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Failure IS an option

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The only difference between a master and a beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried. When going through a creative process, every artist, designer, inventor and engineer will experience setbacks and failures; moments when things go wrong.

Not everything you create will be a success first time round. Don’t start to doubt your creative abilities. Failing is not always failure. Noteworthy, winning products are rarely the result of one-offs. They’re the culmination of time, thought, planning, insight, lots of practice, testing, a pinch of foresight, more testing, a dash of inspiration, more testing and practicing. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t working hard enough.

Case in point: Inventor, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to invent the lightbulb, before getting it right, and his teachers said he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because, ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’ Years later, Disney is raking in billions of dollars from merchandising, movies and theme parks based on his creative ideas.

Everyone making art (or inventing a product) has to experience failure or nothing happens!

The most important question to ask yourself when you fail is, “What have I learned from this?”


Samsung learnt that testing is crucial

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7

In 2016, The Note 7 – one of Samsung's flagship phones – was susceptible to catching fire and exploding spontaneously. The phones were banned on all flights, and Samsung had to recall the entire line thanks to this engineering failure.

Fire damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7.


Cadbury NZ learnt that brand loyalty can be fleeting

Cadbury NZ's palm oil chocolate

Confectionery giant Cadbury caused a stir in 2009 when it was revealed it had substituted cocoa butter with vegetable fat, including palm oil, in its chocolate recipe. Palm oil is a contentious ingredient, its plantations contributing to global warming and intensive habitat destruction leading to the deaths of orang-utans in Indonesia and Malaysia. While Cadbury NZ eventually bowed to consumer pressure and announced it would ‘put things right’, the once loved New Zealand company took a major hit as a result of the incident, dropping to 36th place after six years of being our most trusted brand in the 2010 Reader's Digest Trust Survey.

Cadbury PalmOil


Coke learnt that being original and being yourself will always get better results

Coke’s New Coke

Those born in the '70s, and earlier, will remember the drink war between Coke and Pepsi in the '80s. Coke was beginning to lose ground to newcomer Pepsi. People who were purchasing regular colas seemed to prefer the sweeter taste of Pepsi-Cola. In response, Coca-Cola tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi. However, the American public's reaction to the change was negative, even hostile, and ‘New Coke’ was a major marketing failure. Coke abandoned it after a few weeks and went back to its old formula.

Ad for New Coke


RJ Reynolds learnt that timing is everything

RJ Reynolds ‘Premier’ smokeless cigarettes

In the 1980s, just as anti-smoking campaigns were gaining traction, company RJ Reynolds put $325 million into a new product: smokeless cigarettes. Needless to say they didn’t take off. People didn't buy them, and after four months they were gone. Fast forward a few years to 2016, and the rise of the e-cigarette. Clearly, this was one product invented before its time.

Ad for Premier cigarettes


Failure is a natural part of the creative process and you need to fail in order to learn how to succeed. What sets apart the successful from the unsuccessful is fortitude and the ability to keep going despite failing; to be able to approach their work from yet another angle.


Learn more about the Creative Spiral, the creative learning process that underpins all the art classes, courses and diploma programmes at The Learning Connexion.



  • Cathy de Seton
    01/07/2017 2:19am (7 years ago)

    Lisa great addition to the "F" word...

  • Lisa Drinnan
    26/06/2017 11:03pm (7 years ago)

    Fantastic reminder that the "F" word we never like to hear is NOT the end of our journey. A comma rather than a full-stop.