A Failure's Learning

As many smart people before me have said, failure is a necessary evil on the path to success. I personally could not agree more with that statement. I believe failure is absolutely necessary not only to help one learn and grow, but also to appreciate success. In much the same way that happiness can only be appreciated by those who have experienced sadness, success can only be appreciated by those who have failed.

While looking for an article about failure, I came across many references to the ‘failure rates’ of startups. While the number of unsuccessful startups is quite high, the successful ones often more than make up for it in the returns investors receive. In my research, I came across an interesting blog post, written anonymously, titled “My Startup has 30 Days to Live”. The post describes a situation in which the founder finds his company in a spiral towards an inevitable failure with, you guessed it, only 30 days to live. The author reflects on the mistakes he made along the way, including building a team of people he loved, but people that couldn’t build a sustainable company, and joining an accelerator followed by rounds of VC funding. Interestingly the exercise seems very therapeutic and the author in the end realizes that he’s happy he quit his job and decided to start a company. While the fear of not being able to pay his staff is certainly terrifying, he still manages to see the bright side of things.

I’ve come to realize that many people in the US especially, are generally pretty good at taking failure on the chin and continuing on. The US has a culture where failure is acceptable, and in a lot of cases, even desired. There are countless stories of people in professional settings who have been rewarded for failing, from the VCs who will only invest in founders who have failed, to the managers who refuse to fire employees that made a big mistake because in their eyes, they just spent $X to train that person and to make sure they won’t make the same mistake again.

On a personal note, I can think of many failures of mine, both professionally and personally. But I’ve always made an effort to not dwell on those failures as negatives, but instead look at them as positive learning experiences. On the professional side, I spent many years in positions where I wasn’t entirely happy, but stayed in those positions for fear of falling behind in the great race to success. I’ve also spent time working on multiple projects that ultimately failed for a variety of reasons ranging from inexperience, lack of vision and a desire to make things perfect thereby missing the market entirely. Each of those experiences have taught me many valuable lessons that I will be able to use forever.

In the end, I leave you with this quote by Obama:

“You can’t let your failures define you you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time”