Fail Fast

A new aspiration I have undertaken in my life is the idea of failing fast. When I have a concept, or a plan, typically I nurture the idea, treating it like a delicate seedling, and fostering it’s development despite immediate response, or out right rejection. Some call it flogging a dead horse. My new perspective is one of fail fast. If something I’m doing is not working, or not going to work, I cross my fingers for a speedy train wreck. Let it fail fast, so I can drop it, and use my resources and energy in areas which are going to succeed.

I take my creative and emotional life seriously, as any one might assume, but this doesn’t mean that my tendency to operate more like a nurse shark, unable to release my jaws until I’ve bitten completely through the forearm of the fisherman is a healthy method of operation. I have given myself completely to projects, relationships, genres of music, indescribable feelings, parties, idea, lifestyles, even tiny scraps of code, and some of them have been glowing little embers which grew, and set fire to the status quo. I’m certainly proud of this work, where it’s been successful, and so grateful to have been a part of bringing all walks of life together on the dance floor, re-championing deep house as prime time music, celebrating distressed, naturalist design, and the return of helvetica as a serious type face. I play my role, small or large in many things. I never stay still for too long, only for the time I am committed to in the morning and at night, otherwise I am always on the move. Still, over the years I have come to understand that seriousness, and dedication are not synonymous with obsession, fixation, or out and out stubborn pride. Rather, when something’s not working, not making me happy, not coming to life, it may be wise to learn the emotional sobriety, and philosophical maturity to simply call it. He’s dead Jim…

I never give up. I am a steam roller. Sometimes I move fast, and I’m dazzling and overwhelming. Sometimes I creep along like moss, and horrify the homeowners. But when I believe in something, I never abandon it. This is not the same thing as looking for the components of my expression, or the constructs of my thinking to fail fast. Failing fast is the wisdom to observe what works, and what doesn’t work. The process is simple: Try everything, and watch carefully and in a detached way for signs of failure. It may be essential to discuss or list what the criteria is in advance, because the mark of success and failure is not always black and white. Sometimes we lose the girl, but we win the heart. Other times the code is just borked, and there’s no sense wasting another moment of our time on it. Walking away from methods, tools, beliefs, techniques, and even hopes and dreams as a means to an end is the essence of failing fast. It does not automatically assume that one has to dump and run on the entire experience.

sid_mugshot.jpgA good example of this would be my interest in Punk Rock:
As a kid I loved punk rock. the late 70’s were a time of terrible political, economic and social movement. The country was undertaking a massive shift to the right, and it seemed like every single idea which had been explored between the mid 1940’s and the late 1970’s was tapped out. Everything appeared (to my cynical 12 year old eyes) like a false parody of something else. It was all a cheap holiday in other people’s misery.

I devoted myself to a movement of nihilistic, artistic, cross dressing, trans-gender, political, a-sexual, hedonists who leapt up and down, spit on each other, and wanted the world to come crashing down around its ears. The record labels, magazines, clothing shops, clubs, bands, badges, buttons, and style were all dictated, and operated by the people who participated in the movement. Very much like the hippies who came before us, we were a grass roots movement from top to bottom.

As the 80’s began to unravel, things changed. Younger faces appeared from the suburbs, the music got faster and the activities more self-destructive. It seemed to me, despite my self-destructive state, that the wit, and irony was gone from the scene. I didn’t depart right away, I began a radio program asserting what “real punk” was yeah… that’ll learn ’em, I stocked the record shop I worked at with music which leaned backward, and not forward, and I talked a lot of shit about slam dancing, and the circle jerks. I preached from behind the Ms. Pac Man machine, and tore down whatever anyone would build up about this new, xenophobic, athletic, Henry Rollins style punk rock which celebrated the suburban, and alienated the urban.

The fruit of my negativity was inevitably that people bailed, the records didn’t sell, my show was retired, and I retreated into more self-destruction. Hot! My ideas, my loyalties, my feelings about music, culture, values, and art did not fail fast. I held onto the practice of slander, resentment, and defiance as my primary tools of progress. Looking back this is silly. It’s absurd to think that you can make progress forward by pressing backward against a momentum so fierce and drunk that nothing can stop it. I would have done better to see that these techniques for promoting traditional punk rock values, like lipstick and eye shadow on boys, long black spiky hair, the stranglehold, leather jackets and boots, spitting, and grimy, dirgey, snotty voiced songs about futility and angst, were a failure, and found a new way to express my sentiments.

Instead I followed the path which I had laid down for myself, and ten years later found a similar (and arguably more authentic) experience at the rave. Yet I didn’t learn my lesson. I did the same thing all over again. Call it growing up, call it a response to fear, call it holding on to the past, or maybe just call it clinging desperately to things in the moment, and resisting change of any kind. All that’s true to some extent. But ultimately what was missing was the detachment required to observe that when your methods fail, you are liberated, and now free to move forward.

Forward motion is what I most want. House music is music I love, so is punk rock, but these are adjectives. The heart and soul of what really inspires me is when people get together and celebrate their lives in the face of a cruddy world. When people get together and make music, dance, move, speak, and bring about the reality they long for. After all, the only thing in our way ever is us. My own inability to fail fast, my own reluctance to see the world at its most present face, to peer into the eye of the moment and respond without sentiment, or regret. These are the qualities which hold me back, and keep me bound to the adjectives of my life’s experience. In effect, these are the qualities which prevent me from failing fast. And so, until now, I have been winning a battle here and there, but losing the war utterly. I can abandon these useless tools which hurt me and others too, I can walk away at any time. It is in no way a betrayal of the core values which I will never abandon, the truth that I seek, and the light that I see, and believe in with all of my heart.

And so here’s to you! Here’s to your rapid, and unapologetic failure!


  1. I like your idea about Fail Fast. You go, Sunshine! Fail, and in the same drop of the hat, succeed. Be free.

    : )

  2. anjie.joon:

    “forward motion is what i most want” ~ perhaps this is the new american dream?
    and i like your fail fast theory. maybe you should write a book?
    ……unapologetic failure is something to be proud of, even aspire to. millions will find this a huge relief. i know i do.

  3. Well you know, my dear friends Matt Corwine and Jason Williams are responsible for germinating this idea in me. We have, respectively, over the last few years been in discussion of matters of the heart, the career, and the world at large. These two young men whom I have had the pleasure to watch totally come of age, and into their own, each in his own way has described how places like Silicon Valley were build on monstrous failure after failure.

    It is in letting go, and moving forward into new techniques, getting closer to the truth, to the heart, toward the dream where real success lay.

    It’s all coming together…