Why Failure is Vital in Order to Succeed as an Entrepreneur
February 3, 2021 5 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
Albert Einstein is credited with the saying: “Failure is success in progress.” As a quote, it sounds inspiring. But when you are in the middle of failure, the last thing you feel is usually “inspired”. That’s because failure implies a flawed plan or an inherent weakness that could lead you to question your abilities. And when setbacks come with the loss of hope, effort, money, and our most valuable commodity, time, it is even more difficult to keep perspective. So it’s no wonder that most of us do everything we can to avoid failure at all costs.
But what I have accepted over the course of my career is that if you can overcome the initial pain and take a long-term approach to achieving your goals, you see failure not as a stumbling block but as a step stone on the way to success.
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I’ve learned some lessons the hard way, but that doesn’t mean you have to. In the spirit of a new year, I want some quick examples of my experiences of professional failure, how I have overcome them, and strategies that entrepreneurs can use to quickly recalibrate after the inevitable mistakes they make when self-asserting, share.
See your mistakes as learning opportunities
This first lesson is perhaps the most important because your perspective is critical. After the dust settles, train yourself to look at your defeat through an objective lens. That way you can understand where you went wrong and hopefully avoid that mistake in the future.
One mistake I made early on was blurring the lines between coworker and friend.
When I was 22 years old, I took my first leadership role at Procter & Gamble (P&G), where I was responsible for 50 employees working in a 12 acre distribution center. Chalk it up as young and eager, but I mistakenly believed that if they had good relationships with co-workers, they would automatically like me. However, in prioritizing the desire to be liked, I failed. I overlooked both professional and personal shortcomings of several employees I was tasked with managing, which disrupted effective communication – and productivity suffered.
In the course of my career I have learned that people in leadership positions must first and foremost lead. They are there to provide stability, direction and visibility. Most of all, your team depends on you being good at your job, and people will respect you for your trust and expertise.
Let failure propel you in a new direction
This second lesson might get you out of your comfort zone, but that can be a good thing. Don’t be afraid to pan around on failure – even if it means changing your career.
When I turned 30, I was working as the vice president of sales for a super successful billionaire in Silicon Valley. He had bought a company with the aim of scaling it up. However, when we looked into selling the software, it quickly became apparent that the existing business model was flawed. Instead of coordinating efforts to expand the consumer-centric sales group, the company really needed to hire significantly more people to generate leads.
Relatives: Bill Gates screwed up 5 times
I knew I had to go back to the investors and tell them there was a critical flaw in their business plan, but it took me far too long to muster the courage to start this conversation. This failure taught me never to hesitate or withdraw from these difficult discussions. It also taught me that bad news early on is good news.
Even though I resigned because of this mistake, I still believed in myself and managed to secure a position at Oracle. Failure forced me in a new direction, but ultimately led to one of my best career moves.
Use mistakes as a reminder to trust your instincts
The last lesson I’ll share with you is that of encouragement. A painful loss can act as a reminder to believe in yourself, trust your instincts, and make sure your voice is heard.
When I became CEO in my mid-40s, I mistakenly assumed the skills and experience of other parties in the company I had just joined. This misjudgment resulted in a significant setback for our business.
lemme while bidding on a billion dollar asset I was willing to pay a bit more to secure it, but I didn’t speak out and we were outbid. Because of this we lost.
This misstep made me very aware of the importance of being sure of yourself and of remembering that you are involved in the decisions of your company.
Yes, a failure can feel devastating by the time it occurs. But don’t forget that failure will help you appreciate your winnings even more. It also builds character and resilience, which allows you to jump back faster if future failures arise. And while it is never comfortable, remember that failure is often a by-product of striving. Instead of letting it stop you, let yourself be refueled and accompany you on your way to success.