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Failure:Lab comes back to Detroit to remind us mistakes matter and make us better

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Failure:Lab is a unique event that asks an essential question of leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and just about anyone who struggles in life: “Everyone Fails, But How Do We Respond?”

Failure Lab logCo-founder Jonathan Williams is happy NOT to answer that question. Why? Because leaving open space to consider failure, your response to it and what you’d do next is an essential component to Failure:Lab. There is no single or correct answer.

But here’s the good part: Everyone who participate in this storytelling event has an idea of how they would have handled a problem. And Failure:Lab encourages participants – both those on stage as well as everyone in the audience – to write down or Tweet their thoughts, answers and inspirations. Collectively, we embrace the failure and come up with a lesson that works for us as individuals or together as a group.

Makes sense? It’s ok if it doesn’t. That’s the beauty of Failure:Lab. It is something you need to experience to appreciate. Bottom line: We all fail. We might not like to talk about it, but those who step out and share their failures feel liberated by the experience. Those who hear about those failures feel empowered; you learn something from that tough, tough moment. And you realize that one failure isn’t the end of you.

Ralph Giles

Ralph Giles

Some background: Failure:Lab was founded in 2012 by a group of professionals in West Michigan to eliminate the fear of failure and encourage intelligent risk taking. The event showcases storytellers and entertainers who share personal stories of failure, publish crowdsourced lessons and instigate discussion.

Failure:Lab will be in town this week as part of the North American International Auto Show pre-events, which focus on the thousands of media representatives that are in town. This Failure:Lab is a partnership between Creative Many, Michigan House and Failure:Lab’s sponsors, Williams said.

Thursday’s event speakers include:

•    Ralph Gilles, Head of Design, Fiat Chrysler Automotive – Global
•    Sabrina Nelson, Artist & Educator at the Detroit Institute of Arts and College of Creative Studies
•    Wesley Taylor, Co-founder of Emergence Media
•    Christian Birky, Founder of Lazlo

Wesley Taylor

Wesley Taylor

“As we were curating our storytellers, we wanted to (hold the event) when there was a ton of energy in Detroit,” Williams said. “So the timing was perfect during the Auto show. We are showcasing Michigan design and Michigan talent. … Everyone who is speaking is doing cool, innovative stuff in and around Michigan.”

Williams said the storytelling setting is intimate yet refreshing in a way that allows people to feel differently when they walk out. The goal, according to Failure:Lab’s website, is for participants to “embrace (failure), learn from it, building on it.”

“We’re showcasing innovative people,” Williams said. “They’re opening up about their backstories, giving the audience the context of what happened before they became successful. It’s the only format where storytellers are giving a public confession and then leaving it. … Part of the conversation is pushing back on the fear or stigma around failure or failing.”

Years ago, I attended a Failure:Lab event, and I was moved by the experience that night. But it was the lingering effects that I appreciate the most. I don’t look at “failure” as a problem now. I mean, you know everyone on stage came out alright in the end; they’re successful enough today to get attention to serve as a speaker, after all.

Sabrina Nelson

Sabrina Nelson

More importantly, I now view failure as part of the process. As background, I have written two local history books that have had modest success. But I also have started two other books that FAILED. Totally. Flat on their bookish faces. They failed not because I didn’t try. They failed because someone else had the idea before me, did a better job or were ready to do a better job than I could. In the end, I choose to look at these ideas or projects I had not as failure, but as moments I got to enjoy. I got to do deep dives into Detroit history, a leisure few working professionals at my stage get to have. I also got to embrace more of my personal history with this region, understanding who built it and how.

Christian Birky

Christian Birky

I love my failures. That is why I like to encourage people to attend a Failure:Lab event. If you’re worried about whether you’re going to fail and what people might think of you, then you need this event. If you want to try new things but you’re worried about the outcome, then you need this event. If you just need to think deeply about what you would do EVEN if you failed trying, then you need this event.

For more information or tickets, click here.

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