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The Beauty of Failure

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

When students embark on a PCCAPS project, chances are they will be facing unknown territory. Their clients may task them with unfamiliar concepts, and students may need to bushwhack their way to producing deliverables, given only work habit frameworks (like Scrum) and mindset skills offered by the program. That can be scary and the fear of failure is common among many students. PCCAPS mentor Victor Gill paid a visit to lend perspective on The Beauty of Failure. Read further to learn about student takeaways.

Risk Aversion

The idea of choosing to do something that may result in loss or failure can be a foreign concept. Failure is often associated with negativity.

In PCCAPS, project evaluation is tied to pre-defined project deliverables and client satisfaction. The path leading to these two is somewhat uncharted territory with regard to subject matter and communicating with adults in professional settings. Student experience ends up being 90% problem solving in the dark with minimal direction. While this creates more possibility for failure, it does represent the experience in the world of work. The task can feel daunting if students are not given the opportunity to visualize risk and failure through a different lens.

Famous "Failures"

Failure is Just Part of the Process

Whether working on a project, solving a problem, seeking a certification, or building something, failure is actually a built-in component. Most of the time, the path is never a straight line between starting a task and the end goal. There will be dips. These "failures" may be due to external, uncontrollable forces, insufficient project design or unforeseen personal setbacks.

So what do the dips really represent?

  • Gained perspective

  • New opportunity

  • Distance gained toward the finish line

  • Risk may now be of benefit

Define Failure Exactly...

Victor challenged the students to define what failure would look like regarding client projects. The purpose of the question is two-fold. First, the very exercise of visualizing what failure looks like allows you to analyze a set of worse-case circumstances, not unlike being in a flight simulator in pilot training. The second intention is to get students thinking about failure outside of the grade-based framework they are accustomed to. Yes, students earn a grade in PCCAPS because it is technically an elective course in school. After request for deeper definitions of failure regarding their specific projects, here were some of the responses to "Failure would look like...."

Pro-tip: Perceive Work as Play

In sports participation, the expectation for possible failure is automatic. There is a 50/50 chance your team will not win. So why continue to play if the rate of failure is so high? Because it is fun! Willful participation happens for the sake of facing a challenge and the emotional benefits of camaraderie. If you perceive what you are working on as fun, you are more likely to enjoy what you're doing, and more likely to view failure as a possible outcome rather than a lingering monster. The ultimate goal would be to find a career path where the "work" felt like "play."

About Our Guest Speaker

Victor Gill, a new member of the PCCAPS mentor community, is an energetic entrepreneur and educator. He is the CEO & Co-Founder of STRT. His current focus is on supporting every STRT community member, "STRT(ers)" with the resources they need to succeed and create their futures. 

Victor has worked on products from autonomous vehicle technology to computer vision for interior design. He has served as a board member, investor, and executive at several startup companies including Blyncsy in Salt Lake City, Stylyze in Seattle, and Arena Solutions in Silicon Valley. Also, he was a Senior Product Manager at MasterControl and the Director of Product at Bask, which are both located here in Utah.

​In addition to his executive experience, Victor has been an energetic contributor in the academic world as a professor at the University of Utah. Currently, he is an adjunct professor of Entrepreneurial Marketing at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business. Previously, he held the role of Director for the University of Utah's startup accelerator. Victor earned his BS and MS in information systems from the University of Utah.


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