The skill I'm most thankful for
My entrepreneurial journey has strengthened me more than I ever imagined. Out of all the tools added to my metaphorical tool belt, one stands out as greater than the rest.
It’s not a “sexy” skill…
It surely isn’t an easy one…
I didn’t even want to learn it…
That skill is the ability to face failure. If you cringed while reading that last sentence, you’re not alone. I remember the first time someone told me I needed to “get used to failure” or that “I needed to celebrate my first failure” or that “it was okay to fail.” I didn’t believe it. I thought I might be able to escape failing. On the flip side, I questioned if I should try at all.
However, a few years of experiencing failures, successes, and everything in between, I’ve come to reframe my thoughts toward the subject. If you’re wrestling with the concept of failure, I challenge you to ask the question "who expects success?" As well as "to what level is that success expected?"
Let us back up and consider a piece of history. While Thomas Edison was researching and discovering, did anyone expect him to create electrical power? My guess is that no, his mother, his best friend, or his neighbors didn’t expect him to change the entire planet. Nor were they angry when he was in the process of trying without success. For one thing, no one was sure if generating electrical power could be done, because it hadn’t before! Additionally, when you speak that expectation aloud, “to change the world by electricity,” it seems absurd that we would place that responsibility on any one individual.
On the other hand, when I imagine Edison in his quaint shop, I can’t help but see him frustrated with himself. Perhaps he had so much belief if what he was creating, that it was agonizing to continually make steps toward that goal only to get tripped up on a small details he didn’t notice over and over again.
Can you relate to any of this? If you’re building a company, writing a book, or starting a non-profit, ask those who are close to you what their expectations are of you. My guess is that they will say something like “give it your best,” “chase what makes you happy,” “do what God’s calling you to do.”
Like Thomas Edison’s invention, entrepreneurs venture out into uncharted waters, often taking on problems in the world that haven’t been solved before. If anyone placed the expectation on you to break a million dollars in revenue or to revolutionize your industry, I would argue it's an unreasonable expectation.
However, absurd it sounds to place these expectations on other people, we snatch up and claim them like they are part of us.
Listen, I know you’re passionate about what you are working on. In Global U, we call our entrepreneurial endeavors “passion projects” for a reason-- because we are SO passionate about what we are doing that we’ve decided to make the sacrifice to start a business around it. That passion often blinds us to the fact that our work does not define us.
Don’t remove emotion for your project, but don’t let it drive you into the ground when things go wrong- because trust me, things will. Remember, you’re doing something terribly challenging and something you’ve probably never done. You’ve got to be objective and real with yourself. When something goes wrong, you have to respond by saying “Cool. What can I learn from this? What can I tweak? Is there a better way to go about what I’m doing.”
And the more you do this, the more it becomes a muscle. Failure isn’t the end of your world or your passion. It doesn’t mean you should quit. Maybe we should find a better word for failure without such the negative connotation, because results -- whether they be negative or positive-- is really more of a hot and cold game until you find what works.
The entrepreneurial journey is a tough one. Learning how to face failure requires a team around you. Your team can help you identify the unreasonable expectations you're putting on yourself, remind you of your value, and point out that your worth doesn't come from the results of your work. Apply to Global U today to join our supportive entrepreneurial community!