Here are three important tips for successful composting:
I’m tempted to end the post here, and leave you guessing… but I’ll elaborate.
Earlier this week I had the honor of speaking on a panel at the Spark Conference with the likes of Rich Lunak of Innovation Works and John Dick of Civic Science. The talk was about how theaters can behave more like tech startups.
While giving my background at the beginning of the discussion, I said something that, upon further consideration, I realized is not true. In referencing my first entrepreneurial endeavor, Share Closet, I told attendees “It’s in the Pittsburgh startup graveyard.”
(Images below are from Startup Weekend 2013 - Share Closet took 1st place.)
I said it that way to offer a playful nod to the fact that startup culture leaves a lot of room for appreciating failure.
But Share Closet isn’t in a grave yard. It’s not dead and buried somewhere on a hillside. The skills, lessons and relationships developed through that experience are the rich soil in which my current business - and life - are firmly rooted and thriving.
Share Closet went into the compost bin.
The longer I’ve sat with this metaphor, the more significant and meaningful it’s become to me.
A grave yard houses memories. A compost bin houses an active process of taking something who’s moment has passed, and making it extremely useful in a new capacity. What’s in the compost bin is more than a memory… it is fuel for something new!
I’ve heard the expression “fail fast, fail often” more times than I can count. The experience of failure is nearly ubiquitous for seasoned entrepreneurs. If you’re never failing, you’re not innovating… and if you’re not innovating, you’re on the fast track to becoming irrelevant!
Despite our theoretical comfort with failure, I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to make sure they do more than commemorate, celebrate and find camaraderie in their past ventures or failed projects.
COMPOST THAT SHIT!
Improv is all about building on what already exists, rolling with what may seem like a mistake on the surface and recycling information given early on in the show to create delightfully placed callbacks. My experience as an improviser helped view the experience of Share Closet's rise and fall through a lens of curiosity and exploration rather than simply feeling proud of myself for trying, or appreciating the happy memories (of which there are SO many, and I am eternally grateful).
In case you're not an improviser, let’s revisit the tips above and apply them to the metaphorical process of composting failure!
When you’re composting failure, your attitude and mindset shifts around that experience. Mining those past experiences for nutrient-rich fuel (rather than just commemorating what was good/accepting that it happens to everyone) is the best way to accelerate to success.
PS: Improv is a very helpful and fun framework for practicing metaphorical compost in real life. When companies compost well, they get better results of collaboration, better cross-departmental communication and a deeper level of engagement with employees. Creating a culture that composts well is hard work, but it's totally possible. And YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE! Contact me for help - I'd love to talk with you.