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You've probably heard the term "fail fast" several times before. It's a hot phrase used in startup culture. I believe in the mindset, just maybe not in the way others may believe.

What it does mean

When I think of "fail fast," I look at it as:

  • Not being afraid to take risks. No great reward comes without some degree of timely risk. You can't wait for 100% perfection before you ship things out.
  • If you aren't failing, you probably aren't trying anything new. Innovation is a direct result of trying new things - that's what makes it innovation.
  • Fail quickly = learn quickly. Identify where things went wrong and fix them as fast as possible.
  • Not obsessing over failure when it happens. None of us aren't King Midas and not everything we touch will turn to gold. If something goes wrong, don't waste time and move on. Persevere.

Test-fast,-fail-fast,-adjust-fast.What it doesn't mean

The term "failing fast" is also translated in other ways. In real life, here's what failing fast doesn't mean:

  • Not an excuse to be reckless or think things through. Risks shouldn't be blindly taken but have some logic or reason behind it.
  • Flying by the seat of your pants. In a social business world, we have to be flexible enough to make changes on the fly. That said, planning where you want to go and how you want to get there helps prioritize how you should adjust when the time comes.
  • Not looking back after you fail. Sure, you could fail quickly. If you don't take the time to learn from your mistakes, you'll "fail fast" again...in the fact that it'll take you less time to fail again.

I've seen very smart thinking come as a result of failing fast. I've also seen reckless decisions blissfully made because failing is a popular thing to do. We look at the failed endeavors of Thomas Edison or Abraham Lincoln and somewhat glorify them.

We aren't celebrating what they failed but the fact that they overcame obstacles to succeed. We're celebrating the hope for when things don't go as planned. I'm inspired that they tried many new things and finally found something that worked for them.

What does "fail fast" mean to you?