The Rapidian

Failure-Lab to host show in Detroit

After selling out its inaugural show at Wealthy Theatre, Failure-Lab will bring its philosophy of embracing failure to Detroit for its second show Thursday, November 21 at the Detroit Opera House.

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Failure-Lab, the Grand Rapids-based speaker series that focuses on failure rather than success, will soon be making its way to Detroit. The show will be held November 21 at the Detroit Opera House. The inaugural show in May sold out the 400-seat Wealthy Theatre. Information on storytellers and performers will be released in early October.

"Learning from [the inaugural show] and getting all the positive feedback allowed us to say 'OK, we have something here. Let's move to other locations and try to do this,'" says Austin Dean, Failure-Lab co-founder.

"It was a combination of being in the right place, at the right time with the right type of content and people took to it."

The event was structured in a way that offered high-energy, impactful content in a small period of time, says Dean. Six storytellers shared an experience they had with failure. Storytellers spoke about the military, divorce, music and art. Success was a topic that was not discussed.

"We really want [storytellers] to own the failure," says Dean. "We don't give [the audience] the success ending. It's up to them to kind of take their own meaning from the stories they hear. If they get some sense of success it's because internally they've made that roadmap themselves." 

After each storyteller was done with their story, short moments of silence were held to let the audience write their thoughts on paper or share them online via Twitter. Comments by the audience were later collected and posted on Failure-Lab's website.

"If we can get to a place where people are coming to the website and sharing a little blurb, maybe a small video they did on their Mac, that'd be great," says Dean.

Between each storyteller, there were performances by local artists. At the end of the event, audience members had the opportunity to socialize with each other or talk with the storytellers to learn more about their stories.

The event can be a learning experience for all involved or in attendance, says Dean.

"We want people to, as they're listening to these storytellers, think 'how does this apply to me? Maybe it doesn't apply to me at all. But does this make me understand somebody else better or understand a situation better because I've heard it,'" says Dean.

For Dean, the learning experience was realizing the impact that was also being made on the storytellers themselves.

"One of the surprising things for me was how much of an emotionally relieving experience this can be and how sharing [their stories of failure] reduces that pain, all that emotion," says Dean. "I didn't know it'd have that profound of an impact on people and I think it really helped them." 

Failure-Lab wants to help communities embrace failure.

"You need a community: sort of a family to be able to be there to pick you up and say, 'you know, we need you to get back out there and do it again for the sake of this community, and for improvement, for growth,'" says Dean.

While Dean thinks the event was a success, he wishes there had been more seats available. Tickets for the inaugrual show sold out about two weeks before the event date, says Dean.

Cities all around the world have shown interest in hosting a Failure-Lab event, says Dean, including cities in Mexico, Canada and Europe. If Failure-Lab were to host events outside of Michigan, it would create street teams to help organize the event, like it is doing in Detroit.

"This is local focused. We want you to be able to connect with the people in your community," says Dean.

For the Detroit show, Failure-Lab is working with a team that is familiar with the city and understands its needs. Storytellers and performers will all be from Detroit or the surrounding area. 

"We believe that the residents of Detroit have unique stories worth sharing, just like individuals living in Atlanta, London or Syndney," says Dean. "This event is less about discussing current events, and more about embracing community, feeling interconnected with one another."

Despite Detroit's recent filing for bankruptcy, Dean says the event will keep its positive message.

"On the contrary, Failure-Lab is greatly uplifting," says Dean. "The goal has stayed the same. We always had that vision of being able to help the community embrace failure [and] risk-taking... That will always be our guiding light."

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