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Fail-Safe?

The power to succeed is at least partly in your hands.

Nobody likes failing, but most entrepreneurs do fail from time to time. Why? Is business too difficult for even the smartest of us to fully grasp? Yes, says Paul Ormerod. In Why Most Things Fail (Pantheon, $24.95), the British economist uses ideas from biology, politics and commerce to show that markets are too complex and changing to be more than occasionally and imperfectly understood or exploited. Most ideas, products and businesses eventually fail, and almost nothing we do can change that.

But while no amount of market research, inspiring insight or hard work eliminates the possibility of failure--or even makes success very likely-you can reduce failure's probability, or at least delay its arrival. First, know all you can about your industry. Second, avoid over-committing to even the most promising course. Finally, innovate tirelessly so that at least one of your ideas may succeed. Elegantly written and rich with insights, Ormerod's examination of failure is safe from being considered one itself.

Grow Wild
Growth is an attitude or, more properly, a set of attitudes, according to Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura. The two, who coach entrepreneurs, outline requirements for growth in The Laws of Lifetime Growth (Berrett-Koehler, $19.95). The brief work's 10 principles urge entrepreneurs to make their learning bigger than their experience, their contribution bigger than their reward and so on, in a Zen-like vein. Simple anecdotes from the lives of the authors, their clients and others explain and illustrate the laws' applications. There's nothing in here about incremental revenue growth or upselling existing customers, but this wonderfully broad and flexible approach will help entrepreneurs of all stripes grow, including in ways they may never have considered.

Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Staff Smarts" columnist.

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This article was originally published in the May 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fail-Safe?.

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