Why Failing Is Required

The best entrepreneurs I know are the ones that have failed the most. It’s been said plenty of times, of course, but it bears repeating -- failure, in a way that nothing else can, motivates the best to do their best. It’s in the avoidance of failure, and in the mere act of it, that we can we learn more about ourselves than anywhere else.

Obviously, no one aspires to fail. You don’t start a new business or product feature with the goal of not finishing it. And although many talk about the virtues of failing, what’s often overlooked is the importance of taking the kind of risks that often result in failure. If you never fail, or at least come close to it, then you aren’t on track to succeed. Sometimes, you’ve got to get booed off the stage enough times before you can successfully stand on it. If you allow yourself to accept that initial failure and never try again, you aren’t ever going to succeed, no matter what your definition of success is.  

Success starts by having your own positive attitude towards failure. It’s one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur (or, really, anyone). It’s hard to fall flat on your face, dust yourself off, and get back up again... only to fall flat on your face yet again. But having an insatiable, undefeatable attitude towards your failures can make all the difference in the world. The moment you start to approach failure as a positive, is the moment you start taking enough risks to become successful. I love working with startups for this reason. Only with a positive attitude towards our setbacks are we able to build something great and hopefully become remarkable people in the process.

I’m reminded of a story that took place during my early days at Lightbank when we invested in a first-time entrepreneur. Everything that could go wrong for the company did: customers weren’t buying, employees weren’t staying, money was running out, and spirits were sinking low. Like so many struggling entrepreneurs before him, he could have given up, succumbed to life’s hecklers and stepped off the stage. Instead, he persevered through the difficult times, kept a positive attitude through the failures, continued to take necessary risks, and led the company to an eventual acquisition (certainly not the definition of success, but a healthy outcome for the company nonetheless). The company failed so many times that it finally learned how to succeed.

We all fail at some point. Entrepreneurs probably more than others (a 90% startup failure rate almost guarantees this), but it’s imperative that we see our setbacks as building blocks and necessary steps toward any successful endeavor. When you peel back the layers of any great story, you’ll see hundreds of small failures stacked together to create the whole of one’s success. So take risks. Learn how to fail and appreciate failure. Maybe something good will come from it.