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  • claremayell

The Undergarments that Encourage you to Fail

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

In 2016, my absolute favourite podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz aired. Its very first episode got my full attention – its subject Sara Blakely.

You’ve probably heard her story before.

Sara realized she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear under white trousers. Armed with scissors and an idea, the SPANX journey began. The result? In 2012, Sara was named the world's youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine. In 2020, she was #32 on Forbes American Self-Made Women list.

So, why have I chosen this as my topic?

Let me explain.


Just because something has been done in a certain way or a certain order before, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. Before Spanx, manufacture of women’s underwear had been done in pretty much the same way for 50 years, sizing protocols were woeful with only one waist size regardless of the garment size and products were tested on mannequins not real people.

With Spanx, Sara broke this mould.

In our smaller way, we are trying to do the same for project delivery – disrupting the norm.

In the project world, the tradition is to choose an established methodology and work in prescribed steps. But this one size fits all approach can be too rigid. Of course, structure is still needed but that doesn’t mean you should avoid delivering in your own way, following your instincts. As Sara comments, with every challenge ‘You CAN figure it out – you have the ability’. We agree.

FAILING – a good thing or a bad thing?

Almost every article you read about Sara Blakely or Spanx mentions failing - as a good thing.

In Sara’s words "My father wanted us to try everything and feel free to push the envelope. His attitude taught me to define failure as not trying something I want to do instead of not achieving the right outcome.”

Failure is polarising and to many, the fear of failing can be paralysing. The fear of being judged by others can stop change for good. In my opinion, failing is not binary. It is a spectrum with succeeding at the other end. It is to be embraced – especially when delivering projects.

Never failing often means not trying hard enough to make things better. Never failing can mean projects just go the same way every time. There is no learning, no improvement, no disruption - instead the same patterns are repeated with mediocre outcomes. Time after time.

Do things differently

As Sara says "Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else." It worked for her and it could work for us all.

If you have technology or change projects that are complex and continually get stuck in the same way, every time, get in touch. Book your initial 15 minute chat with us to see if we can help you break the project delivery mould.


If you have some time to spare, take a look at these:

  • How I Built This: link to Sara Blakely episode here

  • How I Built This: other episodes here

  • Forbes Magazine: list here

  • SPANX website: here

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