Taking risks is easier said than done when it comes to your business. Accepting failure and learning from your mistakes sounds good in practice, but what if it's your livelihood that's on the line? Here are three reasons why start-ups shouldn't be fearful when it comes to failure.
1) You'll be one step closer to success
Taking a risk and it not paying off will mean you’ve learned what not to do. Ask yourself - and others - why something didn’t work out and get at its root cause. Is it a bad habit you can break, a flawed process you can change, an ego you can tame, or a toxic relationship you can eliminate?
Are you missing skills that would help you succeed the next time around? Perhaps you can get training or work with someone to fill this gap. By identifying the fundamental reason for failure, you will be able to mitigate it in the future. The old adage that it’s about the journey rather than the destination really does apply.
Maybe you didn’t make $100 million or your book didn’t get published - this time - but you learned a lot of valuable insights, formed powerful connections, and refined skills that will help you perform well in all future endeavors. That brings you one step closer to your next success. We all need to lose a series of small battles to succeed in the bigger journey that is life.
"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill
2) An ending is a beginning
You are now free to do anything you want in this world - anything! As scary as it can be, especially after a disappointment (and potentially severe losses), it is also an amazing opportunity.
When something doesn’t work out, it’s very likely that it isn’t the best match for your goals and who you are at the time. Maybe that partnership you wanted so badly didn’t actually fit your vision or your values, and now you have the freedom to build what you’re passionate about rather than be encumbered by a mediocre partner or narrow-minded investor. Maybe you or your team just weren’t ready. Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for you. Either way, you were stopped from investing any more time and resources into something that would not have served you as well as something else could right now. That means you can invest your wherewithal into something better.
Now, how do you find what does suit you? Start by thinking about why you were working on this particular business or project in the first place. Be honest. You may find that there is a different and even better way to achieve your goals. On the other hand, you may also find that you were in it for the wrong reasons, and now is your chance to switch lanes.
"Don't be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid." - John Keats
3) You won’t be 80 years old and still asking "What if?"
There's little worse than forever wondering what would have happened had you just gone for it. So if you tried and failed, pat yourself on the back for having the courage to do something really hard - invest time, resources, and sacrifices with no guarantee of any ROI — and revel in the fact that you now know the outcome, whether favorable or not, with many lessons learned that will take you to your next success.
Don’t make the mistake of asking "what if?" about every little thing you did with your star-tup, project or life. Do assess the root causes of failure and what you could have done differently to learn from your mistakes. But, do not obsess about how the trajectory of your entire life would differ if only you had done it another way.
"I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this… I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. And I knew that would haunt me every day." - Jeff Bezos
The goal is to understand what causes failure and what doesn’t work so you don’t make the same mistakes again. How we respond to short-term failure is what determines our long-term success.