In the world of startups and entrepreneurship, failure is pretty inevitable a lot of the time. Learning to get comfortable with that – or at least to manage your discomfort – is essential to your future success and mental health.
I have previously urged entrepreneurs to fail fast and fail fabulously – and stressed how they should never be afraid to fail. I’ve talked about iterating, pivoting and re-framing failure as a rehearsal.
But it isn’t always that easy.
Sometimes the biggest pain of the failure is that you do it far too slowly, and about as unfabulously as it comes. You’ve let other people down. You’ve let yourself down. There are no good choices. You may even believe other people when they say this is the end of the line, that you won’t come back from this.
Failing fabulously means you get up off the floor, regardless.
Learn. Get up and do it all over again – but this time energised by what you’ll do better, faster, differently and just all round more fabulously. Only you can make that choice, and not until you’re ready. But to help you if I can, here are five fabulous things I have learned from failing:
1. The bank of self belief offers credit! It turns out that even when you’re all out of confidence and your self belief is at zero, you can still make a withdrawal. If there is one person, any person, who believes in you fractionally more than you do, you can borrow and rebuild. And you’ll be surprised how many people you touch on your journey, and how many people believe in you more than you are able to believe in yourself. That’s working capital!
2. Attack is easier than defence. It is very unlikely you can play established powers at their own game and win. So be a mosquito. Be very, very annoying. Use your limited power to its greatest, irritating, effect. Forget the rules. Of course, that might just be what got you into trouble in the first place (I’m talking to you entrepreneurs!) – in which cased skip straight to seeking forgiveness not permission.
3. Probability is on your side. Screwing up really frequently means you’re statistically bound to get it right eventually. Trust me, I do data… Those people who never try, or succeed by accident at their first attempt, pah – they do not know a fraction of what you now know. Plus you could never afford to buy this kind of education on the open market! How good is that?
4. Most bridges are not that flammable. Seriously. When did you last hear about a major bridge burning to an irreparable cinder? They’re made of steel and concrete for a reason. Connections run deeper than you imagine. Forgiveness comes from surprising places. And even if you’re a total d*** – and I know you’re not – there are still people who’ll place a bet on your undervalued stock.
5. If you’re going to break eggs, make a souffle. Or egg clouds. Or whatever the heck floats your boat. There are no mistakes out there that someone else hasn’t made before – it’s up to you to combine them into your own uniquely catastrophic recipe.
So let’s be kinder to ourselves and kinder to others by celebrating fabulous failures with at least some of the enthusiasm we give to the triumphs. And in learning from each other about what didn’t work, we’ll all be one step closer to success.