Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been criticized as a ruthless, intense leader, but no one questions his visionary talents. It's humbling to see how he envisioned today's billion dollar business more than two decades ago.

In Amazon's most recent shareholder letter, the enigmatic icon took a reflective stance into the success of his business. Tech investor Chris Dixon pointed it out on Twitter. It is worth quoting in whole:

 

One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure. I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it's going to work, it's not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there. Outsized returns often come from betting against conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is usually right. Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time. But you're still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. We all know that if you swing for the fences, you're going to strike out a lot, but you're also going to hit some home runs. The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs. This long-tailed distribution of returns is why it's important to be bold. Big winners pay for so many experiments.

It's a pattern you see among the strongest entrepreneurs today. Here's a classic post from Richard Branson titled How to Fail Successfully, particularly poignant with the recent Virgin Airlines sale:    

Failure is never easy, but it's an inevitable part of every personal and business journey. It's important to realise this. Most, if not all, of the world's finest minds, innovators and game-changers have failed at some point. However the reason that they eventually succeeded was because they didn't let their failings deter them.

Fear of failure can be crippling. It can leave people never wanting to try new things, explore opportunities or desire better circumstances. But it shouldn't be. As the Vinod Khosla quote goes: "No failure means no risk, which means nothing new." What a boring and dismal way to live and do business. Taking risks is meant to feel scary, but overcoming this fear is our only ticket to experiencing new and exciting things. We should all learn to embrace it rather than fear it. It is one of our greatest learning tools.

It comes down to two actions: Letting your curiosity and passion of discovery outweigh your fear of failure and embracing your failures as another step towards the knowledge you need to succeed. According to these entrepreneurs, this is where you should begin.

How ready are you to fail today?

Published on: Apr 14, 2016
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