What lessons can you learn from business failures?

Like you, I’ve read dozens of inspiring articles about entrepreneurs who bounce back from failure to discover success. Steve Jobs, we are often reminded, was fired from his own company. Thomas Edison chalked up each of his thousands of failed experiments as another step toward a successful solution.

You’d almost think from reading these inspirational tales that entrepreneurs set out to fail a few times just so that they can build a foundation for success later on.

But we need to talk truthfully about failure.

No one sets out to fail. Almost by definition, entrepreneurs are believers in their own success, even when few share their vision.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of entrepreneurs will fail once, twice, a dozen times. Every failed startup hurts. Failure hurts entrepreneurs’ pride, and it hurts them financially.

Despite the inspirational articles you read, most failed entrepreneurs don’t bounce back. They give up. They get a job or seek a different career.

In talking with resilient northern Nevada entrepreneurs who have launched successful ventures after they have overcome failure, I’ve heard four common themes:

  • They let out the frustration they feel over the failure of a business venture. They don’t stew about it (at least, not for very long). They recognize that frustration and anger are corrosive. They go down to gym and punch the heavy bag. They take a long run. They stand in the middle of Nevada’s Outback and yell until the frustration is gone.
  • They take responsibility for what happened. They stop looking for someone to blame — the investor who didn’t come through, the employee who didn’t live up to expectations. Instead, they take responsibility for their own actions and seek to learn what they can through an honest look what happened.
  • They accept themselves. They come to an understanding that a business failure is not a personal failure. They accept their own weaknesses and their own humanity. They are humbled and begin to learn; they are believers in themselves and begin looking for new opportunities.
  • They change their perceptions. They begin to look at a business failure as the first step toward ultimate success. They focus on successes, even the partial successes in a venture that ultimately failed. They move proactively to learn what they need to know to overcome past stumbling blocks.

Far too often, inspirational articles don’t recognize the need for an entrepreneur to overcome the emotional damage of a business failure. For some, the process may happen quickly. Others may require months before they can let go of frustration, accept responsibility and change their perceptions.

Moving past failure never is easy. Entrepreneurs who pick themselves up to try again are a remarkable breed.

Learn the lessons of northern Nevada entrepreneurs who have bounced back from failures at NCET’s special luncheon on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the Atlantis.  More information and registration is at www.NCET.org

by Dave Archer – President/CEO of NCET, a nonprofit that produces networking events to help individuals and businesses explore and use technology.

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