Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

By: Guest | January 17, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Jay Dolan

I was trying to think of the most influential social media campaigns of 2011 the other day, and I couldn’t think of one.

I honestly can’t think of one social media promotion that was so innovative, I had to tell people about it.

Much of what I read these days is all about failures. Blogger outreach failures. Twitter failures. Facebook failures. Even Pinterest failures (Ok, not yet, but give it a month).

Haven’t we heard enough about failure? We’re not even four weeks into the new year, and I can already think of four examples of a social media disaster.


We should be getting better at this. Not worse.

I’m not above pushing others down to make myself look good. I love to revel in the defeat of others as much as anyone else.

But ugh.

Where’s the proactive thinking in constantly sharing failure? Where’s the idea that’s supposed to inspire someone? Are we just working to continually terrify people and employers that every piece of information, action, and stupidity will come around and take a bite out of their ass?

We are better than this.

I’m sick of other people’s stupid mistakes being the examples we should be sharing every day. I’m a big fan of acting like an adult, and trusting other people to do the same. I have better things to do than read one more reason I should stick my head in the sand rather than have a conversation.

As the content creators and idea-shapers, the examples we share should inspire awe. They should drive people to think harder, laugh harder, and be more creative with the work they do. They should make people stop thinking of social media as a chore to be mitigated, but rather an opportunity for better communication.

They should drive us to overcome our fear.

We all make mistakes. Some of them little. Some of them huge. But you’re not going ever get past those mistakes if you’re too afraid to do anything.

Be an adult. Stop being afraid. Carry yourself with the confidence that you can create the stories, photos, podcasts, and videos that are so awesome, they have to be shared with people.

Otherwise you will live your social media life from tweet to tweet, waiting for the moment when it all blows up.

And if you’re afraid, bloggers like me will tear you apart.

The cartoon was created by Jay Dolan for Spin Sucks. Thanks, Jay!

Jay Dolan writes The Anti-Social Media, which is the best social media blog ever. He currently works as a social media project coordinator at Capstrat. His cat, Chibi, is probably better at Google+ than you are. You can find Jay on Twitter

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez

Great perspective as always Jay.

A challenge is being patient as a leader -- we forget that not everyone has the same GPS when it comes to consciousness or self-actualization.

But yes, removing the blankies, thumb-sucking and coddling would be a start. Infantile behavior cannot be tolerated in this realm, with the exception of satire or YouTube videos.

Proactively remaining positive/keeping NRG levels high and focusing on bringing the best out of people's tough work, and honestly sometimes it's hard to remember mercy/grace. The manager or biz fire curls up that hot lick in your gut, and you just wanna throw a kitten at someone.

But you're right -- we need to stop micromanaging people, and start equipping them with the confidence and composure to accept they're Human -- and embrace the notion that they will, indeed, make mistakes.

It's not about how you fall, because we will. It's about how you Get Up; and bounce back

ginidietrich moderator

Two things: I think there is a lot of value in examining marketing campaign failures, from an outside perspective to both make you smarter about the things you do and give you perspective. It used to be you would have to experience something before you knew what worked and what didn't work. Now we have access to case studies - good and bad - to refer to before we make decisions. Of course, that means you have to actually do that research/work. And maybe it's naive of me to think people will do that.

Secondly, failing is good! It's how we learn. We don't learn from our successes. We learn from the mistakes we make. I don't know about you, but I'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes than make them myself. I have plenty of other things I can screw up.

Latest blog post: Stop SOPA


It's hard to believe that we spend all of our time showing prospects how damaging social media is and then try to sell them on it. Wouldn't it be a far easier sell if we showed them some good? The issue is, too many are too busy blowing their horns about crappy made up numbers than getting actual results. They're building their reputation, nothing more.

In this day and age where we’re all worried about our personal brand, failing is harder than ever. We can no longer fail privately, it’s all public now. I’m told constantly that I can’t reveal my failures because it will tarnish my personal brand. Well sometimes I don’t want to be a brand, I just want to be a person. Failures and all. Failure gets glamourized far too often. There’s nothing glamorous about it. It hurts. It’s hard. It destroys our pride. Failure is a great teacher, but a lousy banker.

Imagine if Ikea only gave instructions on how not to assemble their furniture. Then showed pictures of messed up assembly and the people who did it. How many people would still shop at Ikea? We'd all be too afraid to be the next example.


Jay Dolan, unlikely voice of optimism! I like it! It's gotten to the point where the claws of people who are taring others down feel more effective at squashing the resolve of the average brands resolve rather than showing them what they can try. We freak out and end up using the channels to ensure no one says anything bad about us rather than giving them something amazing to talk about. We've all gotten to be "experts" in the field, yet no one is doing amazing work... go figure...


Love the advice, Jay! I have failed many times over and while it sucks to fail, just gotta get up and keep trying. If we don't even try because we're paralyzed with fear of failure, then we'll never get anywhere. Thanks for this!


@Jill T I like to fail spectacularly. I'm also used to rejection from iiving with a cat for six years.


@MSchechter I'm still a terrible pessimist. I'm just optimistic I won't let fear be my limiting factor in social media.


@Milaspage The only thing to fear is fear itself. And possibly The Bloggess.


@MorganBarnhart Everyone hates to fail, especially awkwardly, and in public where any blogger can come along and keep shaming you. But I'm not going to live my life afraid of bloggers like me.


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