By Jay Shifley

My daughter got her driver's license yesterday after a couple of tries.  A driver’s test here in Ohio consists of two parts:  actual driving, and maneuverability.  She passed the driving part a few days ago, but she hit a cone during the maneuverability test and had to retake it yesterday to get her license.

The odd part about the whole process was that she’d practiced moving her little red VW Beetle through those cones over and over again.  Flawlessly.  But something happened when the instructor got in the car with her for the actual test, and she lost focus and concentration.  In other words, when things got real they got a lot harder.

Entrepreneurs talk a lot about failure.  I think we do that because we’ve experienced it more than “normal” people.  Most pioneers actually brag about their failures, but I’ve noticed that they brag a lot more about their past failures than they do about their current ones!  The truth is that for every success there are usually multiple failures propping that success up.  When we fail, we learn.

  1. Failure reduces the unknown.  Years ago, my son took his driver’s permit test (on the computer) and failed it.  The next day we went back, he took the same test again, and he aced it.  The only think that was standing in his way was the strangeness of the testing center and the newness of taking the test on the computer.  It took a failure in order to get used to something new.
  2. Failure humbles us. Entrepreneurs are known for ignoring good advice because we think we have all the answers.  However, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that learn to listen to other people.  This takes an understanding that someone else might know better than we do, which is a humble place to operate from.  There is nothing more poignant than ignoring advice, failing, and realizing that the advice you ignored would have helped you.
  3. Failure makes us try harder. Some failures are bigger than others, but none of them are pleasant.  Few people who fail want to repeat the same mistakes (yes, I know they often do anyway, but see #2 above).  We can see our shortcomings clearer after a failure, and that gives us the opportunity to improve. 

No one wants to fail, but in some strange way we learn the most through falling short.  Failure is not something to be feared, but it must be seen as an opportunity to change and grow.

Originally written: January 16, 2017
Keywords: risk taking


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