Monday, March 16, 2009

Fail Faster to Succeed Sooner

This weekend I stumbled across one of those rare gems in the blogosphere: intersected and its creator Jamie Varon. Ms. Varon is a woman with her priorities in order. She started a job, spent two weeks there, realized it wasn't worth it and quit (w/o another job lined up). What has she done since then... hmmm, started an awesome blog, become a guest contributor to Brazen Careerist , and created a campaign to get hired by Twitter. My opinion? This lady doesn't need Twitter to hire her. She's found her calling. Check out her site for some no-nonsense, follow your passion, get the job of your dream advice.

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to examine my job search under Varon's "6 Ways to Not Play it Safe " framework. Last year, I actually got a little high minded and set a motto for 2008: fail faster to succeed sooner. Of course, I didn't realize just how soon the universe would help me achieve the first part of my motto by unexpectedly laying me off...three weeks after returning to work from maternity leave.

So, anyway, I pretty much dedicated my year & job search to not playing it safe. But did that philosophy work in my favor? Here's how I measure up against Varon's 6 rules...

1. Go against what everyone tells you to do
Example: Turned down job offers while still unemployed, holding out for a "dream job" and "dream salary."
Result: Got offered a "dream job" and "dream salary" two months later.

2. Listen to your heart and not your logic
Example: My logic told me, "You are under qualified to take this position!" My heart said, "Who cares? You'll learn! Take the position!"
Result: Took the job. It wasn't all pretty, but I learned a hell of a lot more than I would have had I taken a "safer" position at a more established company.

3. Put yourself out there

Example: Arranged informational interviews with anyone who would take my call; put myself in uncomfortable situations; and pitched my skills to strangers.
Result: Awkward? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. I met people who became mentors; received useful advice; and ultimately scored a job.

4. Dance on stage, sing karaoke, be a volunteer at a magic show
Example: Became a regular at a weekly poetry open mic. Read my work to a crowd of strangers.
Result: One of my poems was published on a bus. Met some cool people. Wrote a poem everyday for a month. Allowed myself to feel okay with reading stuff that wasn't perfect.

5. Be clear on your dream(s)

Example: Wrote down my dreams at the start of my search. Then proceeded to have an actual dream (like at night) that not only predicted my exact salary (okay, w/in $500), but also the location (two blocks south of the building I would work in, and the only landmark in the area I would have recognized in a dream).
Result: Offered a job in alignment with the dream description and the "dream" salary & location.

6. Fail
Example: Despite doing everything humanly possible to get a job at one of my favorite organizations (a job I was out of my mind convinced I'd get), I failed to even make it past the first interview (that really hurt). I bawled my eyes out.
Result: A mere five hours after getting my heart crushed, I got a job offer to be the COO at an innovative start-up.

The long & short of it?
Not playing it safe will get you places. Varon's list is a useful frame work for job searching & life. The challenge is to keep up the momentum. To continue to push yourself to the limit. To never stop dreaming. To be uncomfortable. To take risks. To fail faster to succeed sooner.


  1. Wow, Katie, this is a great post. Thank you so much for writing this. You have truly made my week!

    I'm so happy to hear this whole story and has inspired me! I look forward to more of your posts.

  2. A perfect motto to live by...thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Jamie, so glad you enjoyed the post -- you're a true inspiration. Thanks for providing such a useful framework for getting the most out of life.

    Corey, glad you like the motto!

  4. Katie, I adore your blog. I've been telling absolutely everyone about it and am so proud to know you. Side note: I just noticed that we commented on the same article on RecessionWire..."Should Yuppies Take Food Stamps"...small world!

  5. Bernadette...first off, how cool we both commented on the same Recessionwire article?! Second, thanks for your comments and for spreading the word. Reading about your road trip inspired the heck out of me. Hope you're in DC again soon!

  6. Katie,

    I understand the point behind "failing faster." However, I've never been a fan of the "fail faster" philosophy. I offer a contrarian point of view in the post below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


    M. Ryan Williams