Failure is Good. Can You Handle It? : Under30CEO Failure is Good. Can You Handle It? : Under30CEO
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Failure is Good. Can You Handle It?

| October 3, 2012 | 5 Comments

Everybody fails. No matter how hard we try we all experience failure in one form or another. Maybe it’s just a failed strategy or maybe it’s a failed business. These are the four facts of failure that help us to keep failure in the right perspective.

Failure is good

I remember my dad teaching me how to ski when I was five years old. He was a good skier and I wanted to be good like he was, but I would fall all the time. I remember him telling me, “If you aren’t falling down, you aren’t trying hard enough.” I’ve always remembered that. There are a lot of people out there too scared of failure to even attempt something like starting a business. Don’t be afraid of failure. It means you’re trying something that is stretching your talents, knowledge, and abilities to the breaking point and that’s a good thing.

Failing doesn’t mean you can’t succeed

As I have developed and grown various businesses, I have experienced countless frustrations and failures. But failure doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. It just means you can’t succeed doing that thing, that way, at that time.  Some entrepreneurs get the idea that because they failed they must not be any good at starting or growing a business. I know I have felt this at times. But this isn’t true at all. Failure just means you haven’t succeeded yet or succeeded with this idea. Huge successful companies fail too. Ever heard of a Microsoft Kin? Microsoft launched this social media based phone in 2010 and pulled it 48 days later! Ever heard the story of all of Thomas Edison’s failures? Failure is pretty common in business. Get used to it.

Failure makes us humble

Humility is essential to succeeding with a business. Let me explain. No plan you ever make will be perfect, no business idea, no strategy, nothing. It will need to be refined and improved by contributions from other people. Why are surveys, focus groups, business partners, employee input, customer input all so essential to a business? Because no one has all the answers and we are all more effective with each other’s help. But it takes humility to admit that. It takes humility to accept that other people might know better than we do, that my customer’s harsh criticism is actually true. So let failure teach you humility so that you can build a better business. Most entrepreneurs are confident people who don’t realize they need humility to succeed. But there is a time to be cocky and confident and there is a time to be humble. Learn to have both traits so that you can use them both for your business.

Fail then quit

I once read a quote by W.C. Fields that went like this, “If at first you don’t succeed then try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” This is true to an extent. No good comes from trying to push ahead with something that you know will never work. If you test it and it fails, trash it and try again. Come up with a new variety, a new strategy, or new product. Don’t be afraid to try, but also don’t be afraid to quit. Just remember, you can quit an idea, a business plan, or a strategy, but never quit being an entrepreneur. Keep trying no matter what.

Bonus

Failure is temporary (if you want it to be)

There are two types of entrepreneurs. One says “I’m going to try this business idea and if it fails I quit.” The other says “I’m going to start a successful business and if this idea fails I will try another.” Both of them might succeed, but if both fail on the first attempt only one might succeed on the second attempt. Many people want to be entrepreneurs. All who try fail in some way. Many who fail quit. Those who try again, succeed…eventually. You only truly fail if you quit trying. So keep trying.

Find a way to succeed.

Sean Sullivan sold his first company the same month he graduated from college and is now the CEO of Shadoodle LLC, an apparel screen printing company he started his senior year. The company recently released a web based mobile app that can be utilized by both reps and customers to get an instant quote on custom printed apparel.

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Category: Personal Branding, Startup Advice

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Good point. Failure is only useful if you stop to give it some analysis, painful as that may be…

  • ArinSime

    Good points, I like this article because the idea of “failing fast so you learn more” cannot be emphasized enough, especially in software development. If you are going to build a prototype, you really need to define how little you can build initially before you test the prototype with your customers. It may not be a question of having an all-or-nothing big success or big failure. Some of your ideas will fail, but you’ll probably learn from your prototype users what would work better instead. That allows you to change direction with your product idea in small iterations of changes and get to a point where you still have a successful business.

  • Shadeed_Eleazer

    Failing fast and receiving immediate feedback is a core Lean Startup principle. Failure is an interesting character. All of us deal with failure but its how we process the feedback that determines what level we will ultimately succeed. Failure is nothing more than the truth about how we implemented an attempt. Too many people who quit take this truth personally which is the tragic flaw of any quitter.

  • http://twitter.com/shaelipp Shae Jordan Lipp

    Great article Sean.. Failure only helps us grow in my point of view.

  • http://www.callboxinc.co.uk/ Hannah Hamilton

    I agree with this Sean. Losers are only those people who quit on the game. I am a person of optimism and I don’t consider failures as ‘failures’ rather these are challenges to try new strategies and make some improvements. “TRY” that’s the keyword for every successful business. :)