WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE FAILURE OF FYREFEST?
The water-cooler chat du jour is all about the Netflix documentary FYREFEST – The greatest party that never happened. If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s an edge of your seat recount of how a credit card entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule made a spectacularly entertaining shambles of a luxury music festival.
Guests expecting a 3-day immersive party on white sandy beaches, luxury beach villas, gourmet food and headline acts including Blink 182 arrived on the beautiful Island of Great Exuma to find a row of hurricane tents with rain-soaked mattresses strewn over wet, fake sand. The food was a cheese sandwich, they were plied with tequila and as sun went down it emerged there was no electricity, no water and no way off the Island.
Far more tragic is the financial devastation for the islanders, who worked day and night for weeks and have never been paid. The fixer lives in fear of repercussions and Mary Ann Rolle, a big-hearted Bahamian woman whose restaurant was used as a decoy for the first few hours of the guests’ arrival was forced to use her $50,000 ‘rainy day’ savings to pay staff.
The show has captured everyone’s imagination. Twitter is awash with indignant post-watch emotions: disbelief, outrage and fury. I will also admit that a smidgen of schadenfreude augmented the experience for me: beautiful, wealthy people, and self-regarding influencers, audaciously buying into a bad idea, ignoring their instincts, acting out of character, risking their health, reputation, even the law. Their stupidity was astounding, their greed off the charts. How far removed from my comfortable sofa these silly people were.
Fyre festival was a failure on an epic scale; but the mistakes that were made were commonplace and there are lessons to be learned from this fiasco that can help all of us fail better.
Here are three of my favourite clangers and the lessons we can learn from each.
1. Fyre fest was a disaster from the start. Creating an event on a remote desert island without infrastructure and crucially water was always going to be an insurmountable obstacle.
But the extent of the damage could have been avoided if Billy McFarland had stood down sooner instead of seeking further investment and selling more and more fraudulent products that did not exist.
How to fail better: Admit responsibility.
This sounds so obvious, but our natural tendency is to look for blame outside ourselves. Other people’s behaviour, naturally occurring factors such as the weather or other unlucky coincidences can all provide a comfortable alibi.
Billy McFarland refused to listen when his team shared their worries.
Conversely, some of the most heart-warming testimony in the documentary came from Marc Weinstein, a handsome twenty something consultant, who admitted to his regret at posting envy pictures of beautiful beaches and sunsets with the caption ‘view from the office could have been worse’.
It would be easy for him to divert blame and responsibility to those who committed heinous, fraudulent crimes and be thankful that his actions, minor in comparison might go undetected.
But Marc’s response is healthy:
“I was questioning to what extent I was complicit.’
Anything that encourages us to act a little more mindfully is key if you want to fail better.
2. Ja Rule, the co-founding rapper is sounding dangerously detached from the experience.
Only yesterday, he tweeted:
“My heart goes out to this lovely lady… Mary Anne Rolle we’ve never met but I’ve devastated that something that was meant to be amazing, turn out to be such a disaster and hurt so many…”
How to fail better: Confront your emotions.
Feeling the pain after a failure is scary and can often feel overwhelming. If you avoid your emotions, they will continue to seek your attention in increasingly obnoxious ways. Giving yourself the grace and time to acknowledge your feelings is an important step towards moving past this difficult time.
Ja Rule’s tweet is certainly self-pitying, but the emotions do not seem genuine or connected.
In stark contrast, Mary Ann Rolle, the Bahamian woman, whose savings were wiped out to pay for catering staff wrote:
“It’s hard to believe and embarrassing to admit that I was not paid…I was left in a big hole! My life was changed forever, and my credit was ruined by Fyre Fest.”
It must have taken a lot for Mary Ann to publicly admit to such feelings. Fortunately for her, it has paid off and a fundraising page in her name has raised over $145,000 as remuneration for her. Her courage paid off.
3. Following his arrest and while released on $300,000 bail, Billy Mcfarland set up camp in the penthouse of a New York hotel and sold $100,000 of fake tickets to festivals and events including Coachella and the Met Gala.
How to fail better: Don’t allow your failure to define you.
There are stories of men on death row who have turned their lives around and become mentors to youngsters in danger of following a similar path.
Every person involved in Fyrefest could walk away with a damaging belief about themselves based on their actions.
Billy Mcfarland clearly believes it’s ok to behave however he likes at the expense of others.
Others involved in the fiasco could walk away with the belief that they are extremely bad judges of character, weak willed or simply incompetent.
In order to fail better, we need to become aware of the beliefs we hold about ourselves and challenge whether they serve us in achieving our purpose in life.
Rosie Dalling is a life coach and leadership trainer. She works with creative leaders to achieve success in all areas of their life. She created Healthy Selfish to help you invest in yourself and expand your potential.