Failing Forward

I've always been a believer that failing forward (learning from your failures) is a major motivator for improvement. If you do something you've always been able to do and you're successful, what do you learn? I listened to a fantastic Bill Simmons podcast today featuring comedian, director and writer Louis C.K. If you haven't seen Louis' show on FX, you're really missing out on something off-beat and endlessly creative. It took Louis a lot of failures to get to the point where he could get creative control on a project, but also to realize that that was what he needed to be happy with a final product.

During the podcast, Simmons asked which of his failing situations was the most traumatic for him and Louis automatically correct him by saying that they were learning experiences. He wasn't just failing, he was failing forward. He'd had a rough time writing for the Dana Carvey show and his amazing standup routines on late night television came a few years too late for them to do him much good. He came up with an idea for pilot that was rejected and then actually filmed a pilot that was also rejected. When he finally got a show onto the air, "Lucky Louie" on HBO, it only lasted for one season. After all of these failures, he totally could have given up, but he kept doing what he was passionate about. He loved writing and performing comedy. Each of these failures only pushed him to get better at what he did and to learn more about his craft. Louis wasn't failing, he was failing forward.

Nowadays, Louis has a great deal of control over what he does. His show on FX just got picked up for a third season. He doesn't even have to run the scripts by the network because of the deal he struck in the show's infancy. He is a writer and comedian with such integrity for his work, he probably took much less money than he could have made from the show in order to make something he was proud of. How often have we settled for less than our best work just so we could get a paycheck out of it? I've done this several times in relation to my writing and seeing how Louis values creative integrity is more than a little inspiring to put in my all.

Louis has also created his own standup special that he's completely funded on his own and is selling on his website for just $5. My girlfriend and I watched the special the other night and it was more than worth $5. Check out the special by clicking here. If you're feeling like you keep failing when you try to do something you love, just do what Louis did. Keep doing it and eventually you'll find success. 

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  • Done with Failing Forward? Go back to Motivation Techniques. 

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    Written by Bryan Cohen

    Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.
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