Everyone has said it, but who started it?
December 30, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find the original source for the quote: "Fail fail cheap, fail fast, and fail often" ?

It seems a billion entrepreneurs, CEO's, thinkers and 'new media' people have said some version of this quote over the years, but I'm hoping there's a (mostly) indisputable original source for it. Some other versions seem to have it as "fail cheap, fast and often" or other arrangements of the words, but all with the same idea.
posted by Ookseer to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is "fail fail" a typo, or a strange version of the quote you're looking for information on?
posted by floam at 2:53 PM on December 30, 2009

Sounds a bit like Merlin Mann and his "fail faster" philosophy. Not sure if he said it first, but wouldn't be surprised.
posted by bingo at 2:58 PM on December 30, 2009

I think it is "fail often, fail fast, fail cheap." This guy is either a blatant plagiarist or the possible origin.
posted by bearwife at 2:59 PM on December 30, 2009

I first remember hearing it as "Fail fast, succeed sooner" and it was attributed to David Kelley.
posted by jeb at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2009

Here's a David Kelley ref from 1997. I don't remember exactly why, but I strongly associate this "fail faster to succeed sooner" locution family with David Kelley and Ideo.
posted by jeb at 3:11 PM on December 30, 2009

In Fred Brooks's _Mythical Man Month_ from '75, he says that regarding software projects, you should "plan to throw one away" considering that you will end up doing that whether you want to or not. I think this might be an early origin of the idea. (Actually, I have never heard your version.)
posted by fritley at 4:26 PM on December 30, 2009

Response by poster: "fail fail" is of course a typo. (dang, and I even previewed.)

Here's an example of the phrase.

Here's another. And comment #15 on this page is another example.

I've seen Seth Godin credited with it recently but I can't find a cite.
posted by Ookseer at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2009

This reminds me of the "fail early, fail noisily" principle from Raymond's "Art of Unix Programming" published in 1999 based on lessons learned from developing UNIX beginning in the 70s. Maybe related?
posted by d. z. wang at 10:29 PM on December 30, 2009

Samuel Beckett's penultimate novella, Worstward Ho (1983): "All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:47 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

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