After my 10th December posting on Startupfailures.com, someone alerted me to another website focusing on the subject of failure in an even broader context: www.failuremag.com. The site is a real treasure trove of both articles on failures in history and current events as well as reviews of books on such topics.
The site takes a slightly different spin than my blog here because it is more focused on ‘third person’ adversity, while my focus is more ‘first person’ implications for day to day living.
The launch review of the site, There’s No Success Like ‘Failure’, by Laurence Remila, in Strategies Europe (December 2000), describes the focus…
“Learning from your mistakes is good, but learning from the mistakes of others is even better. That’s the precept drawing increasing numbers of visitors to Failuremag.com, the online magazine launched by New York-based Jason Zasky and his six-person team. The site is dedicated to analysing failure, be it in the fields of sports, packaging, entertainment or business…Says Zasky, ‘The premise for this site is that failure is a subject covered by every media outlet, but so far all the information has not yet been put in one place. What we’re doing is unique. The key to making it work is that we adopt an approach where we don’t criticise or judge, but simply let the story tell itself as objectively as possible. If companies we feature haven’t complained, it’s because we simply look at the reasons behind the failure of one of their products.’”
I found lots of great pieces on Failuremag and will explore more over time. I liked the interview with James S. Robbins, author of “Last in Their Class: Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point” (Encounter Books) by site editor Jason Zasky. He explored the West Point tradition of cheering the person who graduated last in the class – aka ‘The Goat’ – at the graduation ceremony followed by everyone in the class going up to the ‘goat’ and giving him a silver dollar. It developed such mystique that it became known as the ‘Cult of the Goat.’ Feeling that it was a ‘blow to self-esteem’, reformers tried to abolish the practice in 1978 by handing out diplomas in alphabetical order; however, the cadets always found out who the Goat was and continued the practice no matter where they came up in the proceedings. Robbins offers an intriguing thesis that Americans as a country tend to embrace failure more readily than most and that this cultural characteristic is what drives the durability of the ‘Goat’ tradition:
“I’m a great believer in tradition. I think they say a lot about cultures, institutions, and who we are. It’s a very American thing to celebrate the underdog. I think our country was founded by a lot of underdogs and people who were kicked out of a lot of the best countries in Europe. And we have made a great country. The most powerful, most influential country in the world in human history has been built by people who fled Europe because they were peasants or just weren’t succeeding there so they came here. And the Goat tradition grew out of that. It’s a very natural, spontaneous, American tradition. It’s something that should be honored and I think West Point should bring it back officially, but even if they don’t it’s still going to be there”