Fail Well

Eric Liu with co-author Scott Noppe-Brandon at the October 8th event. Photo by Jessica Handrik.

Eric Liu with co-author Scott Noppe-Brandon at the October 8th event. Photo by Jessica Handrik.

Last night we held the New York Imagination Conversation at the New York Public Library for the Performing arts, located at Lincoln Center. It was such a rich discussion—the panelists included jazz violinist Zack Brock and astronomer Luke Keller, both featured in the new book, Imagination First, plus film producer Adam Brightman and Leslie Koch, the impresario of Governors Island. The practice from the book that came to my mind most often during the conversation was “Fail Well.”

Each of these luminaries spoke powerfully about the force that has most often stifled their imagination: fear. Fear of failing, in particular. Each of them, as teachers and leaders and creators, has had to reckon with the possibility of public failure. And each of them has created cultures— in a classroom, on a movie set, in public spaces or private clubs— where failing is treated as a necessary and useful part of not failing. They *practice* failing, with a spirit of continuous experimentation.

That’s how Governors Island is developing into such an unusual and vibrant space under Leslie’s stewardship, how Luke teaches students to interpret the dust of the heavens, how Zach harnesses every past influence to serve each moment’s improvisation, and how Adam inspires confidence on the set and creates an environment that allows the film to develop. They remind us that, for all the external forces that inhibit possibility, our own voices of self-doubt are often the greatest enemy of imagination.

Click here to learn more about the Imagination Conversations project.

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