Failure sucks and the hardest part is getting over the experience. Too often it binds us in chains of fear and prevents us from taking the next step forward. Here are some tips to help you on your journey forwards. Some suggestions are based on my personal life and others are from the vicarious living of other’s stories.
Rule 1: Don’t always take failure to be a final assessment of your abilities
Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that to succeed, you need more than skill. You need the business potential, the prototype, the right resources (yes funding!!!) and you need a little bit of luck. True you can make your luck but it helps if it does suddenly appear!
Failure is just a set-back. It helps you buy time to learn, relearn and retry. Look at all those inventions that “failed”! They were stepping stones to the future and even lessons on “don’t go down this way again”. Thomas Edison said, “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
If you take failure as a final assessment of your ability– you will never take another risk. Your ability is this amazing hidden potential which you can never exploit until you explore it further. Love the Johari window concept here. More you share about yourself to others and the more others know about you, the more you learn about yourself!
Richard Branson is dyslexic, yet one of the most outrageously successful entrepreneurs around. Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers dropped out of school at age ten! Jay-Z couldn’t get a record deal in his early career and so created his own. Huffington Post wrote a nice article on this if you need more inspiration. Richard Branson says the first step to overcoming fear is to figure out what you are afraid of. Perhaps what you need to understand is that failure is not the end of the road…just one stop in a journey. Believe in yourself – why should anyone else do the same if you don’t?
Rule 2: You got to let go of the Past to bridge to the Future
Army generals were known to burn the bridges their army crossed over to prevent retreat. It ensured you gave a 100% to going forwards as you couldn’t go back. A bridge is anchored at two points: your past and your future. To cross to the future you need to let go of the past. If you want to succeed in the future, you can’t stay lost in the past. Those people caught in-between are rooted in one place with regret. Embracing the past and acknowledging that it contributed to who you are is very different from drowning in self-pity.
Regret of what could have been is a waste of time – learn and move on. Most angel investors I know all say the same thing – “I’d like to know he/she failed and learnt and more importantly got up and succeeded”. Everyone fails but if you let this fact defeat you, you will never make it forward to succeed. Regret is common. You will make judgement mistakes (why did you trust that partner, how did you not mange to instil your values into the business, why didn’t you say yes or no); you will loose customers/capital or even your company and worse you will loose time that you could have spent with a loved one (click here for more). I don’t know one successful person who did not give up something valuable, but it is an individual learning experience. Don’t take the journey if you are not willing to make the sacrifice. It is a roller coaster ride and depression is a liability. But to grow, you have to let go of the past.
Rule 3: Leverage on your strengths, a lifetime is not enough to focus on all your weaknesses
Too many times I see people trying to fix all their faults. You know the secret of success is to leverage your strengths. Embrace yourself. Discovering who you are is part of the journey. Everyone is unique and it is important to find your uniqueness because it is what will help you stand out. Those experiences you face make you – you. Find your pivot or your leverage point. Yaro writes about this in his blog “What is Leverage?”. You don’t have to do something crazy new – as Fadi Ghandour says “Copy, Paste, Innovate”.
There are rags to riches stories – Oprah Winfrey, Do Won Chang (Forever 21 Founders), Ralph Lauren and Dhirubhai Ambani, which are some people from around the world who did it against the odds. There are the entrepreneurs who lost their millions and never let it keep them down but built a business all over again – Thor Bjorgolfsson (Iceland), Sam King (Sierra Leone), Walt Disney (USA), Donald Trump (USA) are some examples…(Kiplinger has some nice slides).
Entrepreneurship means believing in yourself when no one else will. Doing things against all odds. Do not let failure defeat you. Don’t get me wrong – self doubt is common, failure is painful but don’t let it keep you down. Incidentally age is not a barrier (Chris Anderson has a nice article on teenage entrepreneurs who are now worth millions)
Rule 4: Even when you feel you are alone – You are never alone:
It is lonely on the top especially when things are going wrong. Look for support. A mistake a lot of entrepreneurs do is that they give up hobbies and concentrate friends to one area of work. Join groups, find mentors and mentor and (can’t stress this enough) – get support. There is a difference between taking time to be alone and being lonely. Love this blog on virgin that talks about not needing to be lonely. Govindh Jayaraman says , “The reality is that we all have baggage – as leaders and entrepreneurs we NEED to find people to help us unpack”. Also you do have to understand that what you are facing is what others have faced before you too. I hope this blog helps you in your journey. Happy people have goals that are larger than making money…they want to create impact. In a world drowning with problems, I am sure when you can create a business that touches people’s lives positively, this will help you get a inner strength to help overcome the obstacles that are part of the journey. More importantly, we are all human, there is nothing wrong in asking for help.