“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” Randy learns this expression during his sabbatical working at Electronic Arts, and he thinks it’s a phrase worth considering at every brick wall we encounter, and at every disappointment. When Randy teaches the “Building Virtual Worlds” course, he has an award at the end of each semester called “The First Penguin Award” that goes to the team that takes the biggest gamble in trying new ideas or technology. Essentially, this is an award for an ambitious failure that celebrates out-of-the-box thinking.
Learning to find life lessons in failure or disappointment is a prime example of Randy turning obstacles into opportunities. “The First Penguin Award” is essentially a celebration of ambitious failure. Just by existing, this award teaches Randy’s students to celebrate the attempt instead of the result and recalibrate their attitudes about what constitutes success and failure.
The title comes from the idea that when penguins are about to jump in water that might have predators, someone has to jump first. Randy notes that the entertainment industry is very different than building a house—sometimes a game will never come out, or it will come out and no one will want to play it. However, start-up companies “often prefer to hire a chief executive with a failed start-up in his or her background” because people “who know only success can be more oblivious to all the pitfalls.” Experience, to Randy, is the most valuable thing you have to offer.
Seeing a failed attempt as an asset rather than a demerit is another great example of using positive attitude to turn an obstacle into an opportunity. As Randy notes, many CEO jobs are filled by people with failed start-ups in their past, because their experience makes them far more aware of what roadblocks to avoid and how to overcome adversity.