I know what you’re thinking. How can an entrepreneur look for and welcome failure to achieve spectacular success? You say it’s impossible. Perhaps in the conventional world. But there’s nothing conventional about being an entrepreneur.
Michael Jordan says it best when talking about how failure is responsible for his success:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
While easier said than done, there is a precise method that enables failure to pave the way for success. And for this to happen, you must deal with failure in a specific way.
Failure Is Not Enemy #1
Contrary to popular belief, failure is not enemy number one. Both in business and in life failure is your friend when you know how to leverage its full power. Let’s take a step back and talk about what failure is and how we define it.
The dictionary defines failure as:
noun | failure
1. an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success
2. nonperformance of something due, required or expected
Common examples of failure include:
- Not winning a contract
- Running out of money
- Not achieving your goal
- Making the wrong choice
- Circumstances not working out as expected
Failure, losing or whatever you’d like to call it hurts. It hurts a lot. Now here’s the interesting part. At the exact intersection where failure meets pain, you have a choice. You can either pack it in and move on, or, transform the temporary set back into a brilliant success. Let me say that again. Winners transform the pain of failure into spectacular success.
The former is where most people quit, and often to the delight of well-meaning friends and family. People in your life may feel threatened when you have the opportunity to excel above them. This is why I recommend you keep your goals to yourself or other like minded people. The latter is far more difficult, but when knowing how to work with failure puts you in a league of your own. And success will likely follow.
With failure defined let’s talk about how you can leverage failure to its full potential. And how do you do this? You start by asking the right questions. Ask the right questions and receive answers that can change your life.
10 Questions to Transform Failure Into Success
Failure and success are not accidents. Both failure and success are distinct choices that lead to specific consequences. Even the act of not doing anything, in and of itself, is a choice. Have other people choose for you is also a choice.
Now I’ll let you in on a little-known secret. Becoming an entrepreneur is an automatic enrolment you in the School of Hard Knocks. Your ‘tuition’ takes the form of your time and failures. You might as well learn from the lessons, otherwise known as your failures, that you’ve paid for.
I’ve developed ten power-packed questions to help transform your failure into massive success. These questions also provide you insights and knowledge to find your blind spots.
The ten questions to transform failure into success are:
- How did this happen?
- Looking back, what could I change that would have led to a better outcome?
- Is there anything I can do right now to turn the situation around?
- Who can I turn to for an outsider’s perspective on my failure?
- What assumptions did I make and were they right?
- When could I have changed to avoid failure?
- If I could do it all over again, what would I do and not do?
- What have I learned from this situation?
- Going forward, how will I prevent this failure from happening again?
- Who can help identify blind spots in my thinking, assumptions, and behavior? Select someone who knows you well.
Let’s put the theory to the test. You’re in for a treat. The next three entrepreneurs show you how they harnessed their failure into massive success.
From Failure to Success through Focus
Our first entrepreneur loves for formulas, algorithms, and human dynamics. Our entrepreneur had visions of changing the world with an online dating site. Unlike other dating sites, this one would find you a date, a roommate, and even a tennis partner! Our entrepreneur poured his heart and soul into this venture. There was just one problem. The online dating since, known as SocialNet, bombed. But out of the ashes, Reid Hoffman, took his lessons learned co-founded LinkedIn.
In an interview with Business Insider, Reid Hoffman said, “one of the things I learned from that whole experience, was that you should focus on one domain that really matters to people and just do that really well.”
Failure enabled Hoffman to create what is now the most successful professional networking site. The sweet success for Hoffman was Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn for $26 billion.
From Failure to Success through Perseverance
Our next entrepreneur lost everything from the war. In short order, our second entrepreneur worked his way to becoming a bank president. Unfortunately, failure set in again when the bank failed. Once again our entrepreneur was out of work.
War affects people in different ways. The haunting image of men, women, and children lining up for food was all consuming. The goal for our entrepreneur was to find a delicious food that is cheap, doesn’t spoil, and prepares in minutes.
For our entrepreneur, the answer was instant noodles. Toiling away in his back shed, our entrepreneur had many failures. From taste to preparation time to the life of the food, nothing worked. And in an instant, everything changed. It turns out frying instant noodles dehydrates them for a long shelf life. Best of all, the dehydrated noodles cook in minutes after adding hot water.
Unfortunately, the first version of our entrepreneur’s noodles was expensive. The next set back was drawing the attention of competitors who entered the market. It was not until on an international trip that our entrepreneur found the answer. Although it took five years to figure out the packaging, once he did, he never looked back.
You likely know our entrepreneur as ‘Mr. Noodle’ aka Momofuku Ando. The next time you see someone enjoying a cup of instant noodles in a Styrofoam cup think of Ando.
Ando passed away at the age of ninety-six, but his creation of instant ramen noodles lives on. Worldwide sales for instant noodles reached 105 million units, according to the World Instant Noodle Association. Put in another way, this is approximately 14 bowls for every person living per year!
In Ando’s words, “I came to understand that all of my failure—all of my shame—was like muscle added to my body.”
From Failure to Success Through Passion
Our third and final entrepreneur started out as a competitive athlete. Heartbroken to not make the Olympic team, our entrepreneur poured her focus into fashion. For fifteen years our entrepreneur toiled away as an assistant at a fashion magazine. All this came to crashing stop when our entrepreneur was not chosen as editor of the magazine.
It short order our entrepreneur became a director at a prominent fashion house. Two years into her job, our entrepreneur married her longtime boyfriend. And this is where the story takes an interesting twist. Our entrepreneur became frustrated from not finding a wedding dress that she liked. What does our bride-to-be do? Well, of course, our entrepreneur designed her wedding dress.
But the frustration of not finding a wedding dress stayed with our entrepreneur. This frustration led our entrepreneur to start her bridal boutique.
For the next four years, our entrepreneur poured her passion into designs and dresses. Everything changed with the 1994 Olympics which brought international attention to our entrepreneur.
It was Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan who wore our entrepreneur’s hand beaded outfit. I suppose it takes a figure skater to know a figure skater. Our entrepreneur and former figure skater, Vera Wang, designed and made Kerrigan’s dress.
Today Vera Wang is the designer of designers for bridal wear. Wang has expanded into eyewear, fragrances and home products for the world to enjoy.
Not bad for an athlete whose dreams of going to the Olympics never materialized.
In the words of Wang, “All those years of skating and dancing have carried over. I can’t design anything without thinking of how a woman’s body will look and move when she’s wearing it.”
Failure is the Training Ground for Success
Three unique entrepreneurs. Three different industries. The one thing tying in the massively successful LinkedIn, Mr. Noodles and Vera Wang is failure.
Two things stand out for each entrepreneur. First, each entrepreneur experienced a series of significant failures.
Second, these failures led to a massive success for their businesses.
LinkedIn was born out of the lesson to focus on one thing that mattered to people and to do it exceptionally well. For Mr. Noodle, each failure added ‘entrepreneurial muscle.’ And finally, from the ice to a design house, knowing how a gown fits and moves on a woman’s body sets Vera Wang apart.
Early massive failures for our entrepreneurs gave them the training needed to claim success. Taking it one step further, all three companies are successful because they failed.
How to Respond to Transform Failure Into Success
Unfortunately, social programming teaches you that failure is bad from an early age. Our school system wears down kids who do not think or act in a certain way. Society frowns upon you when you try something different or challenge the status quo.
As an entrepreneur, look at failure as your friend. Not an enemy. Easier said than done. But know this: How you respond to failure determines if you’re an entrepreneur or wantrepreneur.
Let’s look at five key strategies to help you transform failure into success.
5 Key Strategies for Dealing with Failure
- Acknowledge and feel the pain. Go ahead and feel sorry for yourself if this is how you feel. By acknowledging the pain you’re allowing yourself to move on. Imagine your emotions are like clouds that pass THROUGH you. Just know that your emotions are a passing sensation. Acknowledge the emotion, respect it, and let it pass.
- Follow the ’24-hour rule.’ Whether you have a massive win or failure, celebrate your win or wallow in your failure for 24 hours. Tomorrow is a new day that needs your full attention and focus.
- Take full responsibility for everything. Know that the only thing you can control is yourself. You have no control over anyone else but you. Here’s a personal example. I lost a major contract because my proposal arrived a day late. The fact that I paid for overnight delivery doesn’t matter. The fact that there was a large snow storm that stopped all air traffic doesn’t matter. I could blame the weather. I could blame the courier company. But the truth is I finished the proposal at the last minute. I was the both the problem and the cause. My procrastination cost me a large contract. It’s all on me. Not the weather. Not the courier company. Lesson learned.
- Go through the ’10 Questions to Transform Failure Into Success’. Find your blind spots and do your self-evaluation.
- Try, try and try again. Know that failure is the best teacher you’ll ever have. Failure has no agenda, cuts through complexity and provides feedback. Whether you like the feedback or not, realize that success is waiting for you to discover it. From the ashes of failure rise the seeds of massive success, if you know what to look for and how to do it.
Your Future Success
Your future success is waiting for you. The only question is if you’re ready for it! Know that as an entrepreneur you have what it takes to make a difference. And most importantly, everything you need for your success is already within you, right now. Here’s to you and your success!
With My Warmest Regards,
Quote of the Day: “Be the type of person you want to meet.” Unknown
LinkedIn Co-Founder, Reid Hoffman, talks about launching the most important start-up … You! Checkout ‘The Startup of You‘
Steve Jobs and his philosophy on failure