George Washington, the father of the United States, was a fraud. Not really, but over the centuries we have whitewashed the shortcomings of perhaps America’s greatest president, general and citizen. He surrendered at Fort Necessity during the French and Indian War. He succumbed in a string of battles early in the Revolutionary War, including losing New York to the British. He struggled with public oratory. He was known as a poor tactician. But he obviously learned from his mistakes and became the exemplar we know today.
All of the greatest leaders in history have had forgettable or disgraceful episodes. Many of them are documented in hilarious and erudite fashion in the long-running web series “Epic Rap Battles in History,” where the likes of Shaka Zulu, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and Che Guevara square off to humiliate each other using inventive freestyle verse.
Here’s an excerpt from an episode with Mansa Musa and Jeff Bezos going at it:
Mansa: I expanded horizons with libraries and mosques/While you chopped the top off of all the mom and pop shops/All you widened was the gap between the haves and have-nots/Now they ordering a living in your cardboard box!
Jeff: You’re overrated like you leave economies inflated/You’re about to taste some of that salt that you traded/…/Three years to trek to Mecca? Man, you must be trippin’/One click, I’ll get you there overnight with free shippin’!
And here’s another excerpt from Richard the Lionheart vs. Ragnar Lodbrok:
Richard: Your own story ended worse than Game of Thrones/Your son killed your ex, your ex killed your wife/I’m the Lion King, man, but that’s a messed up circle of life.
Ragnar: You went from chainmail to chained up in jail/’Til Mommy drained England to pay for your bail!
The lesson is that even the world’s most revered leaders made mistakes — even monumental ones — and so will you. Some people say you have to fail to succeed. While I’m not sure I agree with that stance, failure is constructive as long as you learn lessons from it and iterate a better approach the next time.
In that spirit, at GSX this year in September, I will be moderating a panel called “Learning Through Failure,” a light-hearted session in which Jeff Slotnick and a diverse group of prominent professionals will share their experiences in failure so that attendees can dodge common pitfalls, understand reasons for failure, learn about predictable failure, and understand root-cause analysis and the critical lessons that failure can teach us.
Don’t be intimidated by some of the terms you might hear — deviance, process inadequacy, hypothesis testing or exploratory testing. We will let our guard down and speak candidly and self-effacingly, and we invite you to join in on the dialog.
And as much fun as it would be to see corporate chief security officers (CSOs) take the mic and spit flows, I promise I will not ask you to rap.