Can Failure Be Good?

Not when you take it for what it is, a failure. But if you apply the lessons you learn from one venture to a new and improved one, failure can be the best thing that ever happens to you.

You daydream about what you really want to do. You can't wait to talk to co-workers, friends, family or anyone who'll listen to you talk about your business idea. Thoughts of being the boss, setting your own hours and fulfilling your life's passion get you more pumped than anything else.

So what keeps you from taking the first step? For many aspiring entrepreneurs, it's the fear they might fail. The moment they're about to muster enough courage to launch out on their own, their minds race with thoughts like these:

  • What happens if my venture flops?
  • How would I save face with my family and friends?
  • I couldn't bear to be forced back into working a "real job"-that would be humiliating!
  • If this thing doesn't go, how would I get back on my feet financially?
  • How would I regain my credibility with people?

And with all the failed companies of late, how do you diminish these anxious thoughts to gain the confidence you need to move forward on your business? Change the way you view failure. Understand that failure is not the end of the world-nor the end of your entrepreneurial career-if you learn from it. Not that you want to start a venture only to fail, but as entrepreneurs Jeffrey Henning and John Doffing can attest, failure can actually be the thing that makes you the most successful. Learn from their stories-and maybe those first few start-up steps won't seem so terrifying.

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Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.

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This article was originally published in the September 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Can Failure Be Good?.

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