Failure isn’t failure if you learn from it. Someone has to take the risk and prove that something else can be done beyond the status quo. This thought process came to me believe it or not by binge-watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 series recently and stumbling upon their episode “This Is The XFL”.

Let’s set the scene. It’s 2001. The NFL ratings were doing OK, but it wasn’t the juggernaut that it was 3 to 5 years ago. NBC and the World Wrestling Federation, which at the time was called the WWF and owned by Vince McMahon, introduced the XFL as a joint venture. You may not know this about me but I’m actually a pretty big wrestling fan, even having been to three Wrestlemanias.

Back then, taking on the NFL was a HUGE undertaking. The 30 for 30 episode goes deep into what was going on at that time with the joint venture, exposing the fact that they didn’t really have a game plan, they didn’t have coaches or players or anything then, 12 months later they’re doing it. The genesis of the XFL was the fact that NBC lost its television deal to upstart Fox Sports, and Dick Ebersol of NBC wanted alternative programming. WWF was riding a HUGE high of business at this point, having just gone public and buying out their competition for pennies on the dollar. Vince really felt he was invincible (pardon the pun). These two driven gentlemen had a vision for something greater by contrasting the No Fun League that the NFL had become. History now shows us that the XFL had a meteoric rise and came crashing to a close all within 16 months.

But remember failure isn’t failure. We’ll continue with the rest next week.

This week we continue with the examination of the concept of failure isn’t a failure, by examining the rise and fall of the XFL, WWF & NBC’s upstart football league of 2001. Let’s examine the how and why of the XFL’s failure. There were many missteps along the way. WWF definitely knew entertainment, and the XFL drew eyeballs and big ratings for its first game. The 2nd game saw a failure of catastrophic proportions for the league when, of all things, an employee forgot to put gas in the backup generator and when the venue lost power, hundreds of thousands of homes had no football to watch, which drove away from the fans by the thousands. That, and of course the caliber of play wasn’t even close to the NFL. One can just chalk those reasons as to the big failure. However, there are always at least two sides to every story.

What good came out of the XFL? The biggest success that came out of the upstart league was INNOVATION. The XFL gave us brand new access to players, new camera angles that changed the way the general public watches the game of football. It brought personality back into sports with stars like “He Hate Me”. The NFL learned from the rogue league and improved their production style to match and exceed the XFL standards. 

How does this apply to you and your business? Take a lesson from Dick and Vince. You must take risks. One can argue that the XFL wasn’t a very calculated risk, what with trying to create a whole league in less than a calendar year. However, you have to have the vision to change the game. What’s your vision for the future of your business? Of your life? Look for ways you can innovate your process. It doesn’t matter what part of your business it is in, just look for whatever it is that you’ve been doing the same exact way forever and ask yourself “Is this serving my client the best way possible?” If it’s not, innovate it.

Ask your clients how you can improve it to their benefit. If they could design that part of your business what would it look like?

One more lesson to take from this is when you fail fast. Then, alter your course and chart a new direction. You have to have measurements in place to know when to pull the plug and when to go get more resources. Vince and Dick pulled the plug on the XFL after just one year even though both committed to a two-year agreement. It’s funny; the XFL was recently announced to be making a comeback. Vince must have the itch to innovate again. I hope you get that itch too in your business.

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