With capital raised, numbers crunched and launch date set, entrepreneurs can be absolutely certain of one thing. There is NO certainty!

Indeed, following your dream to bring your product or service to the world is a risky venture. The annals of businessdom have many spectacular stories of great success. But there are far more stories of dreams that were broken on their way to market.

Let's face it. Entrepreneurship is a risky venture from the word "go." But that's because innovators and visionaries are willing to put their money, time and talents where their mouths are to show the world a better way.

But sometimes something happens along the way. A competitor manages to squeeze you out. Favorite distributors raise prices or just go out of business. A bad hire finds you in legal hot water. Investors demand action, which actually damages the business. There are just so many ways to fail!

But failure isn't a necessarily a bad thing. After all, if Steve Jobs had not crashed and burned Apple back in the eighties, he would never have had an opportunity for the greatest second act in business history. 

The truth is that unless you are the perfect person and your team is made up of perfect people living in a perfect world, odds are you are going to experience some degree of failure.

I've discovered some profound things about failure on my 25-year entrepreneurial journey.

First, while many enjoy touting only successes and appearing as though they are flawless, I find it empowering to share my failures with others. I'd rather work with someone who has been in the trenches and discovered ways to NOT accomplish something. The mistakes I've made have become insightful learning experiences for me. And as a consultant, my failures often benefit my clients. Just as I don't want my children to make the same mistakes as me (they can discover their own!), I don't want to see others in business go down the wrong road.

Second, all successes and failures are building blocks towards the next thing. If we see all our experiences, no matter how painful, as another step on our journey, every outcome becomes meaningful. Failure is not just red numbers on a profit and loss statement. An unsuccessful business venture is a fine-tuning process that can provide clarity for those willing to examine what went wrong.

But perhaps the most important thing I've discovered came a few years back, as I shuttered the doors on a mobile marketing platform I had sunk six figures into out of my own pocket.

After having attempted to market the platform as a B2B play, I then tried to raise capital. With no one tossing cash my way, I then sought to sell the business as a package. And when there were no nibbles, I attempted to salvage something by selling the code that had taken many months to make operational. All the while, I continued to pay for services needed to maintain the business.

While there still may have been hope of turning things around, the business had become an albatross. I didn't want to shut it down--it felt like I was giving up.

But something interesting happened when I finally decided to pull the plug on the business.

Instead of feeling as though I had failed, I experienced a wonderful release of a burden. Rather than see the financial losses I had sustained by closing the business, I instead felt relief that empowered me to immediately move on to the next thing.

In other words, I felt like I stopped failing the moment I stopped paying for it.

Please stop and read that again, because I believe it is truly the key that unlocked the ability to move forward with my next big idea.

Failure doesn't have to be the end of the road. It can be course correction or, even better, jet fuel to take you to the next level. 

 

Published on: Dec 9, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.