Throughout my career, I have spent countless hours mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. I empathize with their fear of failure, but I always underscore that this fear is often misunderstood. Failure is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s often a positive development, setting in motion the foundation for future success.
Michael Jordan is a perfect example. He is not ashamed of acknowledging his past failure, noting that this has been the secret to his success.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed,” Jordan unabashedly admits. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Jordan, like all successful people, didn’t let failure stop him from achieving his dream. Rather, it motivated him to attain it.
Don’t Fear Failing
Failure, like many things, is a matter of perspective. Silicon Valley, for example, has long lived by the mantra of “fail fast, fail often.” The idea behind this is that failure offers an invaluable learning experience. Even if an enterprise isn’t successful, it still has the potential to unleash a wealth of insights that can improve your business model or be applied to a future project.
History is filled with examples of failure preceding success. Akio Morita’s first product was a failed rice cooker that burned everything it cooked. Morita didn’t let this failure depress him, but ultimately persevered to turn Sony into one of history’s most profitable firms. Or take for example Colonel Harlan Sanders’ chicken recipe which was turned down by more than 1,000 restaurants before he ultimately founded KFC at 65-years-old.
One thing Morita and Sanders had in common: They did not view failure as a disqualifying referendum on their worth as an entrepreneur. Rather, they used failure to fuel their burning desire to succeed.
Benefits of Failure
Google recently published an intriguing article proposing that marketing teams and testers can benefit from publishing a “quarterly failure report.” The idea is simple: Create and maintain an on-going list of organizational failures and identify the reasons why they did not succeed.
By doing so, you will have a collaborative system to help you understand exactly what went wrong. This will help you avoid similar mistakes. This “failure report” will also establish a culture that doesn’t penalize failure but values it as something to learn from.
If you want to succeed, you will need to embrace failure. Adopt a fresh perspective and understand that failure is not an indictment of your ability, but part of your journey to success.
Start a business failure report to measure what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, what you learn from your own missteps and those of other organizations will be invaluable in your future endeavors.