The Fine Art of Failing Forward
In my post about the lessons I learned during the past year, I mentioned that along with quite a lot of success, I also experienced a lot of failure in 2011. I lost quite a lot of time and money on projects that failed for one reason or another; sometimes because of unfortunate circumstances and sometimes simply because of bad decision-making on my part.
Based on the reaction I got in the comments to said post, as well as in my inbox, I was inspired to dive a little deeper into the topic of success and failure for self-made entrepreneurs (or any kind of entrepreneur, for that matter).
What made 2011 a successful year for me was in no way the absence of failure, but rather the fact that the successes outweighed the failures, once it was all said and done. When we look at a successful business or a successful individual, we tend to do so through rose-tinted glasses, taking much greater notice of their successes than their failures. That’s just the way the brain works: a few days after a match, no one remembers any of the missed shots anymore, but everyone remembers that one amazing slam-dunk.
It’s important to remember that everyone misses shots, everyone stumbles and falls and everyone fails. Watch the video below to see why this is such an important thing to realize:
What About Positive Thinking?
My suggestion to expect and accept failure might rub you the wrong way (and if it does, I understand). It certainly goes against everything many motivational speakers and Tony Robbins types make their living with. Haven’t we all learned the importance of keeping a positive attitude and visualizing success?
Well, the truth is that positive thinking is not useful when it’s delusional. I completely agree that being overly pessimistic won’t help you in any way, neither in business nor in life. But expecting and preparing for high failure rates as an entrepreneur is simply being realistic and I don’t see why you can’t be realistic and still have a positive outlook. Be positive, but don’t be rainbows-and-unicorns positive by dreaming about effortless success and fancy cars. Instead positive and optimistic about your ability to work hard, to work persistently and to overcome adversity.
Mr. Coolidge says it better than I can:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
- Calvin Coolidge
All the best,