The word failure espouses connotations of humiliation and disappointment. Those are not fun sentiments. People think of failure in a negative light, and that’s a natural thing to do. No one wants to fail. Friends and family are watching, or even worse, so is the general public. But in business, failure can be a good thing.
Gerard Adams, founder of EliteDaily.com, failed before building his millennial website which he sold for $50 million to DailyMail.com. However, his enormous exit did not come before he first failed, doing so publicly. According to his interview on the Self Made Man podcast with Mike Dillard, Adams started off building another site that rated investors who picked stocks. A local New Jersey businessman who offered him a job to market an innovative new battery to investors noticed him.
In doing so, he put his reputation on the line during a public demonstration of the new battery, which ultimately failed to do what it promised. Investors pulled out, labeled it a sham, and Adams was left holding the bag on a tremendous failure. His name was tarnished in the investment community where he had spent a considerable amount of time and effort building relationships.
Business can be fickle. You can seemingly do everything right, and failure is still a possibility. In Adams’ case, the battery demonstration was not his fault. Luckily, some investors noticed that his role wasn’t ultimately responsible for the disastrous demonstration and said as much afterward.
Still, many people might’ve given up after that type of public humiliation. They wouldn’t try again considering the amount of variables and risk involved in founding a startup. Adams did not cave in and tried again and again. He learned from his mistakes. He overcame adversity and eventually, there came a time where he would win.
What lessons can you take from Gerard Adams’ experience? How can you fail, publicly or privately, and be able to pick yourself up and try again? Will you be successful?
Have you heard the slang definition of the word, “insanity?” It’s doing something over and over again and expecting different results. If your previous startup didn’t take off, would you try your hand at another one but not change any of your processes? Of course not, because by definition, that would be insane. So when you give it another attempt, refer to the lessons you learned from your first few failures, and change something.
How would you know what to do differently? A great place to start is to document your journey long before success or failure is ever determined. Start to collect notes and measurements on things that have and have not worked. Ask your board, co-founders, employees and other advisors for their input.
Read books and articles from within your industry or from specific areas that is not your expertise, such as marketing or operations. Seek out and speak with those who have already failed or succeeded in a business similar to yours. They might be able to spot the areas you need to improve.
Change Your View of Failure
“When in Rome … ” Have you heard that phrase before? It refers to embracing your current environment and just going with it. When in Rome, you might not normally drink wine, but everyone else does, so now you will, too.
In business, every successful entrepreneur has failed at one time or another. Some large, some small, some spectacular, and some barely noticeable, but they all have failed. This is the occupation you’ve chosen, so it’s time to embrace all aspects including the concept of failing. Learn from it, and repeat it until you succeed.
Changing your view about anything is not easy. You obtained a certain viewpoint based upon intelligence guided by experience. The concept of failure has been so ingrained in society’s consciousness as something that’s negative. Failure is taught to be accompanied by humiliation, rejection and stress.
Human psychology says that safety is a basic need, and yet the feeling of failure creates vulnerability. The argument can be made that failure goes against the most basic of physiological and psychological needs. And if you wish to become an entrepreneur, you must ignore this, change your view and learn to fail.
Find a Problem That Matters to You Then Solve It
Gerard Adams took a chance taking a prominent position in a company he believed in, and it almost cost him his career. He could’ve folded after his first big risk went up in flames, but he didn’t. Instead, he decided to take the lesson and push forward. Why did Adams try becoming an entrepreneur again? Because, like all entrepreneurs, he saw a problem and set out to solve it.
Entrepreneurs are wired a little differently than everyone else. They see the world from a unique perspective. Adams saw opportunity where most people saw an inconvenient status quo. He found another problem where he thought he could make a difference, was passionate about it and didn’t consider failure. He only thought about fixing it, and therein lies the trick. Having passion, while going all in with no exit strategy to solve a problem, will erase your fear of failure.
How do you pick yourself up again after failing in business? The answer is learning your lessons, embracing a new view and jumping back on the horse again. Find another problem, one that you are passionate about solving, and try. You might fail. If you do, don’t take it too hard. With each occurrence comes valuable insight and another step closer to success. One day that could equal a very nice exit like what Gerard Adams experienced.