A “doer” and a “yes man” appear to be the opposite of failure embracers, but really they epitomise it. Embracing failure isn’t about failing every chance you get. It’s about embracing the fact that failure will likely crop up with the most interesting and useful initiatives you take in life.

My former colleague Steve shared the piece “A Manifesto of a Doer” which caught my interest since I’ve always considered myself to be pretty much of a “doer”. It was a pretty reasonable laundry list and I especially appreciate the couple of nods to embracing failure that it included…

  • 17. Say no. And say it often. As David Allen says: “You can do anything, but not everything.” Protect your time.
  • 20. Make a pact with failure early on. Respect it. But don’t fear it. If it occupies your mind whilst doing, it can top you from winning. Free your mind.

I guess if I had to write my own manifesto, would start with the following tenet…

· When asked (a) for help, or (b) to try something new, your default answer should be “yes”.

That doesn’t mean that you *always* say “yes” (see #17 in the Doers Manifesto). It just means that you assume positive and work back from there. I think the conventional default for most people is the other way around – do nothing, avoid commitment, obey inertia.

I think the reason people default to “no” is (a) fear (risk), and (b) cost. They ask “why should I expend any energy or time unless I can clearly see what’s in it for me?” All too often, this question seeks direct and immediate returns. And yet some of the biggest opportunities in life come indirectly and over an extended time period.

The “no” versus “yes” default is parodied delightfully in Jim Carrey’s comedy “Yes Man”. The transformation of Carrey’s character takes place with the evangelical guru’s exhortation – “Every time an opportunity presents itself, you will say ‘yes’.” It takes both defaults to extremes underscoring both the inherent problems with the “no” default as well as the potential problems over-DOing “yes”.

Starting with “Yes” is a radical notion for many. It echoes one of Nassim Taleb’s investment principles of “expose yourself to upside”. Sense and Serendipity.

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