An Oscar-winning Pixar director explains why he gets nervous when everything goes right

Pixar director Andrew Stanton isn’t afraid to fail.

In the 2014 book “Creativity, Inc.,” Pixar Animation and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull explains that Stanton has a unique perspective on failure — and in fact, he gets anxious when things go right.

“It’s gotten to the point that we get worried if a film is not a problem child right away,” Stanton tells Catmull. “It makes us nervous. We’ve come to recognise the signs of invention — of dealing with originality. We have begun to welcome the feeling of, ‘Oh, we’ve never had this exact problem — and it’s incredibly recalcitrant and won’t do what we want it to do.’ That’s familiar territory — in a good way.”

Catmull explains that Stanton, who won Academy Awards for his direction of the film “Wall-E” in 2008 as well as for “Finding Nemo” in 2004, both expects some degree of failure and embraces it. Catmull writes:

Andrew is fond of saying that people need to be wrong as fast as they can. In a battle, if you’re faced with two hills and you’re unsure which one to attack, he says, the right course of action is to hurry up and choose. If you find out it’s the wrong hill, turn around and attack the other one. In that scenario, the only unacceptable course of action is running between the hills.

Stanton isn’t the only successful person who finds a degree of failure integral to success. Google’s SVP of people operations Laszlo Bock said managers at the tech giant are trained to spend just as much time discussing employees’ failures as their successes. “By making conversation about misses normal, you end up actually driving lots of improvement in the organisation” he told Kris Duggan, CEO of software company BetterWorks.

“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a stepping stone to success,” Huffington Post CEO Arianna Huffington told Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett her mother often counseled her. “I think our resilience is dramatically improved when we trust that often out of the biggest heartbreaks come the best things in our lives.”

As Stanton tells Catmull, “You wouldn’t say to somebody who is first learning to play the guitar, ‘You better think really hard about where you put your fingers on the guitar neck before you strum, because you only get to strum once, and that’s it. And if you get that wrong, we’re going to move on.’ That’s no way to learn, is it?”

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