Tag Archives: failure

Fail Faster

On my robotics team, we follow the saying “fail faster”. Starting from our first meeting, to our last match at champs, our design mentor always tells us to fail faster. By failing faster, we innovate faster. Failing faster encourages us, regardless of subteam, to think outside the box; to think big. When we know that something doesn’t work, we reflect off of it. What went well, what didn’t go well. This reflection helps us find a design or a plan of attack that works best for our team needs. We pass down the motto of fail faster both through mentors and students. Mentors always encourage us to fail faster, but so do the students. Like mentioned before, we encourage students regardless of subteam to think about side the box. Have a crazy design for a climber, or a new idea for an outreach event, let the team hear it.
The informant shared this via an electronic platform of individuals who participate in the international robotics program in a conversation about team mottos. The informant is a student on their robotics team where the motto has been passed down from student to student and shared by older students and the team mentors. The motto “fail faster” is not the official motto of the team, but is the one that students are familiar with and feel the team works by. It has also become a motto for the students as they become engineering students and adults.
My Thoughts
This is an unofficial motto of my own robotics team, though less so than the informant. I have heard it in other teams as well as in some start-up level engineering companies and SpaceX. The idea is that if you just get something out and see it fail, you’ll move faster towards the right solution than trying to iterate in theoretical space until the design is perfect. This motto encourages members of those teams and companies to see failure as a learning opportunity more than anything. It tries to build a collaborative culture that pushes for innovation because they are okay if the mechanism doesn’t work. This motto can then overflow out of the workplace as individuals become more willing to take chances in life and try something new. They are taught to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and to make the most of it is coming up with a new solution or way forward. Furthermore, encouraging failure promotes inclusiveness. New members don’t have to be afraid of giving an idea because failure is something everyone does and experiences and the faster they get around to doing it, the more they will learn.

Cowboy Riddle

Main Piece:


“A cowboy came town on Friday

He stayed for two days

And left on Wednesday

How is this possible?”


“His horse’s name is Friday.”

Context and Analysis:

The informant claims she heard this riddle in her early childhood as she was watching the television show, iCarly. She claims when she heard it she was very excited and remembered it to tell her family later. When she told her family they were not able to decipher the answer and therefore the informant knew this was a good riddle. The informant claims she does not know of any meaning in this riddle nor does she think it originates from a particular place. She believes it could have originated anywhere as all places could have cowboys and horses.  The informant believes this riddle is only for entertainment purposes.

When my informant first said to me this riddle I was shocked by my inability to decipher it. My first thought was that the riddle was a play on the week’s days, and I began to try to find a way in which I could go through the week with Wednesday occurring before Monday. I was unsuccessful in this attempt. After that I began to think of transportation methods that could travel fast through time; once again I was unsuccessful. I eventually gave up and begged my informant for the answer. When she said it to me, I thought to myself, “how did I not think of that.” This is not an unusual feeling when trying to come up with a solution and after giving up realizing how simple it was. I think this is what can make riddles so frustrating or fascinating. Often the answer to the riddle is simple, and when the riddle’s audience is unable to guess it, this can cause frustration for the audience and fascination for the person recounting the riddle.

There also seems to be a requirement for a riddle to be hard to guess but to have a simple answer to be distinguished as a good riddle. The most popular riddles are those that leave people thinking about them, how they were unable to guess the answer and are now only able to find joy in sharing this unsatisfied feeling with others by retelling this riddle. If the riddle is guessed or the audience has heard it before often the one recounting the riddle is disappointed at not having been able to make others feel what he or she felt by not being able to guess the riddle.