We all make mistakes. Some of us make more than others. But entrepreneurs – OMG! They are in a completely different dimension, a space-time continuum that allows for exponential failure – mistakes far greater than most mortals will ever experience.
The very nature of entrepreneurship – the traits and qualities that make entrepreneurs who they are – can also be the biggest impediment to their success. This dichotomy is perplexing and also worthy of further explanation. Entrepreneurs are passionate, driven, focused, tenacious – I could go on and on. As an entrepreneur, I expect to encounter adversity. But I won’t give up – ever. Admirable? Not necessarily.
Entrepreneurs, especially the most passionate and tenacious ones, refuse to buckle in the face of tremendous adversity. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep pushing their business ideas. That can be a good thing when that second and third effort ultimately leads to success. But it can also lead to disaster when tenacity and perseverance become the definition of insanity. Sometimes failure, followed by change and a successful pivot toward a new solution, can find epic success. But repeated failure without a change of direction? That is not a formula for business success. When you shoot yourself in the foot, don’t stop to reload.
As an educator, I know that students learn through testing their hypotheses and conducting research. They develop critical thinking skills and make decisions within the safe laboratory environment colleges and universities provide. Of course, in school it’s OK to fail. Better to test decisions in a virtual laboratory than suffer the failure that could result from poor decision making after launching a startup. In fact, my experience has been that students often learn more from epic failure, than they do from incremental success. Student reaction to a complete crash-and-burn disaster says it all. They are adamant – I now want to ensure that same thing doesn’t happen to me – a powerful learning experience.
To be sure, I am not advocating that entrepreneurs become less passionate, less tenacious or less dedicated to the success of their mission. But in order to get there, as entrepreneurs we must be willing to listen to feedback from our customers and pivot when necessary to make sure we are meeting those customer needs. When we do that, it’s a glorious thing. If we are unwilling to change, doing the same thing over and over again will not lead us to success.
When you shoot yourself in the foot, don’t stop to reload.