Failure is the Precursor to Success
You would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t want to be successful. The individual definition of success varies, but pretty much everyone on the planet would love to attain success and not failure.
For some people success is being happy in their marriage. To others, success means to be able to live a life that they want. To many people, however, success has a financial aspect to it. They want to build a business, or a career, and thrive because of it. That success is what drives many entrepreneurs.
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm” – Anonymous
Wait, isn’t that Winston Churchill?
The idea for this quote came from a random picture that popped up on my Instagram feed. It caught my eye, and it’s something that every entrepreneur faces. When I dug a little deeper, it turns out that Winston Churchill didn’t actually say this.
There is no real known origin for the quote. At least that’s what I discovered over on Quote Investigator. The closest is a quote from 1953, but the author claimed it wasn’t their own.
The bottom line: it’s still a great quote, no matter who first uttered it.
The Failures of my Own
We all suffer setbacks. For instance, my business is Sery Content Development. Through that business I provide content marketing for small businesses, and help them succeed. We have a passion for improving the online image of our clients.
Despite our noble intentions, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Last year we did a ton of work for a client, and never received payment. Over $4,000 worth of work. Hopefully down the road that will be pretty small potatoes, but when you’re bootstrapping and getting off the ground, it’s not fun to be stiffed thousands of dollars.
But that was a setback, not exactly a failure. An expensive lesson learned. Failures include a variety of attempted businesses. There was a computer repair business, an eBay business, a financial advisor business, and a bunch of other things where I dabbled. None of them succeeded (in part due to lack of commitment, when it’s succeed or nothing, then you try a bit harder).
In reality, I was finding my niche.
The Failures of the Super Successful
Many entrepreneurs look up to people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Sir Richard Branson. They all have rags to riches stories, and they all would be pegged as super successful. Those individuals may be high profile, and have a ton of money, but they aren’t always successful.
When Musk was a teenager, he wanted to be a computer programmer. At age 12, he actually designed a video game (one that was never actually produced). Until Google picked up the code, nobody ever played the game! Today you can play online. While a student at Stanford, Musk applied for a job at Netscape and was overlooked.
Today, Musk is well known for his tech innovations. After making millions off developing PayPal, he turned his attention to his “pet” projects. Soon the Tesla Model 3 will be the world first affordable electric vehicle; SpaceX is set to take people to Mars; the HyperLoop is being designed as a high speed mass transit system. Missing your original goals often sets you up for hitting your real goals.
Steve Jobs founded Apple Computers. He then proceeded to run the company, and almost destroy it. Eventually, the board of directors actually fired him from the company that he created!
Jobs didn’t throw in the towel though. He innovated, created another company called NeXT, and eventually came back on as the CEO of Apple (although in a slightly different capacity that emphasized his talents). His innovations took Apple to the forefront of the computing world.
Back in the early 1970’s, while Gates was a high school student, he and classmate Paul Allen came up with an idea. They saw a need for faster, and cheaper, interpretation of traffic data. They designed and built a machine that could read the data.
But it didn’t quite work. Instead of getting rich off their idea for Traf-O-Data, they gained a ton of experience and knowledge. A failed company; a successful learning story.
Sir Richard Branson
In the 1960’s Branson started out on his business ventures. His first attempt at earning money: grow and sell Christmas trees. That business didn’t last long at all. If he had given up, we wouldn’t have a number of innovations we use today.
Instead, he went on to a variety of other business ventures. He founded Virgin Records, was a nightclub owner, founded Virgin Airlines, and more. His charismatic demeanor has likely taken him far, but his determination kept him going.
I could continue on and talk about how Walt Disney was fired for not being creative enough, or how Thomas Edison was called “too stupid to learn,” and more. But you get the point: failure doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
Avoid the Cliché
If you study entrepreneurship enough, you see posts like this all the time. They tout that you shouldn’t be afraid of failure, and you should learn where you don’t succeed. Those are all great tips, but they miss the point:
The point is that you should strive for perfection, so when you miss you still achieve excellence. Learn from your failure, but don’t accept it as a possible outcome. If you do, you will fail more often, and fail more miserably.