I Tried to “Fail Fast”—Unfortunately, It Worked

I knew it wouldn’t be easy…

But I wasn’t ready for this slap in the face.

A few months ago, I set out on a YouTube content experiment (a fancy way to say I’m makin’ videos now). And I promised to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly along the way.

Today, I get to share the first big negative experience. It’s not hate comments or creepy men (though those have certainly been popping up), but something much more in my control.

Which might be worse.

The thing is, I truly thought I was making a great video

It was a late Wednesday night. I’d spent the previous 6 days working on a new video, which my younger-and-cooler sister was now reviewing for me before it went live.

She’s Gen Z. I trust her sense of coolness.

The video was a risk. I knew it. It was a DIY tutorial filled with self-deprecating jokes that led up to an, um… 80s dance video.

I thought it was hilarious. Like, I couldn’t stop laughing when I was editing it.

My husband, however, didn’t get it. He had been my first test viewer. He hadn’t laughed much at all. But no matter! I figured my fellow weird-humor sister would be on board.

…But to my horror, her feedback was the same as that my husband had shared earlier that day:

The humor just wasn’t landing.

It’s so important to have people in your life who will be honest with you. But good golly, it can sting! I was embarrassed. I was frustrated. I was mad all of my effort had culminated into something so lackluster.

At this point, I’d already revised my editing as best I could. The video was as good as it could be. So I had a choice:

  1. I could publish it out of spite and feel for a moment that all the previous week’s work was at least somewhat worth it.
  2. Or, I could let their feedback sink in, leave the video on my hard drive forever, and let it become the lost video of 2020.

I chose #2. Here’s why.

1. Sunk Cost Fallacy is never your friend

“Sunk cost fallacy” is the tendency to keep pouring resources into something that’s not working simply because you’ve invested so much in it already.

I put a ton of effort into that video. I’d sunk unknown hours of time, thought, and emotion into creating it. But ultimately, releasing something boring (or worse, painfully unfunny!) would make me feel Not Good. And it might even damage my viewers’ perception of me, making them less likely to watch future videos.

While I’m a big fan of hitting publish even when it’s uncomfortable (more on that in a minute)… I’d done the work. I edited the whole damn video and learned everything I could from the process. And the result just wasn’t up to the quality of my previous ones. So pulling it from the schedule wasn’t giving up or giving in—it was listening to my gut and to the people whose feedback I trust, and making the hard but right choice.

2. I wasn’t being authentic

As soon as I decided not to release the video, there was frustration—but also relief. This was confusing. But then I realized why:

I was creating videos based on what I thought I had to do to succeed. I thought I had to go bigger and bigger. Big personality, big jokes, making a big fool of myself. That’s what the successful YouTubers do, right?

But that’s so not me.

I’m a goofball sometimes, sure. But most of the time? I’m pretty quiet. I spend a lot of time sitting there thinking. My best humor comes out as stupid one-liners, usually after a good cocktail. So it makes perfect sense that trying to go for All The Jokes felt way off.

Instead, I need to be working with my natural personality, not against it.

(Silly me, I’ve been telling people this for years.)

So if you’re a content creator too, take heed. There might be amazing writers, YouTubers, or podcasters you look up to. You want to be like them. And sure, emulating them in small ways can help you learn. But ultimately, you need to find your own voice.

The journey of creating content is the journey of becoming more you online.

Now, realizing that I’d set down a path of making videos that aren’t right for me was a shock to the system. It hurt at first. But then I remembered something important…

3. I was actually TRYING to fail as quickly as possible

…So why should I be upset that I succeeded?

Let me explain. I believe that at the beginning of any new content endeavor, it’s helpful to go fast and furious. Get out there and create a steaming pile of garbage that’ll make future you cringe.

Why?

Because even if you went slow, even if you made careful decisions and made each piece as perfect as possible, you’re STILL going to make a ton of garbage that’ll make future you cringe.

It’s just how it goes when you’re trying something new.

…So why not get through that stage as quickly as possible?

This is most of your early work! And it’s okay!

And when you know you’re going to do sucky work anyway, you might as well take some risks. I would have never thought of doing an 80s dance video if I was trying to craft The Perfect YouTube Channel. Honestly, I still think it’s a great idea. I just didn’t know how to execute it in a way that was right for me.

But now, because of my missteps, I have a much better idea of the content that I do need to create. And my videos are going to be so much stronger for it.

So go ahead. Take some risks. Accept that you’re creating crap, and that means you can push the envelope. When you expect to fail, you’ll pick up a ton of skills… and maybe create some less-than-awful stuff along the way.

(And if you really hate it, there’s always that beautiful little “delete” button.)

This is the how-to-get-better-at-anything process

You don’t learn from success. You learn from your failures.

And so—what are you trying to fail at right now?

– Jessie

P.S. And actually, if you want more tangible steps on how to improve at a skill (like content creation), you may want to check out my last article about how to get better at anything.

Comments 5

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      Author
      1. Wow. Sticking to the knitting! Great article Lewis. Sunk cost fallacy theory should be in the arsenal of every creative genius!

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