No one expects startups to be easy, but many entrepreneurs still get rocked by adversity and quit. The question is not whether you will experience adversity as an entrepreneur. The fundamental question is how will you respond to adversity and failure.
To respond well to adversity, you must change your worldview on failure. Here are three ways and three stories from the Legends and Losers podcast to let you realize that losing is actually the path to becoming legendary.
1. Flip Failure On Its Head.
First you need to literally embrace losing. The only way to get a really good look at failure is to hold it close and stare at it in the face.
When you confront your own losing, you often find that it indeed stinks but that the fear of failure is different than failure itself. Separating the bark from the bite of failure enables you to deal with the wound without putting up with incessant yapping in your head and any unnecessary fear and shame.
Next wear your failure like a badge. Talk about it with others. You'll find out it's not as bad as you thought. You'll realize you're not alone. You won't beat yourself up over stuff you couldn't control and you'll see clearly what you can do differently and improve.
If you don't believe me, listen to Episode 62 about Judge Kelvin Filer, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles County. Judge Filer's own career is amazing, but the jaw dropping story is about his father, Maxcy Filer. Maxcy so badly wanted to be an attorney that he took the California bar 48 times before he passed. I couldn't even imagine going through that more than a handful of times, much less failing 47 times. Maxcy is the epitome of embracing and not fearing failure.
2. Focus On the Mission.
Sometimes the only way to get through the pain of today is to focus on the purpose for tomorrow. No one epitomizes purpose more than Jeff Denholm, who was the guest on Episodes 66 and 67 of Legends and Losers.
He's a former merchant marine, Alaska fisherman, big wave surfer and extreme athlete, spokesperson for Patagonia and is now trying to create a new category by re-inventing what firefighters use to put out fires. Oh and by the way, he only has one arm, having lost an arm in a freak accident on a fishing boat in Alaska. What is particularly striking (and that is saying something) is that he lost his arm relatively early on his extraordinary life and career.
What gave him the perseverance? It was his supreme focus on the overarching mission of whatever he's doing, be it serving our country or trying to convince an entire industry to switch to a new fire retardant that is safer for firefighters during a fire and after the fire by not exposing them to harmful toxins.
Jeff's life forces you to ask the question why are you doing the startup? Are you trying to win the lottery or are you trying to make the world better? Missionaries can persevere. Mercenaries quit and move on.
3. Feel Your Feelings.
For as bad as failure can feel, it's often a Trojan horse for other deeper and more profound feelings. Do you just fear failure, or do you more fear the other voices that come with failure? Do you hear judgment from your parents? Do you hear disappointment from your spouse or children? Do you hear snickering from your peers or detractors?
This is why I love Christopher Lochhead, the host of the Legends & Losers podcast and the source of all these stories are from. He celebrates success with unbridled joy and a healthy serving of swear words, since he himself was a three time Silicon Valley CMO who knows the joy of success through hard work and hardship.
He empathizes with you in the lowest of lows, because he's been there himself. Christopher flunked out of school and was labeled as not smart, not realizing until later he was dyslexic. He knows dyslexia gave him the work ethic and perseverance that enabled him to become an industry guru and co-author of the best selling book, Play Bigger.
He feels his feelings to the truest extent possible and gives you the freedom to do so yourself. For as smart and accomplished as he is, I most appreciate his example to feel his feelings so that he can suck the marrow out of failure without avoiding the undue anxiety of adversity.