Notes from the SouthStart Sessions: Alan Noble on Failure

My notes from Adelaide’s inaugural SouthStart Conference will differ from yours, or your mate’s, 0r the speakers. If there is anything that collaborative work at university taught me, it’s that note-​taking is subjective.

Here is my first set of notes; may you take from them what you will.


Journeys, inspiration, insights:
Alan Noble, Engineering Director of Google Aus/​NZ

  • If you are a non-​technical person, work with a Startup Accelerator.
  • Lose your fear
  • Be committed
  • Take a step — it’s important to take a step, any step
  • Build early, test early, and bankroll it later
  • You learn as you go
  • Yes, you might fail, but innovation is an experiment. Failure is good bets on any experiment.
  • Get over your fear of failure.
  • Acceptance of failure is important.
  • Failure isn’t permanent. You get up and you try again.
  • As long as you didn’t lie, cheat, or do anything illegal, it’s not failure — it’s experience.
  • True failure is not pushing yourself to the limit.
  • At Google, they have a great philosophy: fail fast and get out or try again.

It’s interesting that Alan spoke in detail about failure at the session I’d attended the night before: Totally Blew It. Whereas the night before, he had spoken intimately about his personal experience with experiments that didn’t work, the session at the conference focused on his learnings.

We all need to learn to accept failure. We need to own and learn from our own failures, and accept and help others to learn from theirs.

2 thoughts on “Notes from the SouthStart Sessions: Alan Noble on Failure

  1. I found Alan to be one of the most influential speakers of the day because of these key points which he stressed on. I definitely agree with him, and I definitely understand what it’s like to fear failure and to struggle to make those first steps (i.e. quitting your day job, changing the world). It’s helped me set some goals for myself, so hopefully I can make something out of that.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for your perspective. Yes, that fear of failure is what stops so many people from having the lives they really want to have. I felt that having someone in a position such as his speak about failure was really powerful. It’s one of those beautiful paradoxes that speaking about failure has resulted in a greater strive for success — for both of us.

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