Failure

Google “Failure” and you’ll get this definition: 1) Lack of success; 2) An unsuccessful person, enterprise or thing.  Google gets the definition only partially correct.  The definition of Failure should include: 3) A requirement for personal, professional or institutional growth.

Imagine if every baby could immediately stand up and run as fast as Usain Bolt.  Crazy right?  How about the first time a child recites the alphabet?  A through Z correctly?  Probably not.  When you first rode a bike, did you ever fall over?

Everyone fails.  Failure is good.  Failure is needed for growth.    When you first stepped on the gas pedal of your first car, was it a smooth acceleration?  No, but through that failure, you learned how to properly accelerate through your initial failures.

Read through any entrepreneur’s story and you will find at least one failure, probably multiple failures.  It doesn’t matter if the entrepreneur’s name is Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Henry Ford, Mark Zuckerberg, or Warren Buffett, they’ve all had failures.

The only difference between you and those names (besides the spelling) is that they learned from their failures.  They said, “all right, this way didn’t work, but the idea is still sound, so let’s try…”  Entrepreneurs know how to react when their idea(s) don’t pan out.  They may keep working towards the same end result, but with different methods.

Einstein is quoted “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

My brother and I were talking about failure recently.  He is living in San Francisco, but struggling to find a good paying job to support life there.  He mentioned that leaving the city would feel like a failure to him.  We discussed this feeling, and happened on the notion that failure is a fluid medium.  On one hand, it would be a failure if he were to leave the city without exhausting every opportunity for work.  However, on the other hand, if he would stay in the city after every reasonable opportunity had been investigated, that would be a failure.  So on one hand, failure is leaving, while on the other hand, failure is staying.

Dr. Jack V Matson, a mentor of mine, coined the term “Intelligent Fast Failure”.  Intelligent Fast Failure is the ability to move quickly through a variety of ideas (business or otherwise) while minimizing and managing risk.  Through Intelligent Fast Failure, Dr. Matson has started a variety of successful businesses and owns a variety of patents.  Dr. Matson doesn’t punish failure, so long as the mistakes you make don’t repeat themselves.

I have failed many times.  A couple notable failures include: Half Acre Farm and the Laundromat.  Each time, I learned at least one thing.  From the Farm venture, I learned that I tend to jump into an activity without the necessary stick-to-it-ness that is generally required with starting a business.  I learned I need to measure my pace better in such a way that I don’t get burned out.

With the Laundromat, I learned how to push myself through fear.  Fear of rejection and fear of failure.  That’s not to say that I still get fearful feelings, just that I learned how to step through those feelings and not let them dominate my future.

As I write this post, I realize that failure is usually associated inaction.  Most of the words used to describe the opposite of failure (not necessarily success) are action verbs: moving from the city; step through those feelings; exhausting every opportunity, etc.  Imagine if you were so fearful of failure that you didn’t step on that gas pedal?

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

“If you don’t start, you can’t fail.” Seth Godin