Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile


So says Sara Blakely, 41, just turned billionaire, landing on the cover of Forbes, March 26, 2012.

As I write this, it’s Friday night in Atlanta, where Sara Blakely set up her company, Spanx. Both are “local news” around here. I don’t watch much news, but when I can catch them, I enjoy the uplifting short stories aired on the ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. (Kudos to both shows!) Tonight I saw a diamond!

What caught my attention? The encouraging, agile dialog patterns reported by Diane Sawyer in tonight’s story, “Spanx Entrepreneur Shares Advice” (March 9, 2012).

“What did you fail at today?”

That’s what Sara Blakely’s father would ask his kids at their dining room table in the evening. They would all talk about it. That sure sounds like an agile retrospective to me. What do you think?

Then came the best part: Sara’s dad would raise his hand and say something like this…

Way to go! That’s a high five!”

As Sara’s dad so clearly thought and taught, the only real failure is not trying.

That’s soooooo agile!  Isn’t it?  Try…Fail…Learn…Celebrate!…and try again. An iterative process, with incremental success. It gets better if you keep at it. Ultimately you succeed in accomplishing a whole lot more than if you play it safe–or worse–quit trying.

As Sara Blakely’s story unfolded through her interview clips, I was riveted! Leaning over the upstairs railing, peering intently now at the TV in the family room, I heard agility, perseverance and encouragement coming through–loud and clear–as Sara recounted typical dialogs with her dad and with her best friend and roommate, Laura. And I heard it in Sara’s self-talk. No wonder, given her dad’s coaching. Somehow, he got her listening to Wayne Dyer on cassette tapes…while she was in high school. What a great father and life coach Sara’s dad was!

“This is the night to believe in yourself.”

Sara’s story spoke volumes to me. I have two daughters. I understand. Along the way, I have mentored others through coaching, training, managing, and collaboration as peers.  Today happens to be my oldest daughter Sarah’s birthday! (Pardon me for a moment, dear readers…)

Dear Sarah, my precious daughter, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’m so proud of you. You know how much I believe in you. I’m so glad you believe in yourself! As we celebrate your birthday around the table tomorrow, I’ll be asking you a new question I just learned from another Sara’s dad, “What did you fail at today?” Whatever it was, you can expect a big grin and a high five from me! I’ll give you yet another hug and say, “That’s so great! Way to go, princess!!!

Meanwhile, dear reader, what did you fail at today? I hope you have someone close enough to give you a “high five!” Tomorrow, I will  start my next iteration. I hope you start yours too.  And if you are so inclined, please find someone nearby and help them celebrate their latest gift of failure.

I am still learning. I hope you are too, and on your way to success!

Press ON! 😉

5 Replies to “Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile”


    Wow! That’s agile! I got that while brainstorming this morning with Peter, Agile Scout-Leader. So I “failed” to pick a great headline. And now I’ve found a better one.

    Headlines matter. Readers matter more…

    So, can YOU suggest a better title? Please do!

    Let’s hear from YOU…


  2. Hi Ken, you remind me to take a lesson from a 5 yr old. They are curious, fearless, make mistakes, try again and learn. WSJ just had an article on creativity, much the same info.

    I really like how you teased the Agile dialog from an interview.
    Looking forward to your next post. Stay well!

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