How I Found Out That Failure Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

When my elder sister turned thirteen she received a motivational plaque from my mother that said: ‘The key to happiness is having dreams. The key to success is making those dreams come true.’ I was only twelve at the time but those words that hung on my sister’s bedroom wall are what always came to mind whenever I would think of my career.

It took me over 3 decades (okay, and a bit!) to begin chasing my dream down the entrepreneurial road. However, after a few months, the excitement and novelty wore off and that’s when the real challenges began to surface.

In 2013, I found myself setting up a business as well as closing it down in less than a year due to a failed partnership. And nobody – especially if you’re a control freak / obsessive creature like myself – enjoys failure. The word ‘fail’ in itself can be daunting especially when there’s such a stigma attached to it.  But I like to refer to it as an acronym I once stumbled upon: Fast Action In Learning.

Today, I write this article on the 2-year anniversary of my second company. I won’t lie and say that things are glorious (yet!) but the fact that we’ll be going into business for a third year isn’t so bad after all. There have been many tears of pain and joy along the way but if failure has taught me anything after starting all over again, here’s what I would say:

Jump back on your feet.
Derek Redmond showed up at the 1992 Summer Olympics as a favoured medal contender for the 400m sprint. Before he even got past the 50m mark he tore a hamstring which knocked him down as fast as he began. That didn’t stop him from finishing what he was there to do though. He limped his way to the finish line, knowing that he was going to be dead last and would fail to make it through to the finals. Moral of the story: it’s not about failing but about how fast you bounce back up again.

Failure fuels success.
Starting a business is risky and takes courage and perseverance. It took Sir James Dyson 5,127 failed vacuum prototypes over a period of 15 years before finally getting it right. The thought of starting anything from scratch sounds discouraging. It’s not easy to see what you’ve poured your heart and soul into come to an end for whatever reason.  But as Henry Ford once said “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Eventually something’s gotta give.

Enjoy the ride.
Since success is never guaranteed, stress becomes natural, especially during the very early stages of a business that’s trying to pick itself off the ground. The pressure will always be there but if you let it take over you’ll miss out on what you initially signed up for – doing something you love. When you focus more on the pleasure you’re likely to reach your goal sooner than you expected.

Bottom line: we’re all bound to fail at one point or another. But in the end, it’s about finding value in lessons learned and taking those lessons to the next level. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.