Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Greatest Barrier to Success is The Fear of Failure"

I was watching my 2 year old son at his basketball practice and had an interesting conversation with the coach's father the other day. We were discussing how great it is to see the kids learn about the game and, more importantly, experience first hand what teamwork is. As we delved deeper into the conversation we started to talk about the old "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" adage.

This is where we parted in our thoughts. My argument was, while that sentiment certainly holds weight, it is absolutely essential that the children learn what it feels like to win, but more critically what it means to lose. In sports you have clearly defined winners and losers. It's not meant to be all roses. Somebody has to lose. That's the way sports work. What is important is teaching our kids, and ourselves, how to deal with the loss. How do we pick ourselves up after playing what we thought to be the perfect game only to lose to a heart breaking last minute shot?

As entrepreneurs we need to recognize that no matter how great our plan is, how much financial backing we have, or how much talent we have acquired, at some point we will fail. It is inevitable. Chances are you will fail a lot more than succeed early on. How we respond to the failure is what is going to dictate our success down the line.

I have worked for two failed start ups in the last 10 years and both failures were surprisingly different. I'll tell you a little about Company 1 today and maybe in the future we can discuss Company 2.

Company 1 violated one of Sun Tzu's cardinal rules in the Art of War. "Do Not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but rather let your tactics be dictated by the infinite variety of circumstance" They decided to offer nearly identical products across different partners thinking what worked for the 1st partner would work for the second. Because they were so successful focusing on the end user, they neglected small and medium sized businesses which would have paid a premium for their service. As a result profitability decreased and costs went up until a new CEO was brought in to make tough decisions. The New CEO ultimately shut the company down to salvage what he could for the investors. I was fortunate enough to stay on until the very end and raise as much capital as possible before the doors closed as a last ditch effort in trying to save a company that had given up on thinking outside of the box. I learned a lot from that company and made some terrific friends. The biggest thing I learned is to never think you are too big to fail. Failure is always an option.

"Success represents the 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called failure" - Soichiro Honda. If any quote captures the truth about success this is it. We have to pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back into the fight. We aren't toddlers. We are people with ideas. We dream big, risk it all, and work towards success. If you bet the farm and lose it, I'm pretty sure the next time you are ready to bet the farm you will look at it differently. Failure gives us perspective. Don't be afraid of failure, embrace it. It might just do you some good.

Title quote: Sven Goran Eriksson

No comments:

Post a Comment