Failure is inevitable in entrepreneurship.
We might try to make ourselves feel better by believing there’s no such thing as failure, but let’s be real: failure is a real thing.
We’re going to be told, “NO” in one way or another.
People won’t click on our Facebook ads, we won’t get the meeting with the executive, nobody likes our first product, the investor group tells you to come back with more financial breakdowns month after month.
We’ll all fail, and we shouldn’t be terrified.
Loathing failure is different than fearing failure.
They say that the great inventor Thomas Edison used to break out in laughter when one of his experiments didn’t work. He embraced failure. Apparently, he even found failure funny.
But none of that is true. It’s a fable.
He couldn’t afford to love failure. I mean that in the most literal sense. In his early days at Menlo Park, his clients were large corporations who funded his ideas. If he failed, then he was fired. So he worked tirelessly to get the product right.
There was no confetti being thrown when something didn’t work. Thomas Edison and all of his workers hated failure.
But he wasn’t afraid of failure.
As an inventor, Edison understood that failure was simply part of the process. With that said, it’s an overstatement to claim he loved failure.
Moving backwards isn’t always necessarily the same as failure.
I recently listened to an interview with the founder of Patagonia. He talked about how he made the mistake of growing too big too fast. A few years ago, they put a growth strategy in place designed to do something most corporate growth strategies don’t: contain their growth.
He intentionally slowed his booming company’s growth. In other words, he moved backwards.
This is where we confuse failure and moving backwards. Moving backwards can be as simple as re-evaluating your market, making a pivot, or readjusting your approach. Moving backwards is strategic.
Yes, failure can force us to move backwards, but we can move backwards without having to face failure.
We’re too in love with always moving forward.
This is a militaristic mindset.
We’ve been taught over and over to always move forward. Like warriors at war with other warriors who have also been taught to only move forward.
That’s noble, but unpractical if moving forward will get you killed.
Our startups need us to move backwards every now and then. Retrace our steps, regain our composure, re-evaluate the trends in the market, and see things from a different angle.
Doing so just might save your startup’s life.
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Photo: Flickr/David, Bergin, Emmett, and Elliot