1428: Move Fast and Break Things

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Move Fast and Break Things
I was almost fired from a job driving the hearse in funeral processions, but then the funeral home realized how much business I was creating for them.
Title text: I was almost fired from a job driving the hearse in funeral processions, but then the funeral home realized how much business I was creating for them.


Cueball appears to be at a job interview, proudly stating his motto to the interviewer Ponytail. "Move fast and break things" is a saying common in science and engineering industries. In that context, it means that making mistakes is a natural consequence of innovation in a highly competitive and complex environment. In particular, it was adopted by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook (who even went as far as to say that 'breaking things' is a necessary feature of moving 'fast enough').

While in software development it is unusual for any great harm to result from breaking things, the jobs listed in the comic are ones where there are serious consequences of mistakes. Some would result in dangerous or deadly situations, while others would just end up with broken packages etc. It's not clear what job Cueball is interviewing for; one suspects it's probably one that belongs in the 'breaking things is bad' group. The results of moving fast and breaking things for the listed jobs might include:

  • FedEx driver - Injured/killed pedestrians, collisions with other vehicles, broken & damaged packages
  • Crane operator - Damage or destruction of load, dropping loads on people below, damage to crane
  • Surgeon - Incorrect operations performed, removing wrong body parts, damaging expensive medical equipment, death of the patient, or in extreme cases, the death of assistants and spectators as well
  • Air Traffic Controller - Air collisions, travel disruption, chaos
  • Pharmacist - Handing out wrong drugs, resulting in illness or death, or destroying them
  • Museum Curator - Damage or destruction of items of historical or artistic significance, damage to the museum
  • Waiter - Crockery broken, drinks or food spilled on customers, food tipped over people, possible injuries to self and others when hot food is involved
  • Dog Walker - Injuring the pet, or preventing it from fulfilling its bodily functions (the major reason for a walk)
  • Oil Tanker Captain - Collisions between vessels, or tanker and port, or running aground, leading to oil spills and casualties
  • Violinist - Ruining an ensemble's performance by playing too fast (with a higher tempo than fellow musicians), breaking the strings or body of the instrument
  • Mars Rover Driver - Breaking an incredibly important vehicle, preventing further exploration, and ruining an extremely expensive mission
  • Massage Therapist - Injuring the client, breaking bones and ligaments. Possibly also breaking the seat the client is on, leading to even more costly damages.

The title text posits a morbid scenario where Cueball keeps running over funeral attendees, generating the need for more funerals.


[Cueball sits in a chair, leaning back with his arm resting on the back of the chair during a job interview. Ponytail is sitting in a chair behind her desk which is between them.]
Cueball: My motto is "Move fast and break things."
[Below the panel follows a list:]
Jobs I've been
fired from
Fedex driver
Crane operator
Air traffic controller
Museum curator
Dog walker
Oil tanker captain
Mars rover driver
Massage therapist


This comic used to be available as a mug in the xkcd store before it was shut down.

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catch me if I'm wrong here, but driving the hearse recklessly would probably be more likely to injure pedestrians on the way to the funeral - not the attendees, who are often behind the hearse (?) -- Brettpeirce (talk) 11:05, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

That really depends on how recklessly you're driving.--Bmmarti3 (talk) 13:32, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Arguably, if you're doing it 'right' for certain values of 'right,' you should be getting both. 03:36, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
Also relevant: “Drive recklessly” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S75Rfva9O8 04:58, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Forgive me, but "removing wrong body parts" in the explanation made me grin. "Woops, that's not an appendix! Why are we in the brain, anyway?" 13:53, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

The scary thing is that it does happen with suprising frequency. Incorrect diagnosis of symptoms, left leg amputated instead of the right, Mr Jones' operation accidentally carried out on Mr James, surgical instruments left inside the patient, incorrect drugs prescribed, etc etc. There is an interesting TED talk on the subject by Brian Goldman. --Pudder (talk) 14:07, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Reminds me of this SMBC comicArtyer (talk|ctb) 15:50, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

Quick question: If cueball almost got fired from his job at the funeral home, and still works there, how is this a job interview? —Artyer (talk|ctb) 15:50, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

You can go to a job interview while you still have a job; in fact in some places you're more likely to get an offer this way. Zowayix (talk) 16:26, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Maybe he quit instead of getting fired. Cheeselover724 (talk) 21:48, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
For me, the casual way Cueball is sitting makes it more likely to be a job interview than to be a report after some incident. 12:54, 13 December 2015 (UTC)

For the violin, he must have bowed real fast and slippage occurred. -- 17:06, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

That's amazing! Where does it come from? --RenniePet (talk) 21:06, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
Hmm, found this, don't know if it's legitimate or not. http://lostinthecloudblog.com/2010/03/13/john-stump-composer-of-faeries-aire-and-death-waltz/ --RenniePet (talk) 21:32, 1 October 2014 (UTC)

I didn't read this as a job interview at all, but as a meeting with Cueball's current boss after an incident. Cueball explains his philosophy, in explanation of the catastrophe he's caused. It doesn't say anywhere that this is a job interview. -- Mojacardave (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I thought the popular saying was "fail fast, fail often." Heshy (talk) 16:29, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Could the "Move Fast and Break Things" also be a nod to Mozilla Framework Based on Templates (MFBT)? They're notorious for moving fast and breaking things and then subsequently fixing them really fast in a never-ending loop... --Wordherder (talk) 19:19, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Interestingly one should now include even Facebook Developer as one of the jobs where breaking things is bad, http://mashable.com/2014/04/30/facebooks-new-mantra-move-fast-with-stability/ Admittedly the comic would be less funny if the motto were "Move fast with stable infra." (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I am kind of disturbed by dog walker because I love animals, putting that in the description make me thinks terrifying things. 05:56, 5 October 2017 (UTC)