Are You Failing Forward?

by Deborah A Bailey

One big reason why people have trouble adjusting to the entrepreneurial world is because they fear failing. Whether it's due to their corporate experience or their life experiences, there is an overall belief that failure should be avoided at all costs.

In truth, failure is a normal part of being an entrepreneur. There's no way to know how a new product of service will perform until you put it out there. Sure, you can prepare and study and research - you can market and do all things you "should" do before you launch. Unfortunately all of that action does not guarantee success. You can do everything "right" and still not get the result you were hoping for.

When you're an entrepreneur you're often stepping out on complete faith. All you know for sure is that you have a vision, a dream, and a passion for what you want to create. You may be the only person who sees it, and that's okay. Everyone else is not going to agree with your idea and that really doesn't matter. You have to believe in it even when no one else does. You also have to accept that ideas are often works in progress. There can be a lot of changes between the first thought what that idea eventually turns into.

Often launching a product or service and having it fail will tell you that your original idea needs tweaking or adjusting. Or perhaps you'll discover that you were really on the road to something else.

The entrepreneurial track is a journey, not a destination. Failure isn't something that marks you as inept or incompetent, instead it is an experience that humbles you and forces you to take an honest look at yourself. Are you really committed? If so, even when you're down you won't be out. Neither will you resort to playing the victim who can't catch a break. The entrepreneurial world is not one of security and safety. It involves failure and frustration as well as excitement and fulfillment.

"Failing forward," it's sometimes called because with each defeat you become stronger and more aware. Your mistakes and your stumbles lead you closer to understanding what you are made of and how much commitment you have to stay in the game. If you come from a corporate environment or have very little experience running a business, then you will be learning as you go along. Mistakes will be made - lots of them. Failure is part of the entrepreneur's rite of passage. If you haven't failed at least once, you haven't been trying hard enough.

It is very tempting to think that there is a sure-fire formula for success - just as we'd like to believe the same about exercise or weight loss or finding love. But the road to manifesting the business success we desire is like a hero's journey. As we learn and grow and move through the challenges, our business will reflect our progress. Having a business is no different than anything else in life. When things don't work out you can call yourself a failure, or you can learn from it and continue on. The most important thing is to learn from your failures instead of being ashamed that you had them.

Copyright © 2009 Deborah A. Bailey

Deborah A. Bailey is author of two non-fiction books including, “Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life.”

1 comment

pinwheelgirl said...

Loved this article, Deb! Every sentence rings true. You have aptly described my first year of entrepreneurialism which I found to be a potent mix of ups and downs, stops and starts, successes and failures, and clarity and confusion. All of this, I found, just as you say, helps us to keep "failing forward." It is alright to fail or not to achieve the results we had hoped for. Afterall, often failure and mistakes are just "research." The real success comes in trying again, never giving up, cultivating our flexibility and adaptability, and carrying on with an enthusiasm for the process of sharing ourselves with the world. Thanks for a wonderfully inspiring post!

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