Embracing Failure

September 1st, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

As you’ve tried to start a business, have you ever felt like a failure?  Maybe not such a bad thing, as we learn today!

Ron and I have a dear friend named Roger Reid who exemplifies the type of mindset and attitude necessary to thrive in times of turbulence. Roger was one of the most successful college basketball coaches in the United States during the 1990s. In 1996 Roger was involved in a nasty termination from a major university. After the termination, I stopped by his home to express my support. We talked for a while and after a bit he stated with a knowing smile, “I have finally found out how funny my jokes really are.”  Chuckling, he continued: “Before this experience everyone always laughed at my jokes. Now people only laugh when I’m actually funny.”

You will have times of turbulence as you build your business. Determine now how you will respond. Will you transform your failure into a step toward success?  Will your failures provide you an opportunity to gutcheck your jokes? Roger went on to achieve multiple successes in his chosen field. Roger Reid is wired for success. So are you.

Does failure break your heart? I sincerely hope not.  Reality dictates that you will experience failures as you start a business. Many of my most valued experiences have been my biggest failures, resulting in my biggest opportunities to learn and change. One of my favorite sayings is:

A stupid man never learns from his mistakes.

A smart man always learns from his mistakes.

A wise man learns from others’ mistakes.

As you shift into this mindset, you will learn to embrace failure and realize that it is part of the process. I have observed that great entrepreneurs seem to handle failure in a calm, competent, and confident manner.  Become passionate about understanding your failures.  It is the only way that you will learn from your mistakes and progress beyond them.

Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times before creating a filament for the light bulb. Despite the rough beginnings, he refused to become discouraged or view anything as a failure: “Every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”

One of my favorite sayings is: “Competence or incompetence always shows its head. It may take a day, a month, a year, maybe even 10 years or longer, but sooner or later it will show its head.” If you are competent, a failure is nothing more than a turn in your journey’s road, a step forward. It can actually make the process more exciting. You just have to refuse to allow your negative thoughts or naysayers to convince you that a setback or even a series of setbacks constitutes incompetence and marks you a failure.

Years ago I heard a story from one of my peers about a seminar where the speaker used an object lesson to illustrate this principle. He took a $100 dollar bill out of his pocket and asked the audience:

“Who wants this?”

Every hand shot up. He proceeded to crumple the $100 in a small ball and asked again,

“Who wants it now?”

Again, every hand shot up. He took the C-note and threw it on the floor and began jumping up and down on it.

“Who wants it now?”

Once more, all hands were in the air. Then came the real gem:

“You mean after I’ve crumpled it, jumped on it, and literally beat it up, you still want it? Why?”

One of the participants volunteered the answer.  “Because its value has not changed!”

So it is with you. You will get beat up, you will fail. But your value does not change. It doesn’t diminish. In fact, the rough treatment will actually increase your value!  There is definitely value in having a selective memory when you are an entrepreneur. Mark Twain captured the feeling: “The inability to forget is infinitely more devastating than the inability to remember.” Do not linger on the bad experiences. Take stock of where you are and appreciate how you got there.

Starting a business is not like baseball where it’s three strikes and you’re out. If you set it up properly, you can take as many pitches as you like and all that really matters is eventually getting the bat to connect firmly with the ball. It doesn’t matter if it takes one pitch or twenty. Just keep at it. Tweak your swing, change your grip, try a lighter bat, or move up in the batter’s box.  You will find the right combination and sooner or later you will connect.

Frequently as I gather with my entrepreneur buddies, our banter turns to battle scars. Near-death stories are told with relish and pride. They are badges of honor. Why? Because the journey, the failures, the experiences, and the lessons learned are the fun parts!

Porter’s Points – Embracing Failure

  • Learn to enjoy, embrace, and savor your failures.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself, you can’t gain experience without failure—it’s a natural cycle.
  • Keep a journal of critical decisions and how they turned out. Write advice to yourself to follow in similar, future situations.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment