Entrepreneurs, businesses, projects and even relationships are measured by how successful they are, meaning what goals they've accomplished and how much time has passed without failures. However, any entrepreneur or inventor will say failure is part of the learning process and, in fact, it is part of the success. With philosophies like "fail fast, fail often" or "embrace failure", it starts to sound like failure is the goal. That's not the case. There are right and wrong ways to fail and what you do with it is what matters.
Why failure matters
Failure, and how entrepreneurs talk about it, is a hot debate these days. One thing they all agree on: without failure, nothing is learned. No boundaries are tested. No progress is made. However, once failure occurs, it's vital to assess what happened and make immediate changes. Then you're ready to fail again and again, ruling out more wrong pathways and ideas in order to get to the right answer. In this way, failure is part of the learning and growing process.
"For many entrepreneurs, failure is seen as something that is wrong, and at times, the guilt of failure is internalized by the individual," said Punit Dhillon, President and CEO of OncoSec. "We've been trained to think we need to achieve success at any cost, but this should not be the case. The most important thing is to learn from failure. By having this ability, you can ultimately move past it while constructively using the experience to build something that is more likely to succeed."
How to fail
Every new solution you try, strategy you plan, product you create or person you hire is an experiment and in doing so, you've made your hypothesis. If it works out, then you move on to the next step or experiment. If it fails, you must evaluate what happened and try again.
"In business, as in personal lives, almost any decision one makes can yield success or failure. Many successful people I meet tell me that failure may be their biggest motivator to succeed," said Yoav Cohen, CEO of NYC Advisors, LLC. "What differentiates these successful people is their ability to learn from their mistakes, change course and continue towards achieving their goals."
The most important thing about failing (or succeeding) is you must keep going. Keep experimenting. Failing again quickly isn't the point; the point is to set your next goal and establish the next strategy to reach that goal. Get going on what needs to be done next without stopping to dwell on the failure.
The big challenge here is that you don't know when failure will happen, and in what form. "The important thing is to keep an open mind, be optimistic, and to look for opportunities in whatever situation you are in," says John Rampton, entrepreneur, connector and motivational speaker. "The key thing is to be able to find creative approaches or perspectives from these situations and experiences. One door closes and another one opens," he says.
What comes next
Your attitude is what matters here. If you keep a positive, open mindset about your mistakes and issues that arise, you'll likely keep moving in the right direction and make something of what you learned. If you're determined to find reasons to quit or can't move past an obstacle in your way, then you're not headed in the right direction. Your attitude, more than your actions, will end your success. Attitude is what shuts you down and leaves you without any more ideas. Failure offers lessons to be learned, also known as tests or experiments but if you see failure as the final answer, then you have quit, not merely failed.
Depending on your perspective, "failing often" may be a bit bold or could send your team down the wrong path. The idea here isn't to seek failure, but to seek new ideas and take risks. If you're afraid of failure, growth is impossible. Additionally, you may be too stunned, hurt or afraid to learn anything from that failure once it happens.
"Failure is completely necessary and severely overhyped," said Bronson Taylor, Co-founder and CEO of Growth Geeks. "Yes, true success is only possible if you are pushing your limits enough to fail, but failure was never the point - success was. Failure is the mean. Success is the goal."