How to Successfully Fail in 3 Easy Steps Brandon Steiner, founder and CEO of Steiner Sports Marketing, on knowing when to hang tough and knowing when to say enough.
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When is it time to move on from an idea that is not working? That is the million-dollar question most entrepreneurs face. It's easy to fall in love with something that you have created, but it can be very difficult to recognize and admit that your idea is not working. How do you know when it is time to shift gears?
I can think of plenty of times in my career where I should have been a better quitter and let go of bad ideas. Based on all of those failures, I developed a three-step process to test if my new ideas are worth pursuing: 1. Dream big, 2. Sample small, and 3. Fail fast. I like to say that losing gives you the blueprint for winning, and this blueprint has helped me and my team at Steiner Sports decide if we should stay with an idea or let it go.
1. Dream big
Far too many people don't allow themselves time to daydream, or they simply ignore dreams when they have them. Some people I know think daydreaming is a young person's game. I hate that mindset because it puts up parameters where there shouldn't be any. When driving on a highway, you have to obey speed limits and laws. With dreaming, there are no speed limits or age limits. Your imagination is a free, unlimited resource.
Dreaming initiates purpose, which then ignites traits like creativity and focus. What you might not realize is that dreaming can also initiate empathy. Before a sales call, I'll daydream about where that client is at the moment and what their situation is like. I insert myself into that situation so I know what to say and how to act. I do the same thing when I call my wife or kids. I picture where they are and what's going on with them. This simple act fills me with empathy because I'm putting myself in someone else's shoes and imagining what their life is like. It's the idea of forgetting yourself to fill yourself. Are you taking full advantage of your capacity to dream?
2. Sample small
Throughout my career, I've learned the hard way that just because you are aggressive and dream big doesn't mean you should go all out in pursuit of that dream. I believe resilience, diligence, and tenacity are important traits for entrepreneurs to have, but I don't want you to confuse those qualities with stubbornness. I've watched people I know empty out their life savings and jeopardize their family's future just to see a bad idea through to the end. Before pursuing an idea, consider these questions:
- Does your idea solve a problem? You need to understand your market and how your idea fits into it.
- What happens if this doesn't work out? You need to consider the results if things don't go how you want them to go.
- Can you explain your idea? You need leadership because you've got to sell people on a concept that they've never seen before, and convince them that they desperately need your solution.
3. Fail fast
Failure isn't the opposite of success; it's a part of success. Some of the smartest business people I know are some of the best quitters I've ever seen. Don't let your ego get in the way either. To quote Ryan Holiday, "Ego is the enemy." When our dreams are entirely self-centered, we focus on the money and fame that our ideas can bring rather than how our idea can help others. When our ego steers the ship, we can get stuck pursuing an idea further than it's worth because we're obsessed with earning the rewards.
You've got to have a little ego -- MLB players couldn't get in front of 50,000 people and hit a 100-mile-per-hour fastball without it. But you've got to keep it in check during good times, and you also have to be careful not to let your ego get so bruised by failure that you don't get back up to the plate after a strikeout.