To be completely honest, the first time I heard about the “It’s Okay to Fail” concept I thought it was unoriginal and a bit cheesy – I mean, come on - a bunch of successful people telling the rest of us mere mortals why failure is an important step on the road to success?
As a student of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Aarhus Business Academy, motivational speakers are not thin on the ground – on the contrary, the field of study is positively crawling with them – and motivational truisms quite literally decorate the College walls. Therefore, it’s fair to say that I did not feel like hearing yet another pile of entrepreneurial platitudes. On top of that, I really don’t appreciate people who tell me to just “think differently” and my whole life will change. Any whiff of that kind of nonsense and you’ll see me with my arms crossed, lips pierced and eyes rolling, in a frantic attempt to make everyone aware that I in no way agree with such a gross simplification of the opportunities we’re given in life. I think it’s a load of BS and so honestly, I’m probably the worst person to try to sell any kind of motivational hoo- have to.
Nevertheless, my classmates were behind the project and they expected my support, so on a rainy October afternoon I made my way to the event. The poor weather mirrored my expectations. As I stood waiting for the bus, shivering in the damp, Danish winter-wetness I very, very seriously considered not attending, and instead staying home, watching Gilmore Girls for the billionth time on Netflix (I know, don’t judge - we can’t all watch Snowden-documentaries and in-depth news reports).
Well, as much as I hate to say it - today I’m glad I skipped returning to Stars Hollow to visit the Gilmore Girls, because boy was I wrong. Yes, the concept can, on the surface of things, sound banal, but don’t be fooled – listening to successful people share their stories of failure, fiasco, and at times, utter disaster is both uplifting, funny, touching and well, I hate to admit it, but yes...motivational. Also, these weren’t just any successful people – they were all pretty damned good performers. Not only that, but the speakers were a very diverse group, which meant there was something for everyone.
The first on stage was Maiken Juul Hansen, an expert in inner dialogue (not my thing, I have to say, but that’s not Maiken’s fault). She was an excellent communicator and I could tell that many of the audience members were very taken by her- It really didn’t matter that her message didn’t strike a personal chord with yours truly because, like I said, the event had something for everybody.
Philip Morley, in particular, made a lasting impression on me. It is rare to hear great storytellers and to listen to people who choose their words as carefully as he does. Anyone who appreciates, not only a good narrative but also a sublimely smooth delivery will without doubt thoroughly enjoy his performance. One of the highlights of his stories was listening to a candid description of the crazy world of advertising, where his former boss had, quite literally, pissed all over the ideas he considered bad.
Serial Entrepreneur and speed- talker Kenneth Pilheden delivered the events funniest speech, while Kick boxing world champion Katalin Konya’s description of her sense of failure as a child and adolescent was touching and brutally honest. Film producer Stoyan Yankov talked of how he failed miserably with an elaborate kick-starter campaign – and in the process delivered very solid advice to anyone ever considering funding a project that way.
All in all, my prejudice before attending the event was completely unfounded and I was very much proven wrong. The concept isn’t cliché – it’s classic – and I hope it becomes a staple event in Aarhus’ thriving entrepreneurial environment. In other words - I was mistaken, but with the risk of sounding unoriginal and a little bit cheesy – that’s alright because it’s okay to fail! – isn’t it?...