James Piecowye thinking out loud

Ideas, inspiration and a bit of random.

Fail and Fail Big!

Posted on | March 18, 2014 | No Comments

Sure we hear this a lot but do we ever trust those words, fail and fail big?

In the academic world I would bet we shy away from failure for the simple fact that it can have an impact on our tenure or yearly assessment and we all want to look good.

But there needs to be some failure, educated failure, in our professional lives.

Failure is just a learning space.

And I know you are saying that is easy for me to say as an armchair observer.

Well you want to read the story of Fred Seibert the man behind some oddball animation.

“I said to Ted Turner, ‘Look, I just wasted $10 million of your money with 2 Stupid Dogs and Swat Kats, and they both were failures within a month.’ And he said [imitating Turner’s deep Southern drawl], ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘I’d like another $10 million.’”

Seibert got his money.

What Seibert learned developing those two shows was that when it comes to finding unique, oddball programming for kids—the kind of successes you can’t focus-group—your only ally is the law of averages. The idea Seibert and his colleagues at Hanna came up with (which eventually turned into Cartoon Network’s Cartoon Cartoonsand Nickelodeon’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons) would give any traditional network executive hives.

“We had to create a circumstance where we were allowed to fail at a very high rate,” Seibert explains.

If 10 pilots seems like a lot for a single season for any network, how about 48 pilots (“41 failures!” says Seibert, cheerfully) culled from a whopping 5,000 submissions? Granted, these were traditional, seven-minute cartoons like the Bugs and Daffy shorts of yore, not multimillion-dollar dramas. But $10 million is still $10 million, whether you spend it on foie gras or potato chips.

I guess the lesson here is simple, go out and do and be sure of yourself even when others aren’t.

Just do it! That is Nike but you get the idea.

And when you do it and it is a bust do it again but better.

And there are many people who will rain on the parade of ideas until you hit gold then they will be your best friends.

What does it come down to?



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