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Sam Davidson's blog

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Fame Through Failure

One of my new favorite shows is Ice Road Truckers. The show follows a handful of guys as they brave the winter roads between Yellow Knife and the diamond mines near the Arctic Circle. Because of the terrain in northern Canada, with lakes and land randomly scattered, there are only 2 months out of the year when it's cold enough for the lakes to freeze. At this point, a sort of 'ice road' develops and 18-wheelers can drive much needed supplies to the mines.

Of course, these drivers are hauling many thousands of pounds of gear on 18 inches of ice, so danger is just part of the game. The main drivers profiled are both rookies and veterans on the ice road. Many of them do it for the money - a good driver can earn $50,000 for just 60 days of work.

As TV does, the only time you see another driver that is not part of the main 6 is when they end up in a ditch. Week after week, the audience is treated to 10 minutes worth of footage of some guy who made a mistake and slid off the ice with a huge water tank or 20 tons of mining concrete.

This means that this driver's one shot on TV was when he messed up.

As media becomes more democratized, it's easy to glorify the negative and honor the stupid. I'm sure that the majority of YouTube content is made up of folks acting stupid. The reason America's Funniest Home Videos is still around is because we all love to see some kid hit his dad in the crotch or someone wipe out while snowboarding. We forever emblazon individuals as 'That Guy Who Fell Off the Tractor and Landed in a Pile of Cow Crap.'

While all of this is good for a few laughs and a departure from our daily routine, it can easily make some of us even more afraid of failure. When we mess up, someone usually sees it, knows about it, and gets on our case for it. If we magnify that by a million strangers, then the cost of failure rises, and with it, the cost of even trying.

And when people are afraid to try, we all miss out on the beauty that lies in possibility.

Fear of trying is why people don't start conversations that lead to friendships.
Fear of trying is why new ideas don't get implemented that cut down on bureaucracy.
Fear of trying is why the next big idea just stays in someone's head.
Fear of trying is why pictures don't get painted, songs don't get written, and stories don't get told.

The best organizations - the ones that will still be around for our kids to lead - will be those that not only glorify success over failure, but those that encourage all employees, volunteers and customers to try.

Try to make our product better.
Try to come up with a more effective way to recruit volunteers.
Try to listen to others.
Try to improve our services.
Try to understand why this isn't working.
Try to initiate a new incentive program.
Try to be better, work smarter, and dream bigger.

Whether you're the low person on the totem pole or the head honcho, try to do something new. Failure will always be there, but he eventually goes away. Success, on the other hand, will stay with you always. After all, it was Aristotle who said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

And we still talk about that guy.