On the way back from a tennis tournament I listened to a TED Radio Hour episode called, Failure Is An Option. My hope was to learn some new perspectives about why failure is OK so we can get enough courage and motivation to try, try again. After all, I’ve been through more failures than I’d like to admit.
Guy Raz, the host, featured a man named Astro Teller who heads up Google’s X division. He calls himself, “Captain Of Moonshots,” to remind himself and his team to always think big. The X division is a highly secretive division within Google that tries to come up with revolutionary devices and applications. They are the 1% within the 1% of people who get a job at Google.
With a PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University and a BS and MS in Computer Science from Stanford University, Dr. Teller is a well educated man. On the podcast, he proudly explains that his employees get bonuses for presenting their failures on stage. The bigger their failures, the bigger their bonuses and the more they celebrate because it means they went for huge wins.
I was waiting for the hook to help us regular folks get more comfortable with failure. But unfortunately, it never came! Guy moved on to the next guest after a word from his sponsors.
What Dr. Teller and Guy are essentially saying is this: if you work at a company with unlimited resources ($90+ billion in cash), you should always dream big. You have no downside because not only are you working in a department that has been green-lighted to create audacious new things, even if you fail, it’s not your own money you’re wasting!
Once I realized there were no pearls of wisdom to learn from Dr. Teller’s guest spot, I began to think about scenarios where taking big risks should be a given for the rest of us.