“No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy.” —Drew Baylor, Elizabethtown
I fell in love with this quote the second I heard it. It really resonated with everything going on in my life at the time. Fictional Drew Baylor became my hero.
Drew also said, “Failure is simply the non-presence of success. But a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions.”
Thomas Edison put it a different way. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Bob Ross, the afro’d artist of PBS fame, was known to say that when it comes to painting, “We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”
The varied nuances in these quotes take me down somewhat different mental paths. I have had failures, and I have experienced fiascoes. For the most part, I point to my years working in the public sector for both. Usually, debacles led me towards alternative paths that worked out just as well and occasionally better, even if it was after a good bit of fretting, fuming, bawling, and varying degrees of depression. I just had to keep an open mind, look for more workable solutions, and refuse to give up.
Failure can indeed open doors, at least for a person who is imaginative and alert to possibilities.
But it’s true there’s a difference between failure and fiasco. Failure doesn’t necessarily imply significance. You can fail to set the alarm clock. You can fail at making the perfect piece of toast. The world will not end.
I’ve definitely experienced a fiasco or two, especially in my career. The world didn’t end then, either, though there were times I thought it would. Mine, anyway. Inevitably, those fiascoes resulted from experiments to break molds, push boundaries, explore the unexplored, be better. Such paths aren’t always popular in the cautious, slow-moving, don’t-rock-the-boat, if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it world of the public sector.
Sometimes I was too eager to try the next big thing, assuming others would jump on my bandwagon. I failed to understand that a thing that was only my dream was destined for doom. I didn’t look for unintended consequences.
I didn’t imagine that they couldn’t imagine, or that they simply didn’t want to do the hard work. In my eagerness, I didn’t do my own hard work of laying groundwork, getting investment.
Sometimes, my ideas were just plain dumb! People were right not to dive in with me.
And on occasion, I made the very bad mistake of assuming people I thought of as mentors would stand behind me—or at least guide me. It was a painful lesson to learn otherwise.
As I look in my life’s rear view mirror, my career growing infinitely smaller behind me, I understand that it was always lofty goals which led to my efforts which in turn led to fiascoes. I’m proud of that. And painful as those moments may have been at the time, visible as some scars remain, I’m content in the knowledge that I wanted to make things better, that I knew how to dream.
Like Drew Baylor, I’d rather dream big and fail big than stumble along in mere adequacy.
Tip: watch this 2005 feel-good road trip movie (featuring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Paula Deen). You’ll be glad you did.