I don’t agree with the general belief in the entrepreneurship world that glorifies mistakes and failure. There are even professional experts who mainly dedicate their time to lecturing about failure. If you listen to them you may think that you are not an entrepreneur unless you have failed miserably several times. It may seem as if the road to success is to fail again and again.
Every day, in my work with young entrepreneurs, I see that this speech is doing huge damage to them. Many carry their mistakes and failures as trophies and medals without worrying about not succeeding.
This message may be based upon the good intention of de-dramatizing failure in order to make people more daring, because, were it not for the audacity of some people, we would still be living in the Stone Age. Learning, creating and innovating are located outside our comfort zone. Getting out of this comfort zone involves taking the risk of making mistakes and failing. I am not a great skier simply because I have never liked to fall. And if you do not want to fall you do not try, you do not risk and you do not improve much…
But there is another reason why I do not ski very well: I have only had two hours of ski lessons in my whole life, which means that I do not have the minimum technical basis for progress because I do not even know exactly what I have to practice. I have no references at all.
But my point is this: that in order to learn it is necessary to take the risk of making mistakes or failing and, moreover, having the mentality of an apprentice. The apprentice observes his teacher, reads to learn from other teachers, uses the best tools that are within his reach, invests in better tools, and when he inevitably makes mistakes, he reflects on how to not make that same mistake again.
Someone who decides to start a business in the 21st century has a lot of knowledge and tools at his/her fingertips. The assumed risk must be placed in the terra incognita that he/she wants to explore. He/she cannot afford to spend his/her valuable resources and time on making perfectly avoidable mistakes that have already been committed, analyzed and explained by thousands of entrepreneurs before him/her.
There are methodologies and reference books that all entrepreneurs should read before embarking on this adventure. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet are books that gather highly valuable techniques and tools from many brilliant minds (those of its authors and those of hundreds of entrepreneurs whom they have observed and interviewed). Ignoring these books and tools which are available to all is not bravery but pure idiocy.
Of course, no matter how much you prepare yourself, you may always make mistakes or fail. But, more than anything else, how you react to these circumstances will ultimately determine your chances of achieving your goal. Failure can’t be accepted as something inevitable which only strengthens you and makes you a better entrepreneur. Not all mistakes are good. You should only be proud of mistakes that are sources of learning. If you have not learned anything, then you have wasted your time and money. You are not closer to your goal but further away from it. On the other hand, failing outside your comfort zone and out of accessible knowledge can be turned into learning if you are able to find the reason why you failed or if it serves to invalidate a hypothesis. This learning, if it has actually occurred in terra incognita, becomes a competitive advantage. Now all you have to do is make sure that you are never going to make that same mistake or fail for the same reasons again. A successful entrepreneur is someone who loves learning but hates mistakes that can be avoided by learning from others with humility.