Startup Journal: Accepting Failure vs. Expecting Failure
The thing about entrepreneurship is that every day you're vulnerable to failure.
Startups are a really uncomfortable place, because you're constantly doing things you’ve never done before.
When you sit down at a job interview and someone asks you, “What are your qualifications for this position," they're basically asking, "Have you done this job before?"
They’re asking if you've done the necessary things to be able to do the necessary things. As an entrepreneur, you almost never have this luxury of experience.
You’re going to be asked to do things you’ve never done. What you're doing is taking a theory and turning it into reality. You're taking a dream and creating a business out of it.
You’re approaching a problem, and you’re disrupting the status quo with a new solution. And you know what? Those are tracks that haven’t been made.
Those are roads that haven’t been paved. You’re doing things that haven’t been done!
Nearly everyone in small and emerging tech markets is doing things differently, because there is no status quo. No one is “qualified” to do something that hasn’t been done.
When you're trying to do things that have never been done, mistakes are inevitable. But there's an important difference between a company culture that accepts failure, and one that expects failure.
One is helpful, but the other is damning.
Accepting failure looks like this.
“Hey James, I need you to A/B test which demographics we best connect with on Facebook. Here’s a $50 budget. We just want some basic insights. Could you go do some testing?"
I go. I do. 50 bucks runs out and there's nothing conclusive. I really have no greater insight. And I don’t know if the problem was my content or my copy or any of a hundred different things.
The goal was to find an answer, and I failed.
Accepting failure is me saying, "Guess what, that happened. Fine. On to the next."
On to the next, because I know failure’s going to happen. It’s part of the game, and I accept that.
I accept that I will fail over and over, but I’m hungry for the solution, and that’s the biggest part. You’re not accepting failure as an end goal, you’re accepting failure as a step needed to reach your goal.
Then you have the other side.
Expecting failure is bred from a healthy culture of accepting failure. A culture that says, "We accept failures in our efforts to achieve greater things."
Then the failures don’t stop. You keep coming up short, time and time again. And that mentality of accepting failure turns into a mentality of expecting failure.
When you expect failure, you are absolutely going to achieve it.
It's one of my favorite quotes of all time - I can’t exhaust this enough!
The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both right. - Confucious
When you accept failure, there's this tendency to then expect failure. This is dangerous.
When you accept failure, you accept that it's part of your journey towards the goal, not your end. But when you’re expecting failure, good heavens, that becomes your undoing! It will destroy you.
Some of you might say that expecting failure better prepares you to accept it when it comes. Some of you are also wrong.
That mindset will keep you from fully committing, and you'll fall far short of your potential.
Accepting failure is fine, but how do you accept failure in a healthy way without becoming someone who expects failure?
You have got to celebrate the little things! I don't' know if you caught that.
You have got to celebrate the little things!
Yes, you worked 6 months on that enterprise account and couldn’t close it. Yes, you put thousands into a marketing effort that fell on it’s face. These are failures.
These are failures that are tough to accept. But you know what happened along the way?
There were lots of small victories, too.
Content pieces were picked up by major media groups. There were sales that occurred, relationships that were fostered - good things happened!
So how do you avoid expecting failure? You've got to be reminded that every step forward is a step towards success!
You can’t get so blinded by your big goals that you forget all the little things that are going right.
Look at your day - today. Accept the failures that come and celebrate your victories!
-- James Dawson, Director of Sales & Communications