Want to Be a Successful Entrepreneur? Fail.
Every entrepreneur fails at something during their journey, and that's not a bad thing. Failure can be great, and here's how to harness it into upward momentum.
Every entrepreneur fails at something during their journey. Maybe they fail to launch a business. Or they fail to make it grow and become profitable. But, regardless of the circumstances, every entrepreneur fails.
However, what tends to differentiate an entrepreneur's failures from the failures of others is that entrepreneurs often get back up and, without hesitation, try again. Entrepreneurs have the drive to keep trying. They learn how to take punches, brush off their shoulders and get back in the game with thicker skin. In fact, most entrepreneurs look at failure not as the end of anything but as a lesson learned in what not to do or what doesn't work.
Throughout my work as an entrepreneur and a business coach, I know that continuing my own education and learning is essential. Therefore, I surround myself with others who have various perspectives, which allows me to derive new ideas and concepts I can share with others.
With that being said, I compiled some interesting thoughts on failure from those who failed — and succeeded — many times throughout their careers.
One common thread throughout the advice is this: Failure can be great and successful entrepreneurs will use the momentum from a failure to learn, adjust and advance.
Avoid fearing failure
Entrepreneurs often do not view failures as the end of an endeavor. Instead, they understand that failure is a required part of reaching success and each failure should be celebrated — something that may feel counterintuitive as most of us want to put our failures behind us and move along.
However, this also reminds me of a quote I once heard that instantly changed my perspective. The quote is about having more fear of regret than of failure. So, in other words, be more afraid of what you don't ever attempt to do because you're scared of failure, rather than failure itself.
While we all want to succeed, we must understand that failure and success are not separate. On the contrary, they are dependent on each other, and anyone who reaches an admirable level of success is free from failures.
Write it down
Opposite of what most preach about moving forward from failure and leaving it in the past, I learned that there is a different approach to failure, which may prove to be helpful. Instead of just moving along, try "writing it down" and memorializing the failure through your own lens and words. This process invites us to see the situation differently and put it into a larger perspective to keep an eye on the end goal and appreciate the messy middle. While this can prove to be a painful or cathartic experience, it makes it possible to evaluate, analyze and truly absorb the lesson to apply it in the future.
As a compilation of entries, the journal full of failures transforms into a historical recount of our journey and all we endured. It shows that we are strong, that we have the power to overcome obstacles, and that each twist, turn and curveball is intentionally put on our path to move closer to reaching our goal.
In essence, the failure journal is a log of lessons learned that we can revisit when we are struggling or are taking a moment to see how far we came and how much we grew.
When I thought about keeping a failure journal, I realized that our failures are as important as our successes. And as cliche as it may sound, it reframes our mindset and allows us to focus on the journey and not just the destination.
For example, most entrepreneurs are familiar with the expression "fail forward." Fail forward refers to using failure as a way to progress. It's a method of extracting the lesson from the experience and applying it as you move forward.
When I thought about my failures and the idea of detaching the situation from the outcome, I realized that our failures can be arranged on a timeline to our current situation and can almost serve as stepping stones. Each serves as a mini-stopping point that invites us to analyze our situation at that particular moment and moves us closer to our goal as we jump to the next stone. And for that reason, we should refrain from fearing failure and shift toward embracing it.
Respect your failures
The other benefit of a failure journal is that we often know what does work, but we tend to block some details around what doesn't work. So creating the failure journal will invite you to respect and appreciate those failures.
Here are three tips for respecting your entrepreneurial journey:
- Give yourself grace. You are not alone in failing and trying things that don't work — that's business. So give yourself the freedom to fail and the dignity to recover.
- Practice. Practice being patient and kind to yourself through everything you encounter. Avoid comparisons with others who are seemingly in the same situation — you never truly know what is going on behind the scenes.
- Move forward with gratitude. Be grateful for failures. Be proud of yourself for taking a chance and not living life on the sidelines.
When failure happens, the easiest thing to do is give up. But remember that the hard thing to do is to get started — and you already made that happen. So move forward knowing you are doing your best, and if you learn from your mistakes, you will be better off. That is progress. That is entrepreneurship.
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