The Power Of Failure

The Bridge Program Participants

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 
– Winston Churchill

When I prepare a Business Plan, is this an assurance that the business will not fail?

That was one of the questions from the participants of The Bridge Program training I recently took on “The Winning Business Plan”. The reason I remember this question is because my audience was made up of secondary students (SS2) to undergraduates (Year 2). The basis of this question is rooted in The Fear Of Failure but I answered her question from a reverse viewpoint of the The Power Of Failure.

Looking at a challenge I faced recently with my daughter which led to the article: Mummy I Am A Loser – Four Lessons For Life And Business, I knew I had to plant the seed of The Power Of Failure in these youths and I believe every entrepreneur should also learn from it.

My Question: How many times did Edison fail at creating the light bulb?

The Response: 10,000 times

That is incorrect!

The Right Response: 0 times

According to Edison “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

That is the right attitude to failure.

Statistically, most survivors of traumatic experiences – like prisoners-of-war and victims of natural disasters – come out of them stronger and on most measures, out-perform those in their peer groups unaffected by the awful events. And according to the latest research, the old adage is true of that which does not kill you REALLY does make you stronger.

Now it would not be proper to equate a business failure with the physical and emotional traumas experienced by survivors of war and disaster, but entrepreneurs and executives can and should draw important wisdom from them.
Such as if you “fail” at this particular business, you won’t be broken and scarred forever. Another example illustrating the concept of failure you can read about is the Robert Fulton Steamboat.

Professional and entrepreneurial growth is a participatory sport – learned only by doing and trying and striving and not by watching and fretting and waiting.

RB Magazine ArticleAnd then there are the related idea of diversification and iteration. For the entrepreneur this does not necessarily mean running multiple businesses concurrently, but it does mean that the business strategy should be iterative and testing based.

This was why my “Get it Right the First Time” Is Not Your Friend article I wrote in 2013 got a lot of attention and eventually was published by RB Magazine.

Successful Internet companies get this intuitively – see Amazon and eBay and thousands of others – and you should too.

Failure is no way near as bad as advertised and if approached with the right spirit and strategy, it can truly be the ultimate blessing in disguise.

What are your thoughts on this approach to failure?

To your success,

Olanrewaju Oniyitan