I failed at something today. In fact, I fail at something almost every day. It seems strange to admit that. I usually like to hide my weaknesses, but failure is common to the human experience. So why hide it?
Failure is especially common to the entrepreneurial experience. Being an entrepreneur is all about blazing new trails—something that simply cannot be done without a share of disappointments, embarrassments, and yes, failures. Here’s the question though: Can failure be a good thing? I believe so.
The way we respond to our failures has the power to shape us. If we sulk, falter, and permanently fail, we risk being shaped in a damaging way. If we take specific steps to overcome our failures, learn from them, and improve as a result, they will make us stronger. But of course, everyone knows that. The challenge lies in actually doing it. As businesspeople we must find the motivation to respond in a positive way even when the odds are stacked against us. How can we succeed in doing so?
As a young entrepreneur I can personally attest to this fact. My first attempt at starting a business failed completely. After 14 months and a net income of minus $800, I closed the doors. Right on the heels of that fiasco, my second venture found itself in a six-figure hole before it even got off the ground. Three months after my original projected start date, my website was unfinished and I was out of money. My developers walked out on me. I had wasted money on things I didn’t need, and I didn’t have money for things that were really important. By some accounts this would make me an epic failure.
When I realized that I was out of money and out of time, I had three choices: scrap the project, find more money, or launch a partially completed product. Highlighting another lesson I learned from failing in business, I chose the third option. Many entrepreneurs tend toward the idea that if they can't do something right, they would rather not do it at all. When it comes to business though, few things are perfect, and nothing is ever complete. Smart companies start small and gradually increase the complexity of their offerings at a sustainable rate. Failure presents the perfect opportunity to realign priorities and establish clear direction.
If you’ve failed at something colossally, it probably happened because you were reaching outside of your comfort zone. In the process, you surpassed many of those around who refused to extend themselves; which is why they didn't fail. To fail big, you have to think big and try big. At the point where you fail, there is a good chance you've already surpassed your competition.
Looking back, I’m so thankful that I didn't give up. Within six months, my fledgling company was debt free and had enough cash on hand to reach our development goals. Within 12 months, we were on track to make seven-figure annual earnings and experienced exponential growth. To echo the words of American businessman and writer, Dale Carnegie, "discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success."
So the next time you are facing failure, embrace it. You're probably closer to success than you think!
Robert Sofia is a nationally recognized author, award winning public speaker, and practice management thought leader. He has developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500® companies, personally coaches hundreds of financial advisers nationwide, and is the C.O.O and co-founder of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies. He is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.