From Arlene: The Importance of Failure

From Arlene: The Importance of Failure

Leadership | Posted by - September 29, 2016 at 12:30 am

I've always been fascinated by how some entrepreneurs almost instantly become discounted as people once they've failed in business.

It's the exact opposite of how we should react to failure, in business or otherwise. Failure is nothing less than the gateway to success. It sounds counter-intuitive but it's absolutely true. In fact, I actually find it hard to imagine anyone achieving a noteworthy success if they haven't at first failed.

As a young man, Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job because he, "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." Stephen Spielberg was rejected from USC's film program on three separate occasions. At age 30, Steve Jobs was fired by Apple. "What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating," Jobs said, adding, "I was a very public failure."

Any of these future icons might have given up right then and there and, chances are, they would been applauded for not wasting their time. Quitting in the face of failure might have been seen by their family and friends as a rational, mature decision. We can see now, in retrospect, just how wrong it would have been for these great leaders and visionaries to have been deterred by failure. But the key, of course, is to see ourselves, and our own untapped potential, in that very same light.

As a venture capitalist, I'm not concerned if an entrepreneur I'm evaluating has failed in past enterprises. For anyone to have failed, they must have first at least mustered the courage to have taken a risk – and it's that boldness and tenacity, coupled with the increased knowledge they've gained from the journey itself, that makes them – in my opinion – a great prospect.

Trying new things and pushing boundaries is what we expect from entrepreneurs. We expect entrepreneurs to see opportunity where others don't and to test theories and hypotheses in the context of real market conditions, taking calculated and sometimes unknown risks. Naturally these entrepreneurs will fail sometimes, unable to foresee all market conditions, human frailties and twists of fate. But its the nature of wanting to try, and fail, and try again that forges not only great business leaders but also individuals with great character. It's character, ultimately, and its development through trials and tribulations – and failures, yes – that is the true measure of our success.

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, potential, business, character, entrepreneur, apple, Steve Jobs, failure, honest leadership, leadership

Randy Vannatter
June 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Many entreprenuers mistake success for significance.  You are already significant, understand there is no one like you.  The reflection you see back in the mirror of success can look different to you than it does to another. You know what got you there.............What does success look like to you?


Graham Dewar
June 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Arlene, You have no idea how uplifting this post is to me! I've been struggling lately and your examples of Disney, Spielberg and Jobs brings the focus back into my journey.

Cheers to you!  

April Le Potvin
June 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Attention : Arlene... I have a question for you... My boyfriend whom lives in Detroit Michigan has been looking for work for some time now.. I have reason to believe that he has never been hired for the positions that he has applied for either because he is black or because he is a bit over weight and I am very upset with the companies he has had interviews with because he is more than qualified for all positions.. He has been through school twice and graduated both times leaving with a Computer Technician Certificate and a Bachlors Degree in Psychology.. I have been trying to encourage him to look into opening and starting his own computer business but without some sort of income we are not sure how he will be able to get a business up and running.... Might you have any suggesstions for him ?

Sincerely Yours !!!

Toby's Tree Service
December 10, 2013 at 3:28 am
Well said
Allaboutyouvideo Judy Whale
May 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm
I like what you say about failure. I have seen that in my own life/career. I believe you can fail & give up, or you can fail, learn and go on to bigger and better things. :) If you don't give up, failing pushes you to try something new or just a different way of doing things. I love Thomas Edison's quotes: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." and "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." I'm not sure of the exact wording, but his response to being asked if he felt like a failure the first 100 times (or so) he attempted to create the lightbulb, he said that he didn't feel like a failure at all, it just took 101 steps to create it. :) That pushes me on quite often. :)
Joe Wasylyk
October 1, 2016 at 7:41 pm
I believe that most people quit being entrepreneurs after just one or two failures. It is also a well know fact that there is an 80% failure rate for entrepreneurs or small business people lasting 5-years or more. Why is that? One of the major reasons is that people don't have the patience to work on there new entrepreneurial project for several years while sometimes not getting any or very little material compensation. Could you be like Thomas Edison trying out 1,000 or more combinations of materials until you finally succeed with the 'electric bulb' product? Or, could you be like Colonel Harland Sanders at age 65 determining what the right mix of herbs & spices should be for his fried chicken while at the same time receiving a social security cheque of only $110 US Funds per month? Personally, I'm still working on my 'Seniorpreneur Project'. I'm now in my 11th year of service (giving back to society) helping Seniors 50+ with the subjects of Lifelong Learning & Senior Entrepreneurship, and finding a higher level 'retirement lifestyle' option for myself and others.
Marie-France Marquis
November 27, 2016 at 8:38 pm
I have launched a retail business, but I have failed at reaching profitability before I ran out of money. Although I have not lost my entrepreneurial spirit, I am now struggling psychologically (and financially) to get over my failure and get back on my feet. Your post, Arlene, is like a breath of fresh air. Thank you!
Maureen Farmer
February 4, 2017 at 2:56 pm
I completely get this now. As a business owner, I've faced ups and downs and certainly have learned from my failures. Thank you for sharing this.
Rene Burggraaf
February 9, 2017 at 1:56 pm
Great post Arlene!
Taking a road that leads into the opposite direction of traffic, should make you quickly decide to go the other way.
Bottom line is the road to success is based on making decisions, right or wrong, they will accumulate to your knowledge and confidence to make future decisions with more ease of mind.
Mark Morin
March 13, 2017 at 7:59 pm
Gratful for your Wisdom Arlene ... Also great piece you shared on on Linkedin. I needed to be reminded ! Truly inspiring .... ..... You may think you're small and that nobody's watching you, that what you do doesn't count or help others.
But somebody's watching; somebody's waiting for you to be brave. ;
Giselle Mazurat
October 2, 2019 at 12:15 am
Excellent post Arlene. Thank you for your encouragement.

We all had failures. I had my share, and I'm not ashamed of it. It took me a long time to realize that I'm not done when I fail; in fact, my failures have led to new opportunities.

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