November 19th, 2012
Ahhh, the “f” word …. Failure. It’s a delicate subject. Nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to admit that it happens. And yet if you are going into business, more importantly in the creative business, failure is a possibility. Why else would parents and teachers discourage their children from one day opening up their own businesses (or God forbid, pursue a career in the performing arts!). I once read somewhere that 50 percent of businesses fail in the first year and 95 percent fail within five years. “Who wants that when you can just work in a bank or a hospital and be employed with benefits?” as my family would say.
We all know why we don’t feel good about failure. Fear. Embarrassment. Self-Doubt. … The list is endless. So here’s an idea – Why don’t we start looking at failure as a good thing? Look at it as an asset, instead of a liability. I bet all the billionaires in the world didn’t succeed the first few times they tried – they simply learned from it and accepted that failing was part of their journey …
… So how exactly can failure be considered an asset and not a liability?
First, with failure comes growth. Maybe you opened a store two years ago that closed in six months because you didn’t do enough research on the location. Now you know. Only with defeats, mistakes, and so-called failures do we only really develop knowledge and sharpened skills. We learn by trial and error. Of course, t is always easy to just give in to negative thinking. “But I saved all that money to get it started, I did this, I did that, I wasted my time and energy for what?” Well, one thing’s right – you are wasting energy by complaining instead of planning your next steps. There is no magic solution for everything – we will make mistakes. If there was a magic solution, the world will be a perfect place. So accept failure, learn from it and move on. No one succeeds by taking it easy, we succeed by taking risks.
Next, failing is not the end of the world. It may, believe it or not, be a window for another opportunity. For example, when I was 19 I moved to Toronto to study Theatre at York University. Like any 19-year-old, I thought I had it all figured out– I was going to graduate in four years, get my theatre degree, and be on my way to becoming a theatre artist. Alas, it did not happen – I didn’t get in when I auditioned for 2nd year Acting! I was incredibly disappointed! My plan fell through! … Luckily, I auditioned to other schools as a back-up. Two months later, I received an acceptance letter from the National Theatre School of Canada. My plan changed, and I moved to Montreal. The lesson? Embrace failure as a part of life – you can’t avoid it. And when you do, you just might find something better.
Last but not least, I would like to quote JK Rowling in her 2008 Harvard commencement speech: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously, that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” I love this quote because this addresses the # 1 reason so many of us avoid failure: Fear. The lingering worry of, “But what if I fail?” … Well, two things can happen from experiencing failure: 1. You now have more insight of how to do things differently next time, or 2. You saw another window of opportunity to spend your talents on instead. It’s a win-win situation if you really think about it. Nobody lies in their deathbed thinking, “Thank God I never tried being a comedian!” Dying patients, at the end of their lives, recall their regrets. Not their failures. “I wish I had courage to ___________.”
So if you are still worried of failing instead of taking the plunge and just going for it, I strongly encourage everyone to watch The Failure Club. It’s a webisode created by Morgan Spurlock about seven real-life Manhattanites pursuing their dreams despite significant obstacles. It’s remarkable to watch everyday people do everything in their power to pursue their dreams despite the huge possibility of failure. Trust me – these are the types of people who will not have regrets in their deathbeds.
So go ahead and fail. What have you got to lose? I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Failure Club : http://failureclub.org Why Small Businesses Fail : http://www.businessknowhow.com/startup/business-failure.htm
JK Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencemen : http://vimeo.com/1711302Tweet