People Who Predict Failure Don’t Add Value

I’m tired of people who predict the failure of some new tool before it ever even gets off the ground. They’re cowards, doomsayers, and nattering nabobs of negativity. They don’t actually provide any real value, or anything I can use. They’re like the petulant child who automatically says “Nope. Won’t do it. Don’t wanna” to anything her family suggests.

It’s not hard to predict failure. It doesn’t take any courage, special intelligence, industry expertise, or a crystal ball. You’re not going out on a limb by predicting something will fail. You’re not offering an opinion that runs counter to 99% of your industry. Given the number of attempts at anything that fail, and you’re going to be right more often than you’re wrong. That’s why it’s such a cheap win.

Oh sure, you get to look like you knew what you were talking about when it happens. But the odds are in your favor, as with any startup. It’s like predicting the hitting success of any major league ball player. If you predict an out every time he comes up to bat, roughly 7 – 8 times out of 10, you’ll be right. But it doesn’t take a baseball genius to know that a batter is going to miss 75% of the time.

It takes a pessimistic jerk to say, “he’ll fail this time. And this time. And this time too. And — oops, I was wrong about that one. But I got the other 6 times right.”

The real courage doesn’t lie in predicting failure, it lies in showing success. Talk about what this new tool can do, how it can help people, and where you can see using it. Saying where it fails doesn’t take any creativity.

I’ve seen this lately with all of the Google+ users who whine and mewl that it’s going to fail, or that it doesn’t do certain things, or that it isn’t Facebook, or that Google’s past forays into social media have failed.

Blah blah blah.

There’s no courage in finding fault or criticizing. There’s nothing valuable in predicting that something will fail, and then reciting the same tired litany of faults that you read on some other blog post, or drawing the same tired comparisons to Facebook. They complain but they don’t offer solutions.

You want to do something cool? Tell me what’s awesome about it. Tell me the things this does or has the potential to do. Chris Brogan impressed a hell of a lot of people with The Google+50, which became his most trafficked blog post ever. I may not read Chris Brogan that often, but when I do, it’s because he’s telling me something useful, not why something will/should fail.

I think people who spend most of their time criticizing and finding fault aren’t actually contributing anything of value. They aren’t doing anything useful. They’re the failed restaurant chef who became a food critic. The failed musician who became an agent. The failed teacher who became an administrator.

If you want to be useful, if you want to be valuable, contribute to the success of something, don’t complain. Show why something is cool. Better yet, create something cool. But do something that’s worthy of you and your time. I already think you’re awesome, so show me.

Photo credit: ougenweiden (Flickr)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. I’m shaking my head in agreement.

    2. Mike, as long as the article tells me why something doesn’t work, as opposed to why it WON’T work, I still find value in it. But if they act like the Comic Book Guy (Simpsons reference), then I don’t bother reading any further.

    3. I appreciate articles that point out product or service does not work as advertised.

      On the other hand, predictions of a product or service’s success really don’t mean much. I seem to remember a time when Facebook was predicted to fail because it wasn’t like MySpace…

    4. Steve and Robbie,

      Keep in mind, I’m not saying criticism is the problem. Rather, the automatic prediction that something will fail because it’s not something else. I started seeing “Why Google+ Will Fail” less than 48 hours after it was released. That’s not cutting edge or useful, especially since they were all in the same vein of “It’s not like Facebook” and “it’s not like Twitter.”

      These people were probably predicting the demise of Facebook and Twitter back when it was cool to do so, and predicting the end of email and blogging too.

    5. Unfortunately, most arguments that a technology will fail only include reasons why it won’t be adopted. If we need to be negative, I’d rather see specific complaints instead of general predictions. I’d rather see suggestions instead of just blathering.

      Ultimately, there’s an advantage to providing critique: it presents a clear path to making improvements.

    6. To a certain extent I agree with you in that there is an awful lot of negativity towards new things, but I wouldn’t throw criticism under a bus just because it’s not positive. Sometimes, tremendous success is birthed out of effective response to criticism. If someone doesn’t think your product is valuable, the best response is to prove why it’s valuable. Once you do, you’ll be in a better position than you were before. Perhaps this uphill battle is unfair, but it’s reality. Saying something positive for the sake of not being negative cheapens whatever was said.

      In other instances, (and I think this is more of what you are alluding to) criticism can be toxic when it’s used to make the one doing the criticism feel better about themselves and not to help someone develop or improve. That’s what I call pride and I don’t think it has any place in the the discussion of a person’s new idea or undertaking.

    7. So much of what our society embraces is based on perception. Thanks for leading the way, look for the good and you might find it.