Jason Fried

June 28, 2024

Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse

Failure is a word worth eliminating from your vocabulary.

There’s no reason to think about things that didn’t work out as failures.

Yet, it’s especially pervasive in entrepreneurial circles. It’s almost as if failure has been fetishized. Nearly worshipped as a right of passage, a prerequisite, a required step on the way.

I’m not here to say everything works out. Most things don’t. Plenty of things I’ve poured time and attention into never went anywhere. It can be disappointing. And, depending on what went into it, and what you're left with, it can put you in a perilous spot.

But, for your own good, it’s best to relativize things like this — especially when the odds are perpetually, and naturally, stacked against you.

Collecting losses, and becoming a connoisseur of catastrophe, won’t help you get a win next time around.

So, what instead?

For me, it’s a simple shift. I’ve always just felt that some stuff works out better than other stuff. I think that’s the healthiest way to think about it. Just a drop of relative recognition is all it deserves.

I also don’t think you’ll find that many lessons looking back on what didn’t work. You probably don’t really know why it didn’t work anyway. It feels good to imagine you do, but there isn’t a long history of people doing the same thing again, swapping this one wrong thing for another presumed right thing, and turning it all around. But if it was so easy to see what went wrong on reflection, shouldn’t there be turnaround stories everywhere you look?

More likely, it a swirling confluence of decisions, ideas, events, timing, conditions, and serendipity that drove it off the map.

It’s easy to reflect comfortably on convenient assumptions about the past, but real reasons happen in present conditions.

So yeah, some stuff works out better than others. That means some stuff doesn’t work at all. But it’s not a failure, and it doesn’t need a name. It just didn’t pan out as you hoped. Move on, look forward, learn by doing and not reviewing, and get on with it.

Next time isn’t that time again, it’s a time that never happened before.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.