Abolishing the Fear of Failure- Do What You're Afraid to Do!


On June 26th, Stanford Education & Psychology Professor John D. Krumboltz told a sold out Commonwealth Club-Silicon Valley audience to “stop being afraid of failure. Learn to accept and even enjoy it,” he said in his opening remarks. Prof Krumboltz is the co-author of the book, Fail Fast, Fail Often- How Losing Can Help You Win.  It was Oprah Winfrey’s favorite book for 2014.

The highlights of his short talk, along with answers to a few questions from the moderator (Alison van Diggelen) are summarized in this article. The points noted are relevant to start-up companies, entrepreneurs, job seekers, and people of all ages in managing their personal lives.

Key Messages from Prof. Krumboltz:

  • Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s how you feel about failure that matters.
  • Do what you are afraid of. Don’t let someone talk you out of doing that which you are afraid of.
  • Make failure a low cost proposition.
  • Learn from failures as well as successes.
  • If you learn something from trying, you did not fail.
  • What if you are rejected or criticized for failing? “People that reject or criticize you are NOT those you’d want to be with anyway.” Common Goals we should strive for:
    • Help others so that they don’t fail. [A film clip of Portland Trailblazers coach Mo Cheeks helping a 12 year old girl who had temporarily forgotten the words to the National Anthem was cited as an example of this.]
    • Learn to create more meaningful, satisfying lives. [Happy and successful people spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes, and in doing so, they benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.]
    • Listen to others concerns, then help them take the appropriate action(s). Recognize that people often need your help and with that, they can be successful.
    • Get people to take actions likely to generate unplanned opportunities.
    • Do what you fear and you will overcome that fear. Don’t just talk or read about it. Do it! “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” he said.
    • Overcome unrealistic fears. [Prof. didn’t say how to do this]

Fears of Taking Risks when looking for a job:

  • Applicant is perceived to be over qualified.
  • If I fail (to get the job), others might refuse to talk to me.
  • Even if fear comes true (and you don’t get the job), you are no worse off.


Try to get over procrastination or avoidance of doing what you fear. Instead, go out and try it. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Focus on opportunities, not problems.

Selected Q & A:

1.  When is it OK to “call it quits” after numerous failures?

Answer: It’s OK to quit, but then try something else. Learn from your failure(s).

2.  When is it too soon to try again after a huge failure? [The question actually asked: “When is it too soon to get back on the horse after you’ve fallen off it several times?”].

The Professor didn’t answer this question. Instead, he recounted a horseback riding incident from his youth. He also reminisced about asking a 15 year old girl for a kiss when he was 14. That was a big risk for him at the time. She said that if they were to kiss, she was afraid they’d never stop. Even though, they didn’t kiss, the young John felt joyful and cherished that moment for the rest of his life.

Excerpt from the book Fail Fast- Fail Often:

Failing quickly in order to learn fast—or what Silicon Valley entrepreneurs commonly call failing forward—is at the heart of many innovative businesses. The idea is to push ahead with a product as soon as possible to gather feedback and learn about opportunities and constraints so that you can take the next step.

This mind-set is at the heart of the brilliant work of Pixar Animation Studios. When Ed Catmull, the cofounder and president of Pixar, describes Pixar’s creative work, he says it involves a process of going from “suck” to “non-suck.” The moviemaking process begins with rough story boards where a few good ideas are buried amid tons of half-baked concepts and outright stinkers. The animation team then works its way through thousands of corrections and revisions before they arrive at a final cut. By giving themselves permission to fail again and again, animators weed out the bad ideas as quickly as possible and get to the place where real work can occur.

As Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E , describes, “My strategy has always been: Be wrong as fast as we can. Which basically means, we’re gonna screw up, let’s just admit that. Let’s not be afraid of that. But let’s do it as fast as we can so we can get to the answer. You can’t get to adulthood before you go through puberty. I won’t get it right the first time, but I will get it wrong really soon, really quickly.”

Giving yourself permission to make a mess of things is particularly important if you do any sort of creative work. (We should note that all people are creative—which is to say that they live in the real world, form ideas, come up with solutions to problems, have dreams, and forge their own path; your own life is your ultimate creation.)

The DTV Transition – At What Cost?

[Author’s Note:  Thank you very much to David Irwin, Director of the Communications Law Institute at The Catholic University of America, for his review and suggestions for this article]

Click here to learn the detail of the DTV Transition from the official government web siteMuch has been made about the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction and the potentially billions of dollars raised for the U.S. Treasury, but this is just one part of a complex equation related to spectrum management and economics that may be implicitly costing U.S. citizens much more than they are receiving.

For example, there is the opportunity cost of the new, digital broadcast spectrum, given away to existing broadcasters by the government that is worth untold billions of dollars. Unfortunately, this article is probably about 10 years too late to affect a change, but maybe it will serve as a warning for future generations.

Prior to auctions, back in the early days of the FCC, spectrum was regarded almost like land during the homestead days of the eighteen hundreds.  That is, entities were given spectrum in exchange for building out the infrastructure, providing certain public goods and accepting regulations and restrictions.  Where more than one entity sought spectrum in a given locale, each spectrum application being mutually exclusive to the other, evidentiary-type hearings were held to determine which applicant would best serve the “public interest;” but, at the end of the hearing process a spectrum license was simply awarded by the government to the winner.

Much like homesteading, this policy lessened the risk for entrepreneurs and was a catalyst that expedited the build-out of the radio, television and original cellular infrastructures. These build-outs evidenced the inherent value of the spectrum and, as result, Congress turned to spectrum auctions as the prevalent way to ensure that the public received a return on its spectrum assets; that is, except for the give-away of digital television broadcast spectrum.

Giving away spectrum may have made sense in the 1990s when Congress and the FCC began laying the foundation for what what has become known as the 2009 digital television transition. In February 2009, all legacy television stations (with the exception of low-power stations) will turn off their analog transmitters and thereafter only broadcast digital signals; this may include high-definition TV.

The intent of Congress, heavily lobbied by the broadcast industry, was to free up the analog spectrum for other uses, as well as ensure that the U.S. remained competitive with other nations by having a digital broadcast infrastructure that supported HDTV. Like in the 1940s, the Federal Government essentially gave away spectrum to broadcasters in return for a digital build-out and exchange of bandwidth that had been used for analog signals. There have been significant and unanticipated changes since the DTV legislation was passed in the 90s, including:

  • The continued growth of cable, telco video distribution via fiber optics and copper DSL and DBS operators, such that the number of households receiving off-air broadcasts is estimated by Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC-Universal at 10%.  He suggested at NATPE 2008 that the number of households receiving off-air only will drop to approximately 5% after the transition.
  • The transition of the Internet into a video distribution medium is a true unknown — a “sleeper” in this equation.  Broadcasters and television networks are “re-inventing” themselves, embracing the internet, proving by their own actions and plans that broadband is a viable distribution outlet for video.
  • The success of unlicensed WiFi spectrum also indicates that spectrum does not have to be licensed in order to have value.  On the horizon is WiMax, which may be thought of as WiFi on steriods; WiMax is a potential threat to cable, satellite and telcos.  In all events, it appears that the concept of device-regulated spectrum (the devices are network-aware and transmit data accordingly, minimizing interference), instead of the traditional agency-licensed and regulated spectrum.
  • Improvements in video compression, which frees up bandwidth for uses that were probably never anticipated by Congress.
  • The success of auctions in allocating spectrum.

The transition to digital television broadcast required a huge investment by the broadcast industry and probably never would have been justified by better picture quality alone (although, the broadcast industry did make feature upgrades to include color and stereo in earlier days, but these didn’t involve such an extensive infrastructure upgrade).

That is, there is probably no new revenue for the broadcaster who only replaces a standard definition digital signal, albeit better than analog, with HDTV programming.   It is thus understandable why broadcasters are looking for ways to monetize their investments in digital technology including the use of the bandwidth not utilized for their primary digital and/or HDTV signal by:

  • Creating mini-cable systems by developing new content to go along with their primary channel
  • Potentially creating “pay versions” of popular programming (several years ago, one industry pundit suggested networks could create two versions of the same show; a tamer version for general broadcast and a wilder version that people would be willing to pay for as a premium service).
  • Leasing out bandwidth to third-parties that would essentially act as aggregators
  • Offering a mobile video solution that would extend their service offerings onto personal video devices.

Policy makers and broadcasters believe that these new applications of the broadcast bandwidth will have value to some consumers.  But, there are, as noted above, real costs, as well as opportunity costs that need to be considered.  Some of the real costs to the DTV transition include:

  • The $1.8 B in coupons provided by the Federal Government to consumers to pay for digital set-top coversion boxes that will let analog televisions play digital broadcast signals.
  • The costs that my telco friends and others had to spend as a result of an FCC mandate to publicize the digital TV transition.
  • The costs associated with cable systems and telcos having to support standard definition, long after the broadcasters make the switch to digital.
  • The big cost is probably the opportunity cost, as the digital spectrum given away would have value that could be realized explicitly through an auction process or as an unlicensed public good.  Based on the recent $19.6 B expected from the auction of the 700 MHz spectrum, the remaining 200+ MHz of spectrum could be well worth many multiples of the 700 MHz spectrum bids.

As much as I would like to be able to present a silver bullet that would change the situation, I doubt there is anything that could be done politically or practically to improve the value of the DTV transition for the U.S. taxpayer (it is our spectrum).  After making such a huge investment and with rules in place for so long, it simply isn’t fair to the broadcast industry to change the rules of the game at this late date.  Economists will suggest that there is nothing like political uncertainty to impede business investment and it would be bad precedent to make significant changes to DTV.  The time to make changes was 10 years ago.

It will be interesting to see how economic historians view the digital TV transition. Hopefully, they will learn from it and be able to influence politicians and regulators the next time we have the opportunity to make such a historic shift in our communications’ infrastructure.

Mining Data & More in St. Louis

I have found vendor user group meetings can be as every bit as valuable as for-pay conferences. The Entone User’s Group meeting held in the convenient, historic and revitalized downtown St. Louis last week, was extremely valuable for the participants, who included Entone customers, prospects and partners. Entone has been a long-time supporter and sponsor of the Viodi View and ViodiTV and it was an honor to moderate a couple of the panels at this event and I enjoyed the interactive nature of the panels, as well as the openess of the discussions. 

Steve McKay, CEO of Entone, kicked off the conference by suggesting that Triple Play has become a zero sum game and that operators will need to continue to refine their offering to compete. McKay emphasized the importance of a whole-home media offering for operators as they seek to differentiate themselves from CATV and DBS.   Features of this offering include DVR, ability to view over the top videos, inclusion of personal media, in-home distribution and place-shifting tied together with an integrated and easy to use interface that only requires one simple-to-use remote. What McKay is calling for is not trivial and he called on the operators to push the vendor community for these sorts of whole home media devices. 

Colin Dixon of The Diffusion Group gave backed up McKay’s comments with some interesting data, particularly on home networks (going from 150 million in 2010 to 1 billion in 2030). Dixon stated that, "The PC is not and will not be the center of the home entertainment universe. The PC is a disabler." He suggested a much more TV-centric view of where over the top video is going, when he suggeested something like 12% of broadband viewers are watching 5 or more hours of video on the Internet per day and 84% of people who watch video on broadband want it on TV. 

Along these lines, he emphasized, "That the Internet is transitioning from a technology to a medium." He called what is happening the greatest realignment of television services in 60 years. He suggested that, "Bringing the web to TV is a losing proposition, while bringing the TV experience through the web is a winning proposition." To bolster this argument, he cited TDG’s primary research that suggests more than 3/4 of people prefer to watch DVDs in a social setting some or all of the time. His point was that new media must leverage existing behavior to be successful. He stressed the importance of the guide in helping people to discover content, as opposed to searching which is difficult with a television interface. He also called on telcos to look at new kinds of programming, such as gaming.  

Dixon provided an excellent overview of the entire over-the-top value chain, from content ingest to content delivery. It was a great set-up to my conversation about independent telcos and what they are doing in terms of local content. Several of the telcos in the audience mentioned that they are utilizing their VOD servers to store and stream local content. And local content is a differentiator, but it may not always be enough to keep a customer from churning. 

Doug Abolt described Consolidated Communications‘ process of how they mine their data to determine which customers are likely to churn. This has allowed them to target their marketing dollars and offers, such that they are able to get a better return on those investments. At the same time, there have been unexpected benefits, like identifying weak points in their networks. He described the virtual focus groups that are part of this process as being much more efficient, less costly and timelier than the traditional focus group. Abolt’s presentation was a good exclamation point on a couple of very productive days of learning.     

Safety First – A Worthwhile Seminar

NTCA’s Education Group produces seminars that cover areas of critical importance to independent telcos’ on-going business operations.  The topics may sometimes sound dry, but the speakers that NTCA employs always manage to make the subject matter lively and entertaining. Definitely check out their latest offering, which is the NTCA OSHA 10-Hour General Industry Compliance Seminar that will be held in Dallas on June 19th and 20th.

The description and the registration link can be found at:


Smart Home Tour – Smart Idea


The problem with conferences is the sterile hotel environment that they typically occupy. Speakers talk about the networked-home at these confabs, but the discussions are somewhat theoretical as slide-ware, videos and exhibits are used to convey information. Rarely are these type of meetings held in the real world (Viodi’s Local Content Workshops being an exception, of course, as we go to where the telcos are that are producing local content). 

Parks Associates, in conjunction with HP, has put a unique spin on their upcoming CONNECTIONS Conference by providing tours of HP’s Smart Home. The CONNECTIONS conference is an excellent forum for seeing the latest in technology for home networking and associated services. The HP Smart Home looks to be an interesting venue to show off things like home automation, security, interactive video and other cool services. 

Independent Telcos, let me know if you are going to this conference and maybe we can have some sort of get together.     

Only in California – The Original Social Network

The basis for one of the nation’s most innovative independent telcos was the social needs of a couple of teenage girls. At the WTA 2008 Spring Meeting, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee explained how over 90 years ago Roseville Telephone (Now SureWest Communications) got its start when a couple of farmers connected their farms with telephones, such that their daughters could talk to each other without having to make the trek between their houses   

Whether true or not, this amusing anecdote reinforces the idea that California has been at the forefront of change for a long time. With more than 10% of the U.S. population, changes in California directly or indirectly affect the rest of the nation. Walter spoke of how California is continuing to evolve from the resource-driven economy prevalent at the time of Roseville Telephone’s birth. 

Walters spoke of three broad trends that are affecting change in California: the evolving economy, population growth and a shift in culture. California’s economy has shifted from resource-based to industrial to, what Walters termed, post-industrial. This post-industrial economy, really the information economy, is about trade and services. Walters considered the telco audience to be a big part of this economy. 

Population growth continues to be a driving factor in California’s development. A high rate of immigration coupled with a relatively high birth rate is the basis for projections that will take California’s population from today’s 38 million to 50 million by the year 2025. 

It is not surprising that the California culture is evolving, since half of its births are to immigrant mothers. As Walter pointed out, “We were Kansas.”   Walters suggested that California has the most complex society in the history of human kind. This creates unique political situations. 

He termed the State Capital as not, “a place of people, but a place of interests.” As a result, there is gridlock on fundamental issues about things, such as land use (vertical vs. horizontal use), water (conservation vs. reservoirs) and education. To some extent, the State budget is in gridlock because of these other issues. 

He painted a somewhat pessimistic picture of the political outlook for California, as he lamented that if Schwarzenegger cannot solve these gridlock issues, who can. Maybe it will be 1974 all over again as Walters called former Governor and current Attorney General, Jerry Brown the frontrunner in the 2010 Governor’s race (he will be 72 then, twice his age when first elected).

Gridlock in the legislature will force more legislation at the ballot box via the infamous California ballot measures. Inaction at the State level will force local governments to take responsibility for more and more issues. The bottom line is that doing business will continue to be daunting in California. Thank goodness, we will still have the weather and location.