”, Tamny makes some powerful points about the free market, suggesting that Affleck’s own failures led to his current success, and what a shame it would have been if his career and personal “errors had been cushioned, or bailed out as our political class so often does for banks, businesses and individuals.”
Considering failure in the perhaps more broad commercial sense, bailouts of business and individuals aren’t just cruel for them taking place on the backs of the prudent who are forced to pay for the mistakes of others, they’re most cruel for robbing the recipients of same of the certain teacher that is failure. Simply put, without failure there is no success; failure is merely a harsh word for the experience we all seek in our constant drive for self-improvement.
In short, the bailouts of 2008 and beyond didn’t just cost all of us in simple dollars, they also robbed us of a much greater economic recovery for those who erred not learning from their mistakes on the way to fixing them, not to mention poorly run companies built on bad ideas not being stripped of horrid management so that they would be run better, and employ more people.
Affleck is to be admired for his working through his failures on his way to his current success, and is an exemplar for my friend Thomas’ wisdom about his objective for the year. Don’t fear failure; it is simply a milepost on a journey of success. And don’t rob individuals of the opportunity which comes from failure.
It’s good advice for individuals, for parents, and for Governments.