“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
— Thomas Edison
Do you know anyone who has never failed—at anything? We should not fear failure; it’s a natural part of everyone’s life. Some people want us to think they’re infallible. News flash: everyone makes mistakes and fails.
In 1957, Morris D. Rouff’s Michigan company was working on inventing a commercial strength degreasing cleaner for industries that had difficult cleaning problems. The first formula was a failure, as were the second, third, and forth. The 101st formula still did not produce the results that were needed, but the 309th formula was getting closer. Finally, the 409th batch was just what the inventors were looking for. “Formula 409” went on to become one of the most used cleaning products of our time. Before the 409th try, which became a success, there were 408 failures. The scientists working on “409” had the tenacity to continue through many unsuccessful attempts.
If we’re not prepared to fail, we may never come up with anything innovative. Failing can be a win; after all, do we learn more from our successes or our failures?
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill.
How do we go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm?
- Accept responsibility, no matter how large or small the failure—it was a mistake. Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen, don’t try to take others down with you.
- Accept the consequences, make amends when and where you need to. All of our decisions affect someone or something. If you don’t need to apologize to a customer, client, or associate directly, maybe you need to forgive yourself to move onto the learning stage. There will be consequences–adverse and secondary unwanted effects. Prepare yourself to shoulder these. Taking care of the mess that you made is beneficial in the long run.
- Access and learn, ask questions: “What went wrong?” “What part went right?” What was out of my control?” “What part did I control that I could have handled more appropriately?” “Was I working too fast? “Would more research and preparation have been beneficial?”
After the assessment, plan to “not” make the same mistakes again. Put provisions, policies, or whatever is needed, in place. We must change our frame of thought and “learn” from this failure.
- Move forward: failure is hard to stomach, but we must pick up the pieces and move on. When we begin to obsess over what went wrong, we must pause and tell ourselves that everyone makes mistakes. We must clear our minds, breathe, and move forward. Do not fear. Realize that if you are fearful of taking missteps, you may not take any steps.
As an Entrepreneur, failing is a part of life, heck, as a human, it’s inevitable! We need to learn to accept failure, pivot, learn from our mistakes, and don’t waste a “fail! “Jeff Bezos of Amazon said, “Good leaders make it safe to fail. They normalize failure. If you aren’t failing more, you aren’t taking big enough chances.” The lesson here is that failure leads to success if we learn from our mistakes.
Heidi Shadel is a Cumberland business owner and graduate of Frostburg State University with a master’s in business administration. She believes in small business and the power that it holds in America’s economy, especially having a passion for helping small businesses succeed within the tri-state region.
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