Failure is part of the game

Fail-Fail-Fail-Fail-Succeed

To be a successful entrepreneur you are going to have to learn to deal with failure. There is no way around it. Thomas Edison tried over ten thousand different experiments before he finally demonstrated the first incandescent light bulb on October 21, 1879. Bill Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data, was a failure. Michael Jordan was once quoted as saying: “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. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

In my short stint as an entrepreneur I’ve failed more times than I can count. I have also had my share of success, but it’s not even close to equal. The failures far outweigh the successes, and I’m sure I have a lot more failure ahead of me. I’m OK with that because I know that as soon as I stop failing, I have stopped trying to innovate. It’s the nature of the business of being an entrepreneur, and of success in general.

If it were easy, everyone would do it. It is naive to think that every good idea that you have will result in a successful business venture. I have yet to hear an entrepreneur say “every single idea I come up with seems to work.” More likely, you hear something like “I failed at my first five businesses before this one took off.”

Think about that for a second. Five businesses. Sometimes the number is three, sometimes it’s 20, but the important point is that most entrepreneurs don’t hit a home-run with their first company. It really does amaze me – how many people have the stones to fail five times and still start a sixth business? You have to be supremely confident and treat those previous five times as a learning experience for the sixth. And if number six fails, you have to do the same and move on to number seven.

In my opinion, the most important thing is how you deal with failure. Once you accept that it’s inevitable, you are able to learn from your mistakes and move on. It’s easy to let the failure consume you – not so much because you are pessimistic, but more so because it is hard to see something that you poured your heart and soul into be ignored or rejected. As soon as possible you need to come to the realization that your business is what they are ignoring or rejecting, NOT you. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can objectively analyze why you failed and learn the things necessary for improvement in the future.

Failure isn’t easy and is extremely frustrating, but it’s a necessary part of success. Don’t believe me? Ask Thomas Edison, Bill Gates or Michael Jordan! Ok, asking Thomas Edison might be a little tough, but you get the idea.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Failure is part of the game

  1. Very informative post Justin. I could feel the emotion you had behind your post. Very well written. In response to your post, I’d like to share something I read in some top business quotes:

    Surviving a failure gives you more self-confidence. Failures are great learning tools.. but they must be kept to a minimum – Jeffrey Immelt

  2. Excellent post Justin. Unfortunately to many people do give up and don’t see beyond their failures and dwell on what could of been far to long. In turn they stifle any confidence to pick up and move on and live in their own little world of negativity.

    Yes it is sad to see anybody fail that has worked hard to achieve a goal, but is a travesty to see one lose all ambition and give up on their dreams.

    Marcus’s quote brought to mind a quote my grandfather was fond of saying over the years.

    “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
    ― Winston Churchill

    Thanks for sharing :)

  3. How true your statements ring. I have been lucky in that my first TE SurfSkeleton though not as successful as I yet want it to be, has not failed yet either, and I still have it moving in the right direction.

    But I can’t even count the number of failures I have had in getting even this far as they are just too numerous to keep track of, and the only thing I want to remember them for anyway is for what they have taught me in preparing for each next project.

    Failures are not failures if you learn something from them, only if you learn nothing from them and go on to repeat the same failure over and over again. But sometimes we actually need to fail at the same thing a few times to drive the lessons home and make them permanent, but as long as we keep learning and growing we are moving in the right direction.

    So in my opinion, failure is not the problem, but never learning from failures and giving up are the problems.

    William A. Miller II
    Admin SurfSkeleton.com

  4. Hi Justin

    I’ve worked in pharmaceuticals for 10 years now, and none of the compounds I have made have made it to the market, and the ones I’m working on right now only have a 2% chance of success.

    Now if we do hit a home run and find a drug that helps improve the life of people who have something like Alzheimers we will have the first zillion dollar drug, hence we invest millions trying to find it.

    Dealing with failure and not making the same mistake twice is a valuable skill to have, just remember that you might need to have deep pockets to pay for it all.

    Andrew
    Andrew Stark recently posted..The Great List Building HoaxMy Profile