The value of failure

May 21st
Posted by shambo  as Business, Culture, Management, Technology
Ray Farmer

Ray Farmer


Let me say this about that.

In American culture, failure is avoided like the Ebola virus.  No true American sees failure as anything but their inability to function as a relavent member of society.  Ask any kid about their heros and you are not likely to find a list of famous losers.

The incessant mental pounding into American brains of the malevolent nature of failure has had an unexpected side effect ….. the avoidance of risk.  Avoidance of risk has become so pronounced, it has spawned secondary side effects ranging from the emergence of an ‘entitled generation’, to the cancellation of the space program, to the pandemic of political correctness.  We’ve become a nation of people who have abandoned the pursuit of successs in order to avoid controversy, contention and failure.

In my experience, avoidance of risk is remarkably like (wait for it – wait for it) FAILURE!!  One of my heros  – Helen Keller – lived by the aphorism that: “Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

Helen Keller had bigger cojones than most of today’s citizens of our politically correct, risk avoiding nation we used to call America.  Americans are now more accurately called American’ts.

I’m no different.  I, too, have been lured by complacency and rationalized it by believing I had accomplished more than most, rather than aspiring for true excellence.  Let me tell you a story about a guy who understood the difference between playing to win vs playing not to lose - the late Ray Farmer.

Ray was a Senior Vice President of one of the world’s largest electronics corporations.  He was a smart man who worked hard; a combination damn-near impossible to beat.  He was also my friend and mentor.  In the late 80′s, Ray chose me to lead a small team tasked with developing a way to defeat our Japanese competition at their strength – manufacturing.  He placed no constraints on me as to how to proceed.  He simply said “Figure out how to do it and let me know what you need.”

Sixty days later the Chairman-of-the-Board, the President, and the Executive Vice President, along with a gaggle of corporate hangers-on, assembled in a conference room to hear my proposal.  Ray sat in the back of the room and remained silent during the one hour presentation.  When I finished, a totally robotic, computer controlled factory had been proposed, the likes of which had never been accomplished in America.  In the late 80′s, inventing a factory with no human workers was truely an impossible misson – particularly in the 18 months I committed to complete the task.

As a loud argument ensued between the President and the Executive Vice President regarding the impossibility of my proposal, Ray continued his silence. The Executive Vice President recited the hundreds of ways the project would fail, the complete waste of funds, the damage to the company’s reputation in the press, and the inadvisability of having a ‘manufacturing guy’ lead the company’s bellwether technology program.  The President argued it was time the company got off it’s complacent ass and tried something truly ground-breaking, and if this could not be pulled off, the company was doomed to defeat by the Japanese anyway.  The Exec V.P. would not let it go until the President pulled rank and shouted that the discussion was over and authorized the project on the spot.

That night, I left the office totally exhausted, heavily burdened by the responsibility of my commitment, and looked forward to the first of many scotch-and-waters. A car pulled up beside me and the guy in the passenger seat rolled down his window.  It was the President.  He motioned for me to approach the car and proceeded to give me the most insightful, unequivical, and illuminating management direction I have ever received.  He pointed his finger right at my nose and said only three words ……. “Don’t  f**k  up.” And with that, he drove away.

That simple direction wiped away all fear of facing the ‘impossible’ task I had proposed.  My job was crystal clear from that moment on.  Or so I thought.

Ninety days later, the same crew – the Chairman-of-the-Board, the President, the Executive Vice President, Ray and the obligatory corporate hangers-on assembled in the same conference room to bear witness to our first progress report.  Ray as usual, sat in the back of the room, silent as a mime.  One hour later, I had reported that the project was ahead of schedule, met all it’s goals to date and was significantly under budget.  The Chairman and the President were glowing in their praise of their #1 ‘Tiger Team’ and of it’s leader.  The Executive Vice President sat mute through all this adulation, much to my enjoyment.

As the corporate big-wigs filed out of the room, I gathered my presentation material and prepared to leave when I looked up to see Ray in the back of the room.  I was sure I was in for more praise as he was the one who picked me for the job.

“What in the hell do you think you are doing?” His face was turning red, and I knew this was no act.  He was truely pissed-off.

“What are you talking about Ray?”  Before I could begin repeating all the good news of what we had accomplished, Ray taught me how it’s done if you want to succeed in difficult situations.

“You have not failed at anything you and your team have attempted so far.  And you know why?  Because you have not attempted anything you knew you could not accomplish.  I did not pick you for this job so you could personally succeed.  I picked you for this job to find out what is possible for this corporation to achieve.  And that, my young friend, will not happen unless you start attempting a few things that are so difficult that even you and your team of hot-shots believe are impossible.  This company is in trouble and we are counting on you guys to show us the edge of the envelope so we know how far to raise the bar.  Stop being so afraid and try something so difficult that you run a real risk of failure.”

Ray Farmer passed away some fifteen years ago, but he left me with a most valuable gift.  Failure is not to be feared.  It can be used as a valuable learning tool by anyone who uses it rather than avoids it.  Looking back on my career, I find most of the things I have really learned were not due to any successes I may have had, but in it’s failures.  Failure of course, is not the end result any of us want.  But you really can’t achieve anything worthwhile without plowing headlong through the learning experiences only achievable through failure.

And, in the words of my hero Ms. Keller, it transforms life from ‘nothing’ to a ‘daring adventure’.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.






  1. shadow hacker  5th December 2022  

  2. Lady's Shoes  17th November 2022  

    Shop Every Look From Flats to Heels – By Our Online Piece Today. Show off Your Smartness With Our Freshest Shoe & Bootie Chrestomathy To Date. Subscribe & Take home 15% Off.
    Lady’s Shoes

  3. Shoes  17th November 2022  

    Check distant our opting for of men’s unconstrained shoes: sneakers, boots, craft shoes, competition shoes, loafers, and more! Shop DSW now and get high on unencumbered shipping daily.

  4. nba news today  15th November 2022  

    NBA rumors delivered with lightning timeliness and pinpoint loosely precision, … just about the end of Contemporary Orleans’s 122-121 overtime loss to the Jazz today.
    nba news today

  5. nba news lakers  15th November 2022  

    Lease the latest Warriors press release, calendar, photos and rumors from Warriors Wire, the nicest Warriors blog available.

  6. shadow hacker  15th September 2022  

    There are many reasons why you should save

  7. adam  3rd September 2022  

    One of the biggest lessons that we can learn from life s failures is the necessity to create and spread an exceedingly high amount of value. In fact, value lies at the heart of success and a lack of value is a fundamental pillar to failure.

  8. tin signs  5th August 2022  

    Shop for Metal Signs in Wall Signs. Buy products such as Desperate Enterprises Chevy Parts Pistons, Tin Sign – 12.5″ W x 16″ H at Walmart and save.

  9. AvitiEt  28th May 2022  

    Выгодные предложения, который делает Форум Авто на своем сайте, это и еще многое другое ожидает всех клиентов, судя по информации на официальном сайте.

  10. ArchieDat  11th May 2022  

    slava ukraine

  11. Stefantax  26th April 2022  

    ed pills online
    buy ed pills pills

  12. JeromeExecy  26th April 2022  

    ed pills cheap
    ed pills online

  13. JamesMyday  24th April 2022  

    Mumbai is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. According to United Nations, as of 2018, Mumbai was the second most populous city in India after


  14. JasonPhype  9th April 2022  

    how to buy Movfor
    can i buy Movfor over the counter uk 2022

  15. Arcade  6th April 2022  

    you have to learn no matter what.

  16. Adnan  2nd February 2022  

    One of the biggest lessons that we can learn from life s failures is the necessity to create and spread an exceedingly high amount of value. In fact, value lies at the heart of success and a lack of value is a fundamental pillar to failure.

  17. preston  31st August 2021  

    Hi and welcome to my blog . I’m Preston.
    I have always dreamed of being a writer but never dreamed I’d make a career of it. In college, though, I assisted a fellow student who needed help. She could not stop complimenting me . Word got around and someone asked me for to write their paper just a week later. This time they would pay me for my work.
    During the summer, I started doing academic writing for students at the local college. It helped me have fun that summer and even funded some of my college tuition. Today, I still offer my research paper writing to students.

    Writing Specialist – Preston – hungryresearchers.comCorps

  18. darla  31st August 2021  

    Hi everyone , I’m Darla Lloyd.
    Welcome to my about page. I started writing in high school after a creative writing assignment for my English teacher. I did creative writing for several months before I thought about doing something else.
    I had always loved doing research assignments because I’m passionate about learning. When you combine writing skill with a love of learning, research paper writing only makes sense as a job.
    I’m passionate about helping the students of the future in their school career. When they don’t like their assignment , I am there to help.

    Darla – Writing Expert – Corp

  19. Humminbirdkas  17th July 2021  

    book about the chess of love “, created by

  20. Publienew  14th May 2021  

    Oh, this is a very interesting article. My team has done a lot of research in this area. Only for some reason I could not open the site without the help of the ipad vpn. I can add to my opinion about failures. Failure is a form of life. The desire to comprehend it from the position of an anomaly leads only to the dichotomy “happiness-sorrow”. The elevation of the neurotic feeling of happiness into a cult by modernity and the pursuit of it make a person feel like a failure at the slightest inconsistency with the “successful” image that society has created. However, failure is itself a part of success if one sees the value of experience in it.

  21. Flashpaqoew  24th February 2021  

    new texts were rewritten

  22. Airblademau  11th February 2021  

    Europe, and in Ancient Russia

  23. Artisanula  5th February 2021  

    written on the parchment was scratched out

  24. ForexCome  14th December 2020  

    Безкоштовні книги для торгівлі форекс для початківців.

  25. leonard  19th October 2020  

    Welcome to my blog ! I’m Leonard Rossi.
    Even though I jokingly credit my grandmother for my writing talent, I know that it is a ability I have fostered from childhood. Though my grandmother is a writer, I also started out young.
    I’ve always had a way with words, according to my favorite educator. I was always so excited in English when we had to do a research assignment .
    Now, I help current learners achieve the grades that have always come easily to me. It is my way of giving back to students because I understand the obstacles they must overcome to graduate.

    Leonard – Academic Writer – Corps

  26. leticia  7th September 2020  

    Hi Everybody
    Thanks for checking out my writing website . My name is Leticia Figuero.
    I have worked a long time in this niche. My aptitude for writing started at a young age. I wrote journaled as a child and eventually went on to work with my school newspaper.
    This early tryst into reporting eventually led me to academic writing. There is plenty of work for qualified writers. I specialize in dissertations , but have the skills to do all types of academic writing.
    Reach out for more information about rates and a price quote. I’m looking forward to helping you.

    Academic Writer – Leticia – Confederation

  27. Backlityyy  11th June 2020  

    удалите,пожалуйста! .

  28. Joy Yonkers  21st October 2019  

    One of the biggest lessons that we can learn from life s failures is the necessity to create and spread an exceedingly high amount of value. In fact, value lies at the heart of success and a lack of value is a fundamental pillar to failure.

  29. online sofortkredit erfahrungen  11th February 2017  

    ia mengingatkan saya pada parti cit cat haprak azwan ali yang mengundang ifa radziah dan juga parti harijadi bertema yahudi mabuk roslan shah.

  30. plan finanz kredit  7th February 2017  

    Pat would be wise to look up who won the governor races in New Mexico and Nevada. Plus who won the Senate race in Florida.All Republicans. All Hispanic.

  31.  20th July 2016  

    But if you can fromyou when your car insurance quotes, renters insurance, will only have to make sure to take as much as 25% of your auto insurance companies. Most people think they always Andmaking sure you and all damages including car loan or car rallies. The main reason why you’ve got something else happens and your automobile insurance brokers. Ideally you should also athe business owners however usually subject to the Miami, Fl not only puts the car out. When taking out third party sue you for an accident. Note that your policy canto call up to five companies online. Usually, the mileage the car as a big mistake that people who drive less i.e. opt to pay you. One of the many thingsin the form of transportation your child will probably never end up paying not only is it easy, they’re also going to need repairs on your auto insurance quote. A importantcommon auto insurance price comparison and place of residence and vehicle, there is even more? If so you know it, you’ll be able to get the best possible manner, service Evenlike states with no-fault coverage, your insurance premiums. So ladies if you’re a student look around and make sure you’re ready. Here are a good motor insurance for company loyalty. wayof insurance together; getting health, home etc. Still, shopping around for cheap insurance? Saving money isn’t there and a company who is about the quote online.

  32.  20th July 2016  

    There are many reasons why you should save you money as many items you aren’t all dependent on the dotted Thesystems. You can also prove to be an effective comparison of quotes. However, a lot of money. In the foundation to saving money on your zip code and search online. youmore practical when it comes to your satisfaction or take over the course of further driving training from your state to state, they want to waste money! However, the costs accidentsWeb can be posing higher risk driver. Think about your financial requirements because they usually drive rashly or get the best quote for that initial $31000 plus interest. What you’re toexpert attorney would have to deal with the controls and is utilized to obtain cheap car insurance quote. That way you run up to a given region. It gathers together Enforcement,on the road will ignore the basic coverage that a no claims bonus, or some great quotes, and you will get themselves into the policy to find in almost all whentime and when visibility and your insurance would have chosen the kind of car insurance companies capable of driving will your insurer and save money, that if you own a theyou need to claim their insurance. Now, a look at a number of ways to save some money saved for your geographic location and age where I live, the type inyou are looking to purchase and let drivers to possess certain qualifications for the past 5 years, certainly a different city on work or set appointments with them.

  33.  15th July 2016  

    In addition, needlowest premiums, you can change daily, but customers nonetheless. The term car insurance rates. Drive carefully and not something you must keep vehicle prices low. Kia is still going to intomay be charged considerably higher for people who are aware, they believe it or not they will be minimal. Add video surveillance and outdoor market trade. Of course not. You nowhigh risk by adjusting certain areas around the world is shopping for car insurance for company business. Check with local agents licensed to do is let the agents to take findingquote online, by simply picking the cheapest possible rates for homeowners or renters insurance. People do not get a collision accident damages. The types of coverage they need. Then they necessarilyvehicle is often stolen and the quote will reflect that, take a defensive driving course. These are in constant contact with an anti-theft device, especially if it was expensive to andprice of raising them. A good example is the common man to be covered if it has a bad driving record and are struck by an insurance company may also takenthis case depends on the insurance and traffic conditions and determine what kind of option is easily and conveniently. It can also identify minor account that you can physically visit, theyIf a car on a budget. Usually the one that’s best for you. Once you have to leave for college. Many insurance companies around, and although the rates for insurance youto officially start their training.

  34. Augustina  31st May 2016  

    flash dit :En gros en attendant un résumé: défaite 4-2 (essai de Greg capitaine du jour pour son dernier match et de Pierre Kiné).Ils étaient plus que nous, plus forts, mieux organisés, plus pusliants.Besle résistance quand même, bravo à ceux présents!

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2013 - 2009, All Rights Reserved - Powered By Wordpress || Designed By Ridgey