November 1, 2017

Fail Fast and Move Forward

This is a phrase I heard someone use at a meeting of a volunteer committee I was attending a few months ago at United Way. I like it. It summarizes an approach to life, especially a retirement life, that I endorse. Let's see where it goes.

The first two words, Fail Fast, assumes a few things. One, that trying something new is encouraged, because without trying failure could not occur. That mindset is one that might have served you well during your working career. There are very few jobs where trying to improve something is not encouraged. Maybe you were not in a position to execute an idea, but you could certainly talk to a supervisor or someone else up the chain of command. Your idea to save money, serve clients more efficiently, be more productive, or improve workplace safety would be expressed.

After retirement, we are in an even better position to experiment: a different housing or lifestyle setup, a new hobby, a desire to learn to sail, building furniture, making beautiful quilts...whatever will satisfy you. The boss you have to answer to is you. 

The second assumption in those two words is to not dwell on something you have tried that doesn't work. Take on a new hobby, business, passion...anything and decide if it is for you. If it isn't, move on. Turn that page and tackle the next thing on your "I want to" list.  The only real failure would be to stick with something that doesn't make you happy. To me, fail fast is the harder part of  the phrase. I don't want to admit I wasn't good at something or it didn't bring me joy. I will stick with something longer than I need to.

The final two words of this phrase also give us an important message. Don't let a failure keep you from a Move Forward. Isn't life a series of starts and stops, steps forward, sideways, even backwards for a time? What is most important is forward momentum. 

Someone might argue that during retirement we don't have to grow or learn new things and add complications to our life. I agree, if we are talking about the initial phase of retirement. That is when your mind and body releases all the stress from working. Relaxation and enjoying an open schedule are encouraged. Then,  comes the time to seize the opportunities retirement gives you.

Life without change isn't really living. Things will change whether you want them to or not. That is a basic fact of life. Move Forward says take the next risk, try the next opportunity, be in control of your choices whenever you can. There will be times in our future where life will dictate what happens. When you can determine your course, move forward to whatever is next.

Four words. A solid guide to a satisfying retirement.


  1. Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
    - Thomas Alva Edison

    I agree fail fast is the harder part of the phrase and what Edison said has merit too. "Fail Fast" is something I heard a lot of in the last few years I was employed, I think it came out of the internet economy and the venture capitalists who had their money in it, and seemed to have become a buzzword phrase like "paradigm shift" had a decade or so earlier. To me it's like all those old sayings, there's always another old saying that completely contradicts it (i.e. "He who hesitates is lost" vs. "Only fools rush in..."). In practical terms though at work don't "fail fast" too many times or you'll find yourself unemployed.

    Of course, you can't be fired from your own retirement but there is a balance between knowing when to give up and when to persevere. For sure to keep doing something you that isn’t working for you just because you’ve paid for it and can’t get your money back is no reason to keep going (look up “sunk-cost fallacy” for examples). In retirement do what brings you joy and if it doesn’t then move on is what I would say.

    I’ve been lucky in retirement and so far, most things have worked out as I expected but I do know some that took some big steps like selling up moving away from their long-time homes and buying in a place they’ve enjoyed visiting (even to another country) only to find they don’t really like living there full time. That can be a costly "fail fast" but better to recognize it than carry on not being happy.

    1. My "Fail Fast" needs tend to be in hobby/pursuits areas. I will stick with something because I invested time and money in it even when it is no longer pleasing. Perseverance is a necessary character trait and often proves important, but only to a point.

      I think of things like stock market swings when too many folks bail out only to lock in losses instead of waiting for things to stabilize and show a pattern. I don't believe in buy, hold and forget. But, I try not to get caught up in the natural ebb and flow of that stuff by reacting too quickly. In that case, persevering with a long term goal in mind is important.

      You are so right about cliches or common phrases. If you look for contradictions, they are everywhere.

  2. I thought I could throw myself back into real estate and somehow it would not eat into my retirement! Ha! What was I thinking? I had to fail fast-- well, a few months .. I demoted myself to the referral side of the biz.. I could not keep up with the young uns.. and even if I could,I did not want to.. it overwhelmed our lives..and I lost that lovin' feelin'.. so be it. I am back to being retired.. It was something I had to do.. and I enjoyed a lot of it. I loved the classes I took to keep my license up to speed.. but-- I have regrouped and gotten back into the groove of a happy retirement with Ken--we have some light travel ahead (New Mexico for Thanksgiving week..) and church volunteering, local events,Hale Theater,etc.. I don't like the word failure.. I think life on Earth is just a school for the Soul and we keep taking on activities, hobbies,work,etc that keeps us growing and hopefully, giving BACK to our society too...

    1. Certainly, I applaud your step back into real estate. It is something you have done well before and wanted to give it another run. You decided it wasn't right for you at this stage of life. That isn't failure by any stretch of the imagination. It is knowing yourself and your needs. Good for you!

  3. The word “fail”has such negative connotations, especially for people who have perfectionistic tendencies (like me). There is a real temptation to not move on because that means admitting that you have failed at something. You persist, hoping that hides the fact of failure or turns it into success. I suppose that would be failing slowly? I have to learn over and over again that failing provides the biggest opportunity for learning and growth.


    1. We probably agree that without failure there is no progress. Even something as simple as burning a loaf of homemade bread before learning the proper temperature and time in the oven starts with a failure and end with success.

      There are levels of failure, of course, but this post is really dealing with the little failures that mark the road forward.


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