25th Oct 2013
Read these key failure facts of eventually successful entrepreneurs to draw inspiration and follow four steps to fail forward and learn how you can grow.
A provocative question in the title of this article, but if you are an entrepreneur, the answer is probably yes!
Dealing with failure is something that most business owners have to get used to.
So what should you do? Learn from failure.
But where do you start?
Here are a few failure facts which will help you draw motivation from the failures of (eventually very successful) entrepreneurs.
- Henry Ford's early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the Ford Motor Company.
- Donald Trump went bankrupt twice. At one time, he had a personal debt of $1 billion.
- Bill gates dropped out of Harvard University, but later went on to found Microsoft.
- Soichiro Honda was turned down for a job at Toyota, leaving him unemployed for a time. He went on to set up Honda.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor who said he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas’".
- Richard Branson dropped out of school aged 16 and his first business, 'Student Magazine', failed before he went on to start Virgin.
- Colonel Sanders started out as an entrepreneur aged 66. He took his chicken idea to many restaurants but was turned down 1,000 times. KFC is now world famous.
Four steps on how to fail forward
1. View failure differently!
How you talk to yourself about the failure is what matters most. If you view the failure in a bad light and practice negative self-talk as a result, it could be detrimental to your future success. The key here is to change your perspective "There are no mistakes in life, just learning opportunities," said Robert Kiyosaki.
You need to effectively rethink the process and effect failures have on you. Robert Kiyosaki neatly sums it up, but it's not just a nice quote, it is actually backed by scientific research. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck: "Failure is information - we label it failure, but it's more like, 'This didn’t work, I’m a problem solver, and I’ll try something else'." So the reality is that you actually give yourself the opportunity to reach new heights if you learn to embrace the occasional tumble.
View yourself as a problem solver, always look for ways to continuously amend and improve what you do. One technique you can use comes from NLP and is called reframing. For example, put the event into context; ask yourself, will this matter 10 years from now? If you feel negative emotions as a result of a failure, imagine what someone taking the most optimistic viewpoint would say in the same situation. The issue isn't the failure, but what you tell yourself and believe about the failure.
2. Ask 'what can I learn'?
With every failure comes the chance to reflect and identify what went wrong. Taking time on this vital step allows you to better understand and make a conscious decision not to repeat your mistakes. Ask for feedback and genuine opinions from those around you. What did they think caused the failure? Often these collective insights will bring you one step closer to success and making the choice to explore what happened puts you back in the driver’s seat.
To help you capitalise on your newfound knowledge, you could create a failure CV. Make a big list of your failures (going back as long ago as you like). Next to each failure write all that you did and can learn from it. This will show you how many challenges you have overcome and how far you have come; something new entrepreneurs don't give themselves enough credit for. It can also be useful to look for common trends; is there a repeat pattern?
3. Talk about failure. Don't hide it
Discussing failure is becoming more popular; whole websites, conferences and events are now dedicated to ways you can learn from failure. Viewing failure as a lesson, with valuable information to be gained, will make you more resilient, better able to bounce back and respond to the challenges you face not just in your business but also in your everyday life. It can lead to creativity, innovation and adaptation ideas and opportunities like you never thought possible.
Maximise your chances by learning from others too. You could arrange a 'failure forum', a regular meeting where discussing failure is centre stage. This could involve meeting other entrepreneurs in person or online and talking about the pitfalls of a recent successful project. Alternatively use it to explore new ways to tackle a sensitive business issue (N.B. This will only work if people feel safe enough to express themselves. If there is a blame culture in your business, steps need to be taken to address this). How could you go about building a culture of sharing and learning from failure in your company?
4. Re-evaluate your goals
Take all the lessons you have learned from the aforementioned steps. Take out your goal(s) or vision and now work to reshape them in light of the new information. As Henry Ford put it: "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Should you narrow your focus? What about a change of direction? Are you missing something? Do you need outside help? How can you begin again, more intelligently?
Kate Tuck is communications manager at Elysian Training