Creative Strategy
April 29, 2021

The right failure is often the catalyst to change

Open Reference

A spectacle almost 200 miles from the coast, there are surfers in the desert.

In the middle of the high desert where I live, a river cuts through town. Surfers line up with shortboards at dawn and past dusk to find some joy floating on the water.

I’ve heard others tell me it looks boring, but I’ve felt the addiction of these kinds of trials and errors. You try over and over, then everything clicks. You find your way without thinking, and then you are in a loop of satisfaction, wanting to feel that click again.

Watching the various styles, pumping legs, throwing hips, spinning, I see that failure (or quitting) gets them all. The expert exits with grace letting go of the rhythm and floating over the top of the wave and back into the river, the newcomers shutters on the board, holding on for 2 to 5 seconds, then feet are in the air.

I think creatives have this addiction to trials. Attempting is a drug—fear of the unknown sparks some excitement in life. But like the surfer, no matter how hard they fall, the goal is to fall and be able to try again.

There is a myth that creatives and leaders need to risk it all. There are moments of no return. But the right failure is often the catalyst to change. This is easier to understand after failure, but not when you are facing it.


What spectacle do I make?
Do those watching change what I do?
Or can I stay lost in the wave and find my own way?

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