“Stay focused & keep shipping” is what Zuckerberg posted when Facebook announced it would do its IPO. While it had a bumpy first year, it is now one of the most valuable companies in the world with a market cap of over $230 billion.
How does success happen? Easy. You have to embrace failure first.
Failure is an inevitable way station on the journey to success.
The sooner you fail and quickly learn from the mistakes you’ve made the sooner you will become a winner.
You can’t afford to be afraid of failure. It’s a natural part of an entrepreneur’s existence. When you experiment, when you try something new, there’s an obvious increased risk of making mistakes and getting things wrong. But that’s what innovation is all about. That’s what drives entrepreneurs to succeed and separates the winners from the losers.
People who never fail are people who never do anything. Look at it this way: Every time you fail you are simply planting seeds for your next success.
For instance, have you ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Years before the launch of Microsoft it was Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first business venture together. They developed a company that used a computerized microprocessor to analyze traffic patterns—counting the number of times car wheels crossed pressure-sensitive rubber tubes. Their first demo for officials in Washington state failed. But their experiences ultimately led to the founding of Microsoft.
Do you remember when Starbucks first started? Howard Shultz made all kinds of mistakes before hitting on the formula that made it the largest coffeehouse company in the world. Originally, Shultz owned a different chain that he modeled on Italian coffee shops complete with menus mostly in Italian, opera music in the background, no chairs, no nonfat milk and even bowtie-wearing baristas. He rebranded his chain, took over Starbucks, and the rest, as they say, is history. But not without making many changes based on things they got wrong.
Talk to famous authors. Many of them write numerous books before finding success and recognition. They will also tell you that there’s no such thing as writing a book—you rewrite a book because you make so many changes fine-tuning paragraphs that originally didn’t work.
Of course, especially for internet startups today, it’s easier and cheaper to seize chances and make changes because the hard financial costs of failure are lower. Besides you can regard the cost as part of your R&D expenditure!
Failure = learning experience. I’m not advocating that you actively seek to fail. After all I can assure you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a string of successes. I am suggesting that you optimize failure and that you aren’t afraid of it or disheartened by it. Learning quick, is definitely more important than failing fast!
Look at your own life. If you’re anything like most people (me included!) you’ll probably discover that your biggest learning experiences came out of errors and failures or times when you had to surmount huge obstacles.
So, you create. You experiment. You test what people like and what they dislike. You make mistakes. You correct them. You learn from them. You bounce back. Ultimately, in the long-term, failure is not an option, for sure. But short-term it’s an almost unavoidable, if not essential, part of the journey.
As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”
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