Are you prepared to fail?

by | Dec 11, 2020

The first question I ask leaders interested in the designCEO offerings, either personally, or on behalf of their organisations is:

“Are you prepared to fail?”

I then list seven reasons why our programs fail as a small test of their resolve.

The prerequisite for any of our work is a willingness to fail.

I think of leadership as a craft. Seeking to build mastery, but never feeling as though you have achieved it.

It is a process of constant transition and iteration.

Growth mindset leaders. Open, curious and committed to learning.

Leadership, if you’re prepared to embrace all its expectations, will pick you up somewhere and leave you somewhere else, and mistakes, failures and setbacks are part of this process.

They become part of the lived experience, an excellent teacher.

Leadership will change you.

For good, but it might not feel that at the time.


Decide with speed.

High-performing leaders understand that a wrong decision is mostly better than no decision at all.

Leaders who see ambiguity as an opportunity. You are only doing your job when you are confronting the most ambiguous stuff. You are a specialist in the ‘49/51’ decision, which means you better have a heap of capable ‘60/40’ people around you and allow them to do their jobs, understanding they will get it wrong also.

You cannot wait for perfect information. There is never such a thing. If there was, we don’t need leaders.

But by making a decision now, you will get feedback and learnings, current and valuable insights not previously available, from which you can create a new point of departure for the next decision.

It is not easy, but then again, I cannot think of anything worthwhile that comes without challenge.

It will always feel at least a tad overwhelming.


“Individuals who prevail in a highly competitive environment have any one thing in common besides success, it is failure, and their ability to overcome it. “Crash and burn” is part of it; so are recovery and reward.”

Bill Walsh from The Score Takes Care of Itself, a favourite book that articulates what he calls his “standard of performance”, his leadership framework that has great application for anyone with leadership aspirations, responsibilities or influence.


The Battered Bastards of Baseball

My father in law, Mort Stamm, a man of wonderful curiosity, humour and intelligence recommended this show a few months back, and I loved it. I wondered in fact how I’d missed it, as it dates back to 2014.

I loved this description:

“This film is a labour of love in which the sweat never shows.”

In 1973, baseball lover and actor Bing Russell, father of Kurt Russell, starts an independent, single-A team composed of players that no one else wanted. This doco tells the story.

It’s on Netflix.

…and a timeless song lyric:

I am the Walrus – The Beatles

This week marks the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, 8 December 1980.

Personally, it was a “What were you doing when you heard?” moment.

A few lines from the first Beatles song I played on repeat, “I am the Walrus”

I am he as you are he as you are me

And we are all together

See how they run like pigs from a gun

See how they fly

I’m crying

Sitting on a corn flake

Waiting for the van to come

Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday

Man you’ve been a naughty boy

You let your face grow long


Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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I have no doubt it was these setbacks, personally challenging and heartbreaking at the time, that created the path to the work I now do.

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