Entrepreneurial Failure – Your Rite of Passage

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Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

There you are, just at the high point of your solo, and you jump off the drum riser, trip over your lead, disconnect your guitar and end up looking like an idiot. But worse could be in store – what if the resulting tug pulled your amp off the cabs? And what about popping? Life is filled with nightmares!

To be a successful entrepreneur you are going to have to learn to deal with failure. You have to get comfortable with the fact that at some point you will be knocked down.

There is no way around it. Thomas Edison tried over ten thousand different experiments before he finally demonstrated the first incandescent light bulb on October 21, 1879. Bill Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data, was a failure.

Michael Jordan was once quoted as saying: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot; And missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

In my short stint as an entrepreneur I’ve failed more times than I can count. I have also had my share of success, but it’s not even close to equal. The failures far outweigh the successes, and I’m sure I have a lot more failure ahead of me.

I’m OK with that because I know that as soon as I stop failing, I have stopped trying to innovate. It’s the nature of the business of being an entrepreneur, and of success in general.

If it were easy, everyone would do it. It is naive to think that every good idea that you have will result in a successful business venture. I have yet to hear an entrepreneur say “every single idea I come up with seems to work.” More likely, you hear something like “I failed at my first five businesses before this one took off.”

Think about that for a second. Five businesses. Sometimes the number is three, sometimes it’s 20, but the important point is that most entrepreneurs don’t hit a home-run with their first company.

It really does amaze me – how many people have the stones to fail five times and still start a sixth business? You have to be supremely confident and treat those previous five times as a learning experience for the sixth. And if number six fails, you have to do the same and move on to number seven.

In my opinion, the most important thing is how you deal with failure. Once you accept that it’s inevitable, you are able to learn from your mistakes and move on. It’s easy to let the failure consume you – not so much because you are pessimistic, but more so because it is hard to see something that you poured your heart and soul into be ignored or rejected.

As soon as possible you need to come to the realization that your business is what they are ignoring or rejecting, NOT you. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can objectively analyze why you failed and learn the things necessary for improvement in the future.

Failure isn’t easy and is extremely frustrating, but it’s a necessary part of success. Don’t believe me? Ask Thomas Edison, Bill Gates or Michael Jordan! Ok, asking Thomas Edison might be a little tough, but you get the idea.

A growing body of evidence shows that our minds are not like computers to be programmed, or pails to be filled. Instead, we are born learners — “scientists in the crib” in the words of psychologist Alison Gopnik. We reach out into the world from day one.

Stop thinking, brainstorming, dreaming… and start doing.

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