Fail Early and Fail Fast

Andrew Stanton: 'Spielberg and I compared notes on ET and Wall-E'.

The advice “Fail early and fail fast” may seem a little odd, coming from a country where the best of us still value winning, innovation, and success.

But this piece of advice actually stems from one of this country’s greatest and most innovate minds, storyteller, director, and animator Andrew Stanton. You’re familiar with his work on Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

I learned this advise first-hand recently. I’m currently immersed in a book project that’s literally taking all I’ve got. While I’m excited about it, a lot hangs on the line (more details to come). While I started off making good headway, the last week or so has really brought me down.

The stamina and determination were still there – it’s not a matter of completion. It’s a matter of content. I was struggling through the material, unable to make it convey to readers and myself (first a reader, then an author). With my brain stuck in the proverbial mud of anti-creativity, and with the clock running against me, I had to think back to my heroes of the craft of storytelling and I was directed to a book I recently read by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc. 

In it, he describes one of Stanton’s mottos while coaching his team on a film. “Fail early and fail fast.” The philosophy behind it is that we’re not perfect; we’re going to make mistakes. So seeing that failure is inevitable, fail early and fail fast. You basically have to ask yourself the tough questions early on: “Will people benefit from my work?”

“Will people really read this?”

“Is this really the best I can do?”

For me, the question was, “Am I having fun with this still?”

I had turned fun and entertainment into all work and all business. No one wants to read a book from an author who did not have fun and employ a liberal sense of creativity flowing through his/her book.

So today, I’m choosing to fail early and fail fast. I’m tearing out the last few pages I labored over. It’s better to do it now rather than later (trashing five pages instead of ten).

To put it into a picture, it’s like a maze on one of those children’s menus. You trace your Crayon through the labyrinth and, if you’re directionally challenged like myself, you’re going to hit a lot of dead-ends. Same with creativity.

So I ask you: Do you have the courage to fail early and fail fast? Back out, tear up, turn around, and start over in the right direction.

For more inspiration, join my Facebook Author Page.


About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

20 Responses to Fail Early and Fail Fast

  1. Teranomy says:

    Reassures and motivates to create. Thank you gor the post.

  2. I am asking myself these very questions concerning my book.

  3. Pingback: Failing Forward | Shandra White Harris With Heart Wide Open

  4. michnavs says:

    you have made me think hard ….

  5. toyra99 says:

    I enjoyed your post. I have a similar saying…..”I like making mistakes. As long as no one gets hurt and it doesn’t cost too much money, then making mistakes is just a step in the process of eventually getting it right.” I’m not talking about writing here. I’m talking about everything else…..but I guess you could include writing. Anyway, like I said, I enjoyed your post very much. Thanks.

  6. hopecarrart says:

    You write, I paint. I’m older, almost 63, I’ve painted for 25 years and there is nothing that you are experiencing that I don’t know about – days and days of work to tear up and begin again, or in my case throw the whole painting into the bathtub and wash it all down- there is a Catholic term for this it’s call Extreme Unction. which is the last rites. Now, I’m sure they did not mean for it to be related to paintings, but as far as I’m concerned, once I’ve given the painting another chance, its do or die. I hate to say it but I actually like the sense of concentration and overdrive that I experience with this cleansing process. It actually helps me to think differently, too. Our jobs as artists are to give the reader/ viewer enough information to excite their own imagination without constipating them. I really like reading your posts and the ease in which you invite us into your life. Thanks.

  7. swamiyesudas says:

    Hello, Andrew! …As I wrote on Your Facebook Page, I write because I feel that certain things Need to be told.

    As a Speaker, particularly when I was speaking in front of Church Audiences, I was Very Well received. But as a Writer, in terms of Like and Shares, I am not so hot!

    But I find that Every once in a while I find People becoming Very Enthusiastic indeed in Social Affairs, and that more than makes it up for all the long years of hard work. 🙂

  8. The creation process is so hard and scary and disconcerting and exciting all at once. Keep on keepin’ on! 🙂 You words could be the next viral internet quote. 😉

  9. the-new-abc says:

    Great post — I’ve also always like Samuel Beckett’s corollary of, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

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