Why Failure Can Be Valuable

I don’t like to think of myself as an entrepreneur. I don’t really like the term. For me it has connotations of being a hot-shot, someone who thinks they can do anything, someone who takes a lot of other people’s money and burns it on an idea that ends up dead in the water.

It’s common to hear about entrepreneurs talking about the positivity associated with failure. To me this seemed more like an excuse. Sure, when you hear that Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Michael Jordan failed many times before achieving great success, you say it’s OK to fail, but not everyone that fails goes on to have great success.

I’m onto section 4 of the Happiness Advantage which deals with the positive effects of failing, or failing upward, and it’s given me a new insight into failure. He describes how mindset can alter your perception of failure, and that learning from failure is a great way to learn. The famous quote by Edison seems appropriate here:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

By failing, you have the opportunity to learn very quickly what not to do. That doesn’t necessarily teach you what to do, but it helps you narrow down the alternatives.

In a sense, this is nothing new to me. I tend to always look at things that don’t go as planned, as positive learning experiences. Indeed, on a good day, it’s fair to say that nothing bad has ever happened to me in my life, it’s all led to me where I am and the challenge is to see the positive in it.

However, I saw failure in a different light this morning. I realised that failure is not necessarily bad, I just don’t see it as failure if you learn from it. To me, failure is not learning. Therefore I’ve never failed at anything in my life – I’ve always learned.

Coming back to the entrepreneurs, I’m still not quite ready to call myself an entrepreneur, but perhaps a track record of failure is not a bad thing in one if it shows that the person is not scared to fail and is prepared to get back up and try again. However, for me, the most important characteristic of that is mindset – how does the entrepreneur look at failure. If they see it as failing then perhaps they don’t have the right mindset.

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