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Adam Savage on the Tim Ferriss Podcast

Adam Savage is an amazing human being and this podcast (from earlier this year, but I’m just now listening to it) has a lot of nuggets of wisdom that apply to probably any career, but particularly one in startups: Adam Savage on Great Tools, Great Projects, and Great Lessons.

The origin of “Failure is always an option.” [37:29], specifically:

…the idea of success or failure, to a certain extent, is anathema to scientific exploration.

And when I say scientific explanation, the qualifier is exploration, but any kind. And when you want to explore anything in a rigorous way, you’re doing it using the scientific method. Just by default, you’re comparing your results to previous things, from building the future experiments based on the things you’ve learned in the past.

And, you know, in film, we have the mad scientist go, “Damn it! My experiment was a failure!” And a scientist doesn’t say that. A scientist says, “I screwed up my methodology. I don’t have enough results,” or, “Wow! The outcome was totally not what I expected,” and to be honest, that’s usually why the fictional villain is upset, because the results are the opposite of what they wanted.

But a real scientist who comes up with the results that are the opposite of what they thought is the most thrilled human being you’ve ever met. They are ecstatic that their expectations and their biases have been turned on their heads, and they have now this brand new, much wider understanding of what’s going on.

And that might be called failure by a neophyte who doesn’t understand the scientific method, but to a scientist, that’s opening up the whole world.

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