Virtually every entrepreneur has dealt with failure at some point. In fact, most entrepreneurs more or less make a career out of failure until they stumble upon the one big break that leads to success. Some of the entrepreneurs that people may consider to be most successful, ranging from Walt Disney to Narendra Modi, dealt with failure continuously until they finally got their break. What separates entrepreneurs from the rest of the crowd is how they deal with failure. When individuals dwell on it and allow it to bring them down, they will not have the strength to pick themselves back up and try again. Entrepreneurs view failure as a learning opportunity and may even derive motivation from their missteps. This happens by reframing the way that one views failure. According to Brené Brown, a renowned entrepreneur, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” To entrepreneurs, failure is:
1. A Learning Experience
In many ways, entrepreneurship is similar to experimentation. People learn what does not work through failure, and this knowledge is equally as important as what does work. Entrepreneurs learn what needs to be avoided in the future and what could possibly lead to success. In other words, entrepreneurs become more valuable with each successive failure because they learn from it, and it is this knowledge that eventually leads to success. With each failure, entrepreneurs become better at running businesses, managing people, and developing successful products. While all entrepreneurs want to succeed, they know that the path to get there is paved with failure.
2. Something That Gets Easier with Time
People generally feel crushed after their first entrepreneurial failure, and they may begin to question whether they have what it takes to make it down this difficult path. However, failure becomes easier over time as people learn from their mistakes and become excited to try again with new knowledge and understanding. Through failure, entrepreneurs evolve and move closer to success. No one plans to fail, but through this process, people begin to learn that they will ultimately become more confident and effective as entrepreneurs when they fail. Thus, failure becomes something much less scary. Over time, failure often becomes a source of inspiration.
3. Not the Same As Quitting
Many entrepreneurs fear failure because they think that they will be viewed as quitters if they do so. However, the opposite is more likely to be true. Consider a person who selflessly championed a company and pursued every available option before throwing in the towel. That individual will earn the respect of the people around them because they tried even if they failed. Moreover, that person gains even more respect after deciding to stand up and try again despite their failure. This is the tenacity that defines entrepreneurship. To that end, entrepreneurs also need to understand when to cut their losses instead of continually pursuing an idea that is a waste of time and energy.
4. A Way of Defining Success
Everyone has a different definition of success, and it is often only through failure that entrepreneurs can begin to identify what they consider to be most important. This process is critical, as it will shape all future business endeavors. While some individuals define success by creating a product that redefines a market, others may simply want a customer base that is large enough to sustain the company. Furthermore, people’s ideas of success may evolve in the course of their careers. Failure is a way to keep checking in and to understand more fully when perceptions and ideas of what it means to succeed start to change. As this occurs, individuals can shift their overall approach to bring them closer to the success that they envision for themselves.
5. Something That Nobody Wants You to Encounter
Entrepreneurs need to remember that the people who have a stake in the company fear failure perhaps even more than they do. Lenders and vendors, as well as customers, have a vested interest in the success of the company, so they will help as much as they can during difficult times. When these individuals can offer some sort of assistance or support, they generally will, which means that entrepreneurs should not be afraid to ask. If their assistance ultimately prevents failure, then everyone wins. Even if the support merely delays failure, many people will still consider it a win and will be glad that they were able to help.
6. Not Associated with Personal Shortcomings
One key lesson that entrepreneurs need to learn is that failure should not be associated with personal shortcomings. While some entrepreneurs may blame the failure of a company on themselves, that is not constructive and, furthermore, untrue. When failure occurs, people need to analyze why it happened without pointing fingers. In the end, pointing fingers will not fix the failure and only end in hurt feelings. The more important process is identifying what can be done in the future to avoid the same mistakes from happening again. This is the process that makes entrepreneurs successful in the future. Dwelling on failure as a personal issue will not help in this process.
Entrepreneurs should not allow a fear of failure to hold them back. The noted entrepreneur Joanna Bloor said that one of the lessons she has learned is, “Even when you fail you can win.” By embracing failure and gaining motivation from it, entrepreneurs will develop greater confidence and ultimately become more successful.