19 March 2006

The Zen of Presentations, Part 6: Failure is an option

The day after Crash won the best picture Oscar, Sounds Like Canada replayed an old interview with writer / director Paul Haggis. (I was aware of his work without being aware of it: he was a lead creative force on Due South.) He said something very, very, very interesting. Paraphrasing, he said, "I'm not interested in a project unless there's a real chance that I might fail."

He said he quit making television because failure wasn't a very real prospect for him any more.

Another little anecdote on ths topic of failure come from Jules Feiffer. He had a cartoon where basically, people come and take stuff away from a person, who doesn't object to this. Because, when they've found you out you're a fake, why bother objecting? He apparently said that a lot of people related to that cartoon, because they never had a significant failure in their work or life. Feiffer had many failures -- Broadway plays closing first night or some such. You move on.

I think many people are governed by fear when they have to give presentations. Performance anxiety, butterflies in the stomach, frog in the throat, or just good old fashioned stage fright. Hence, they fall back on the same back habits that they see everyone else doing. Putting up title slides. Using coloured backgrounds. Sticking in tables with teeny tiny text that nobody can read.

If you aren't risking failure, are you pushing hard enough?

As Neil Gaiman wrote, "Sometimes when you fall, you fly."

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