Celebrating Stupidity

Celebrating Stupidity

by John Harline

In many ways, finding success takes “guts” and finding “guts” takes will, strength and courage.  However, there are times when finding success requires failure.  Many potentially successful decisions are derailed by indecision, which stems from a fear of failure.  Ultimately, this becomes an enemy to our success.  Many great opportunities vanish as we stand paralyzed and indecisive.  How many times have you not trusted your “gut” because you feared failure?

So what if you fail?  There is a belief that suggests failure should not only be remembered, but celebrated.    This may sound crazy, but consider the strength it takes to stand proud of a decision that has failed.  As a parent, such failures are (at the very least) a weekly occurrence.  It is unconscionable to think that we would simply throw in the towel and give up the fight.  Instead, we persevere and try again.  Why should it be any different in our professional lives?  Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You can gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  I believe instead, that you must do the thing that you are unwilling to try.

Years ago, Charlie Munger spoke at a Berkshire Hathaway meeting about Chris Davis of Davis Funds and referenced Davis’ “Temple of Shame” where they post on their website the “investment mistakes” made during the year.  Charlie took it a step further, explaining that the “Temple of Shame” should be renamed the “Temple of Shame Squared.”  He stated that “celebrating one’s stupidity should not be left to one’s mistakes, but more importantly, to one’s missed opportunities.”  He is dead-on right.  The mistakes or failures from trying can be measured or forgiven if the decision was made with sound reason.  However, consider the missed opportunities presented to us on a daily basis.  Are those missed opportunities forgiven if the decision to reach for them was missed for fear of failure?

This is not to suggest that every decision should be made, regardless of potential outcome.  One must, of course, adhere to the notion of “right and wrong” and “rational v. irrational” reasoning.  However, fear of failure should not be a part of the process.  In fact, the greatest fear in every decision should be the risk of not making a decision at all -inaction.  You should always take the time to think and reasonably consider a decision, but when you have considered all of the potential outcomes and the risk of those outcomes does not put you in harm’s way, execute it.  George S. Patton once said of success, “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”  You need self confidence.  You need desire.  You need strength.  But most of all, you need trust in oneself.  You will be right more often than you think.  But if there are times when you are not, bounce higher than everyone else.

How many of us look fear in the face each day with determination?  For those of us who wish to move forward in this way, there is only one choice.  As we face the acrid unknown and uncertainty ahead of us, the clarity that details the hideous face of fear has never been more visible and dangerous to our psyche.  However, these are the times that will separate the heroes from the cowards.  The talented from the pretenders.  It is not a time to sit and wait for answers or instruction.  It is a time of decision.  It is a time of internal ignition.  It will take a warrior mentality to persevere and to avoid the gapping mouth of the beast.  Those unwilling to fight will be left like a lost gazelle in the African Bush.  Do not let indecision and fear of failure paralyze you.

So celebrate success, but do not forget stupidity.  It is only those most confident and strong who can laugh at themselves, while continuing to forge ahead with authority.  It is what it will take for you to survive.

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