Stubborn Dreams

Getting out of my cube

Philly FailCamp win

with 2 comments

“One of the best things about failure is expectations. So, for this FailCamp, no expectations.” -Alex

“Success gets between you and others. Failure is easier to relate” -Amy

“You’re like a little boat. You know where you want to go and where you are. But you’re not a big tanker. You can’t go in a straight line; sometimes you have to zig-zag, make constant adjustments.” – Love this analogy about success/failure from a FailCamp participant

I went to Philly’s first FailCamp not knowing what to expect but with an expectation that I would learn from other people’s experiences. Thanks to Alex Hillman and Amy Hoy for keeping the day going and changing the structure when it was needed.

After going around with introductions (lots of Rails developers!), Alex Hillman and Amy Hoy started FailCamp by asking everyone to (anonymously) write down a personal failure experience in one of many categories (dating, business, etc.) on the scrap of paper that they were given. I was expecting them to jump from that into 5-minute failure soapboxes, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the failure icebreaker worked. I listened intently as discussion evolved naturally from the initial input of each anonymous initial failure story. Tangents galore. Some stories were fantastic, some we identified with, all were true and personal. We broke for lunch on a high note. Talking about failure was a fun and interesting way to spend a nice Saturday.

After the lunch break, after a while, I felt something changed – the stories were still the same but the discussion became increasingly more abstract. For example, in a discussion about someone’s business, people would start taking the (easy) expert stance – talk in abstractions like ‘compartmentalization is important’, without relating or sharing why they were giving that knowledge as-is or why it was important.

Other people, notably Christine, noticed this change and during the break, she made a suggestion to focus on failures-in-progress not keep exhuming the dead failures from our pasts. After the break, Amy and Alex start-shutdown FailCamp and booted up HelpCamp. HelpCamp was interesting because it was like a support group – all the problems were still very much alive to each contributor and the discussion flowed.

What did I learn? Lessons about failure, even though some lessons can’t be learned third-person; they have to be learned emotionally, it helps. And a tidbit about social vs business filters – if I ask you to do something as a friend, a decision center in the brain is activated. If I pay you to do something (business), a different decision center in the brain is activated. So, when you ask someone to help you move and at the end of the move, you try to pay them (it jars and insults them, at a fundamental level). If someone asks you to lunch to discuss business but is not paying you, what is it? TNSTAAFL.

I didn’t want to do a full recap. At the very least, I thought I’d strip out details. In the spirit of failure (recaps are boring and safe) and feeling the spirit of Zen, I’ve reduced the stories (and sometimes lessons learned) into 5-7-5 haikus…

crashed big server grid
panic call sysadmin friend
true friends can save you

conned out of thousands
capped off by getting mono
survived! and thriving

nine-teen ninety-four
almost started ISP
mentor influence

PhD student
interests have evolved since start
dropping out with tact?

coworking wiki
how to monetize knowledge
free has no value?

young and ambitious
wants to grow non-profit fast
counsel reign her back

non-coder founder
how to find coders out there
who share my passion

son born with issues
challenges make you stronger
ongoing again again

should have left business
12 months ago why did not?
exit strategy!

pricing strategy
charge too much or too little
test out with adwords

have project idea
just atom of molecule
verdict: build it now. why wait!

leaving consulting
feel scared uncomfortable
natural. OK.

a perfectionist
how to start, so many things!
just get it going

new coworking space
how many will sign-up now?
escrow before lease

too many pitches
what if I turned down right one?
pick and make them great

polished presenter
preparation is stressful
flexibility?

burning out with job
wants to quit and go travel
would you regret it?

made awesome software
how to find right salesperson
network maybe start right here

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Written by kleeruby1

July 30, 2008 at 3:35 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Great post. It was a great time. I think we all learned a lot.

    I think next time it should be called FailHelpCamp.

    Jameson Detweiler

    July 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm

  2. […] Hillmen’s recap Kevin Lee, of Story Slam fame, gives his take on the unique […]


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