Big Fish and a Nod to Failure

I love the movie Big Fish. I’ve watched it at many different points in my life and received a new underlying message each time. I recently sat down and enjoyed it again and came to an interesting conclusion: we often find meaning in unlikely places. Let me explain.

The world around us is comprised of dichotomies: good and evil, right and wrong, success and failure. In general, society teaches us that one is fundamentally better than the other. Good is better than evil, and success is greater than failure, period.

Screw that. I would argue we often find the most meaning in our pursuits when we embrace the ‘socially prescribed’ lesser of the two. So in launching a company, I urge you to come embrace the dark side.

At its very core, Big Fish plays with the simple dichotomy between fact and fiction. The patriarch in the movie is a great storyteller because he embraces the fictional and the embellished.  Much in the same way, we as entrepreneurs must embrace failure in order to become successes. There’s one problem, fear.

Fear is crippling. Our fear of failure snuffs out our courage to innovate and to take risks, but it doesn’t have to. The only reason we are afraid to fail is because of this pervasive belief that failure is unacceptable when success is an option. Be gone with that droll I say! It’s okay to fail. In fact, I would encourage it.

Perhaps I’m leaning towards the extreme, but it illustrates a point. Entrepreneurs need to liberate themselves from that fear in order to succeed, and the only way to do that is by demystifying failure. Share your stories of failure. I love hearing of my mentors’ shortcomings, and I love sharing my own. In sharing those stories we create an environment where its okay to fail, and in doing so, also make it okay to take risks and dare to succeed.

After watching Big Fish, the moviegoer is supposed to come to the conclusion that sometimes fiction is a powerful supporter of fact. After reading this I hope you come to a similar conclusion, that sometimes failure is a powerful supporter of success.

I would rather build my success on a foundation of failures than live atop the precarious tower of triumph, but hey, maybe I’m one of the crazy ones.