Failing is an essential element of being a successful entrepreneur. An excellent book I’ve been recommending for years on the topic is Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell. A few years ago a wonderful renaissance man from Boston Ben Zander’s told me “You can’t play great music until your heart has been broken. The same applies to your career, business and life I’d say.
One of my favorite VC’s has this to say about evaluating entrepreneurs. “Honor is what I’m looking for. How you failed is significantly more important than if you failed. Through failure you find out who the survivors are. You find out those that have the fortitude to work out a new way forward, who can handle recapitalizations or downsizing or shutting down business lines or hiring whole new teams.” – M. Suster
A few other personal favorites on the topic of failure:
“I learned that good judgment comes from experience and that experience grows out of mistakes.” – Omar Bradley
“Success tends to go not to the person who is error-free because he also tends to be risk-adverse. Rather, it goes to the person who recognizes that life is pretty much a percentage business. It isn’t making mistakes that’s critical; it’s correcting them and getting on with the principal task.” – D. Rumsfeld
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” – Leonardo da Vinci
When I was building a start-up professional services firm in Cleveland, Ohio and working untold hours one of my keys to success was getting rejected by potential clients as many times as possible each day. Each “no” meant I was one step closer to a “yes” I was playing the odds and it really worked. In less than three years we had a $10 million revenue office. When you chop down a tree you may hit it with the ax 45 times with nothing to show for it, but it’s that 46 time that brings that tree down.
For many years Babe Ruth was known as the “strike out king”. He was quoted as saying: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” Interesting fact, he hit his farthest home run right on the grounds of the University of Tampa. It may seem counter intuitive, but if you are not experiencing the level or speed of success you would like maybe you, your team and company need to increase your failure rate.