Truth: Failure is Overrated
August 2, 2017
Just like many “entrepreneurs”, I've fallen on my ass and failed more than once. And it hurts, it's sometimes hard to get back up and if you let it, it can wear you down.
Failure is a simple fact of business – not everything that you do will work and even when something is working, there are always circumstances in which failure can creep up on you.
In fact, failure comes in all shapes and sizes.
From your whole business failing, to experiments that you create in your business to test certain assumptions failing and revealing a different path for your product, service or the entire business.
Failure manifests in places that we never expect and, as I have no doubt you know already, our only job as entrepreneurs is to learn from a failure and to create something that builds upon what didn't work previously.
Remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to your business. After all, it is YOUR business and you have the right to build it, test it & grow it as you see fit.
Failure isn't a badge of honour that should be sought
When you're beset by any type of failure at all, you not only gain experience but you gain a story to tell – a battle scar – and you gain a level of credibility that shows that you're willing to try things that you don't know will be sure fire hits.
And that is a win, a big win.
But we live in an entrepreneurial culture where failure is celebrated beyond the bounds that I believe it should be celebrated.
Sure, there's nothing wrong with toasting a failure and holding a funeral for a failed idea (my good friend Jay Austin is the man who keeps this tradition alive for me) and there's little doubt that failure should be embraced and treated as a catalyst for even more forward motion, both personally and professionally.
But there's a difference between accepting, embracing and toasting a failure and actively seeking it out.
Very, very often I see new entrepreneurs seeking a “story to tell” and actually, giving up on an idea before it's even given the chance to breathe and develop; before it's been given a fair chance at becoming something.
In the startup world, the phrase “fail fast” alludes to the notion of finding out what isn't working, leveraging the learning from that experiment and moving on quickly to the next test of your assumptions.
This kind of failure is different to the kind of failure that I'm talking about here.
A failed experiment in the process of developing a product or service is not something that you'd be able to badge yourself with.
It's just part of the process.
The kind of failure that some new entrepreneurs seek is the kind of failure that can shape your life.
But by virtue of seeking it, the point is forced and there's no impetus to carry on testing your business idea out.
Too often, I see entrepreneurs who are quick to label a failure as just that, when actually all that is needed is a little learning and a series of small pivot points.
Too many people that I see and work with are seeking the next big idea, expecting it to come quickly and out of the blue with every other attempt at a “big idea” prior to this magical unicorn deemed a failure way too soon.
“I had ten failures before I hit on a success.”
This kind of statement is thrown around a lot and I'd urge anyone with that mindset to really ask themselves whether they really gave each of the ideas the time of day to grow and breathe, or whether they were quick to label each a failure so that they can claim to be an “entrepreneur”.
I was once told, in my youth, that entrepreneurs don't call themselves entrepreneurs – it's other people who call them it.
Because “entrepreneurs” are too busy getting things done to worry about what they're called.
You have to DO and really KNOW before you accept failure.
Entrepreneurs make money
Recently, the word “entrepreneur” has become a badge for anyone who begins in business, and rightly so, but by virtue of applying that badge – especially as a new or early stage entrepreneur who is yet to make a penny from their endeavours – the currency that is sought is the currency of story.
Again, failure is accepted too quickly just so that the next idea can be moved to and so that we can say that we tried “multiple businesses” before landing on our “big idea”.
ANY of your ideas could be your big idea, but without developing that business idea enough to be able to honestly appraise it, all you do is apply the “entrepreneur” badge without proving that you can do it.
Would you rather implement three ideas that are all successful over a longer period – making one profitable and sustainable before moving to the next – or fail at two of them just so you have a nice story to tell about your failures?
You don't NEED a failure to be a success.
Don't believe for a second that you need to be able to tell the story of failure in order to be taken seriously as a success.
What you really need is the focus and the mindset to be able to recognise when embracing something as a failure is a right choice, not simply an easy way out.
Give everything a FAIR chance of success, avoid “shiny object syndrome” and when things get hard, THAT is the time to dig in and really test the stability and potential of your idea.
It's rarely the time to quit and chalk up another failure.
Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!