I’ve heard a number of people lament how some people constantly “fail up”.
I think this is incredibly short-sighted and it stops people from taking risks, even calculated ones that they should be taking. If you want a list of my failures, you can start here: How I Destroyed Everything by Lacking Patience.
After failing plenty in my life, I can truly say that it made me more knowledgeable about my strengths, more aware of my value, and much more insightful. All of these things are “up” in my opinion. None of them will ever be a detriment.
Consider the fact that if Elon Musk fails with Tesla, and there is a huge number of reasons it could be true, it’s possible that another car company could come along that wants him as CEO? Who else is going to understand the missteps? Who else is going to have the expertise of leading those divisions? Plenty of people understand that often failure is out of the hands of the individual, even if they did great work.
This is where those who lament others for “failing up” are missing the point. If you don’t take a chance, working in a valuable manner on something that may or may not work, you likely haven’t made new connections in people, ideas, concepts, that are meaningful or valuable to others. Only by doing work in the spaces that no one else knows can we find opportunities to make ourselves stand out as valuable amongst the crowd.
If your job can be written down step-by-step, anybody can be hired to do it.
It’s important to recognize that “failing up” is an option you have too. That barring a mental breakdown, illegal behavior or something entirely off the rails, those who take risks are rewarded with knowledge that can’t be obtained any other way. And those who have knowledge are rewarded with value.