One of the things I notice about many would-be entrepreneurs is a debilitating fear of failure. They worry about what people will say if their endeavor doesn’t work out. They worry about the cost, how it might impact their free time, or worse, they worry about making mistakes.
You need to get that fear out of the way as early as you can.
To be honest, if you don’t fail, if you never make a mistake, that would be perhaps the first time in history any entrepreneur has managed to accomplish that goal.
I’m serious here. You won’t find a single successful entrepreneur — the men and women we look up to and read about — who didn’t experience a failure.
It’s going to happen. If you worry about mistakes or failures, the odds of you never taking the first step along this journey increase. That’s because when you begin thinking about what could go wrong, the worst case scenarios, then what’s the point?
Nobody sets out to start a business — regardless of what type of business it is — with the goal of failing. No, every single one of us anticipates and hopes for success.
However, when you’ve never done anything like this before, you think that failure is permanent. It certainly can be frustrating. It could cost you a lot of time, effort, and money, but it really doesn’t have to be a waste of those resources, not if you understand what failure is.
What Failure Is
In short, it’s a learning experience. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something new. You can read every exceptional book out there on entrepreneurship. You can go to all of the top conferences and seminars.
You can sit and listen to the best motivational speakers in the world. You can take copious notes, have an incredible memory, organize everything into perfect order, but you will still make mistakes.
You will still fail along the way. That doesn’t mean your business dream is going to fail, but there will be failures along this journey.
For me, I’ve discovered that as long as you learn, no mistake or failure is ever a loss. You either win or you learn.
You don’t have to lose. So, do you really have to fail?
Is it necessary to fail in order to find success? No. However, the reality is much different. Look at young infants and toddlers as they begin to learn how to stand and walk. Did you know that by the time a child has mastered the art of walking and running they will fall nearly 2,000 times?!?
You see the little waggle and wiggle as they begin balancing on their feet for the first time. They always topple over, usually landing on their bum.
But every time they do, they get back up, don’t they? Instinctively they know they want to walk. They know how important it is. So, even though they trip and stumble, bang their shins, hurt their hands, scrape their elbows, and maybe even get a bump on the noggin every once in a while, they keep trying.
And with every effort they learn new skills. They understand more about balance. Their muscles become stronger.
Your entrepreneurial muscles have probably never been exercised before. If you have never ventured out to start your own business or pursue this type of opportunity, then you are just like a toddler learning to walk for the first time.
You need to first get your feet underneath you and learn to stand up. Then you will have to accept the falls. You will fall. You will fail.
You can certainly take measures to minimize the potential for mistakes, but failure is still going to happen. Even if you plan everything perfectly, life doesn’t fit into a neat box wrapped up with a gorgeous bow.
There are going to be external forces and factors you can’t control. Those forces will place pressure on your goals, plans, long-term vision, and dreams.
For example, you may have this incredible idea to start a new retail business in your community. You develop an exceptional business plan, have great credit and no difficulty acquiring funding.
You even find the perfect location and the lease is reasonable. You get everything lined up, but then what? Maybe your city ordinances change or there was a law on the books you didn’t realize which requires you to get a certification. That might put you behind two or three months.
You see, there’s always going to be something to trip you up. There are always going to be failures and that doesn’t mean they’re all going to be your fault.
Just as that little child is beginning to walk, gaining confidence with each step, he will fall. She will get scraped up. They will cry and mommy or daddy will rush in to comfort them.
None of those mishaps and falls were the child’s fault. And most times an entrepreneur fails isn’t because they made mistakes or didn’t plan properly, though that can certainly be the case, especially with younger, inexperienced individuals.
Many failures are simply the matter of market trends, competition, economics, the cultural or financial environment at the time, and so on.
You Need to Learn to Adapt
That’s one of the most important things an entrepreneur must accept and realize: the need to adapt. Because failure is going to happen, you need to be prepared for them. You may not be able to fiscally or deliberately plan for what you might do in the event of a failure, but you must have a mindset that is willing and agile enough to adapt quickly.
Many of the largest international conglomerates and corporations have extreme difficulty adapting to changes in the world. Just look at some of the biggest brand box stores in history.
You had Sears, Kmart, JCPenney’s, Caldor’s, and many, many more. Where are they now? Companies that seemed too big to fail are either long gone, relics of the past, or stubbornly clinging on with their final breaths.
What happened? For the most part during the past two or three decades, it was the Internet. Online shopping and marketing changed the face of retail forever. Those big companies simply didn’t recognize just how major an impact e-commerce was going to have on their bottom line.
They couldn’t adapt quickly enough and smaller, agile companies like Amazon moved in to start stealing more and more of the customer base.
You think Amazon and Walmart are forever because of their size? Not a chance. There will always be something coming around the corner in the future that will force major companies to adapt or become extinct.
And that’s what you, as a budding entrepreneur or somebody who has been down this road a few times before must accept. That when failure happens or certain changes occur — whether you welcomed them or not — you must be willing to adapt.
How Do You Learn from Failures?
Whether these failures are the result of your mistakes or external factors, the most important thing as I mentioned is that you learn from them.
I’ll repeat this statement again: You either win or learn. You only lose if you refuse or fail to learn.
So, how do we learn from our failures?
Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind and remember is to not dwell on those failures. Yes, you can think about them. You can analyze them. In fact, I highly recommend every entrepreneur sit down and analyze any failures and mistakes they experience carefully.
What you don’t do is dwell on them.
What does it mean to dwell on mistakes or failures? You focus only on those things and not the lessons learned along the way, and the experiences you gained, or the victories you did enjoy.
Sports is a great metaphor for entrepreneurs. Let’s say you enjoy playing tennis. It could be basketball or baseball or even competitive swimming. It doesn’t really matter. Let me talk about tennis, though.
You start playing a match and you’re hitting your corners, painting the lines, and running your opponent all over the place. Quickly you’re up five love in the first set, confident you’re about to take the set and run away with the match.
But then something happens. You hit a few shots wide. A couple more drop into the net. And before you realize it you’re back on serve with your opponent having the edge.
Now, you’re tense. Your muscles have tightened up. You’re worried about making another mistake. You keep thinking about all of the missed shots, rather than the ones that were going in left and right in the beginning of the match.
Before you can even breathe, you’ve lost the set and soon the match will be over with your opponent moving on to the next round.
That’s what often happens in business, too. When you dwell on the failures and mistakes, suddenly you tighten up. You worry about making another one or something bad happening to you that was out of your control.
And when that happens, the risk of total failure increases. What I mean by total failure is the entrepreneur completely giving up and never trying again.
It’s okay to sit down and analyze the failures, the mistakes, and missed opportunities. See them for what they are: learning experiences. Like that tennis player who suddenly feels everything is going haywire, you can sit down on your short break between games and either dwell on every missed shot and the games you lost, or you can begin refocusing yourself on what was working best.
You may actually realize what caused things to begin going the wrong way to start with. Maybe it was a customer’s comment or complaint. Maybe a friend or family member said or did something that completely unnerved you.
Perhaps your utility bill jumped or came in far higher than you could have even imagined possible and you had to reconfigure your finances and budget.
For almost every failure there is a potential solution. But, when you only dwell on the failure and allow it to cause you to be nervous, withdrawn, and hesitant moving forward, then your odds of finding success begin to dwindle.
Like that tennis player who is in complete control of the match, only to find he’s one point away from losing suddenly, the entrepreneur who dwells on failure, but doesn’t try to learn from the mistake and be willing to shift and adjust their goals, plans, or focus, victory can suddenly start drifting further and further away.
Failure is not a bad thing. In fact, with the right mindset it can be a powerful asset. So don’t worry about what might happen, what might go wrong, or what mistakes or failures may come your way.
Accept that they will and be ready to learn … and pivot.