Avoid The ‘Neat’ Successes: Define Your Own Failures (And Triumphs)

By David Johnson of Act 4 Entertainment

There is much discussion about the value of failure in business today–about how we learn as much from our missteps as from our successes. While that may be true, let’s face it–success is better, both personally and in creating value. Generally, the assumption is that there is always a marked difference between success and failure–an idea which we should challenge.

At Act 4 Entertainment–the production company I founded and lead–our mission is to create socially conscious and politically relevant content. We have created a host of films that tackle important issues such as environmental justice, economic disparity, human rights and the power of the individual. The nature of this subject matter necessitates that we use metrics such as impact that are harder to evaluate than pure financial gain. Because of this my team and I have a unique view on success that might not fit well into a profit-at-all-costs model.

 

“Our show did not provide that clean final

curtain. It was daring—perhaps even

ahead of its time.”

screen shot 2016 06 10 at 1 25 11 pm Avoid The ‘Neat’ Successes: Define Your Own Failures (And Triumphs)
screen shot 2016 06 10 at 1 25 11 pm Avoid The ‘Neat’ Successes: Define Your Own Failures (And Triumphs)
As an example, consider our project, “American Psycho: The Musical.” The book and production were adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis that, when written, was derided and pummeled by critics as a piece of misogynist literature unfit for public consumption, and now is considered one of the great novels of our time. The subject matter presented us with a challenge. It was especially ambitious to adapt it to a format like the American musical that is for the most part predicated on feel-good dance numbers and happy endings. Our show did not provide that clean final curtain. It was daring—perhaps even ahead of its time—to buck those expectations. The novel, and in turn our show, leaves audiences and the characters exactly where they began. It leaves the world that provides the backdrop for the story (1980s New York) completely in-tact, thriving as it had before Patrick Bateman took to the streets on a murderous rampage. It is real, without the synthetic heart that many New York theatergoers have come to expect.

When the show opened it received, on balance, mixed reviews. Some critics loved it, some others did not. Several who hold sway in the Broadway ecosystem didn’t come down on our side. But, each and every night we watched audiences jump to their feet to applaud the original score of Duncan Sheik and the show stopping performances of our cast and lead, Benjamin Walker. Each and every night we had a totally dedicated team show up and work their very hardest to help tell this story. And each and every night we pushed the art form of the American musical forward. Importantly, the show also created a source of employment for the creative cast and crew, and for related businesses.

 

“We wanted audiences to walk away

and continue to think about the messages

of personal potential and waste,

and societal inequality.”

screen shot 2016 06 10 at 1 25 11 pm Avoid The ‘Neat’ Successes: Define Your Own Failures (And Triumphs)
screen shot 2016 06 10 at 1 25 11 pm Avoid The ‘Neat’ Successes: Define Your Own Failures (And Triumphs)
So what does this have to do with your business? As I said before, we at Act 4 have grown accustomed to measuring our success in additional ways alongside traditional metrics. Perhaps you could learn to do so as well.

The show closed earlier than expected. But we set out to draw attention to the fact that the world we live in now is disturbingly similar to the world of “American Psycho.” We wanted audiences to walk away and continue to think about the messages of personal potential and waste, and societal inequality. Judging by audience reactions night after night, and from comments directly to me and on social media, we were a success in this.

One of the greatest parts of starting our own business is the freedom to determine what we set out to accomplish, and the dashboard by which we measure ourselves. We at Act 4 have seized this opportunity, and so should you. Let’s stop trying to neatly file our experiences into “success” or “failure” columns. Life is not that simple, and neither should the way that we judge our businesses.

 

_________________________________________________________

Johnson is the founder of Act 4 Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based filmed entertainment and new media content company created in 2007 to motivate and inspire audiences across the world toward social action.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.

 

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