Sunday, February 25, 2018

Failure is not failure if you do it big enough

My wife took me to the Museum of Failure last weekend, in a gesture I hope was not meant to be a hint. The “museum” is gone now; it was only a temporary art exhibit, so if you wanted to visit, you failed. I hope you will learn from this and do better in the future, which was the whole theme of the thing, really. Looking at the exhibits I laughed a little too loudly, knowing I had failed many times just as hard, but not nearly as publicly, as, say, the Betamax or the Edsel.

No More Woof was a headset for dogs to translate their brain waves into understandable messages, like “I’m hungry.” Its investors lost all their money because, to break it down scientifically, they deserved to. 

Phone Fingers was a product designed to help keep you from making greasy fingerprints on your phone screen. They were like tiny condoms for your digits. Not only were they a pain to use, I imagine a lot of guys worried about the impression it would make if one fell out of their wallet on a first date.

nuSPOON, aside from being caps-lock challenged, was meant to be an alternative to plastic spoons. Made of environmentally friendly paper, you had to follow detailed directions to fold it, origami-like, into a spoon shape in order to eat something. Much like the American political system, it was equal parts ingenious and idiotic. Quite quickly, the public said “nuTHANKS.”

Colgate came out in the early 1980s with a line of frozen dinners. Imagine that red logo over a picture of beef stroganoff. Sometimes a company, in an attempt to expand its brand by thinking outside the box, fails to anticipate the horrified expression the box itself will evoke. It is one thing if your company is known for toothpaste, and you expand into deodorant. Colgate going into food was like Preparation H going into hot sauce. 

There was also a wall on which visitors could place sticky notes relating their own failures. It was a multi-colored collage of doomed marriages, educational mishaps, drug use and regret. It stood in stark counterpoint to the humorous offerings of the exhibit itself, but in its honesty it echoed the theme—failure is a flashlight, showing the way forward. 

So when you think of your own failures, I urge you to keep them in perspective. I want you to think of an item from this exhibit. I want you to remember three little words—Harley Davidson Perfume. 

. . .

I spoke too soon. After the exhibit closed, it was so successful it is moving to a new home at Hollywood & Highland. So starting in March you too can witness failure up close, and post a note about your own.