Risk taking is part of being an entrepreneur, in fact I rate it as the defining characteristic of being an entrepreneur because its usually the paralysis from fear of the unknown that stops people from becoming entrepreneurs in the first place.

But for some reason we now live in a era that celebrates the cult of failure, where individuals who fail repeatedly are still held up as people to learn from. We’ve created an easy route out of difficult decision making and rough times because we’ve made failure easy.

In the past year we’ve lost some great businesses and ideas from individuals that I greatly respect. In the majority of these cases I have no personal worries for the individuals involved because the character they’ve shown as they shut down their companies and moved on, shows that they really understood the consequences of what they were doing. They had made mistakes, learned from them and they’ll be back, stronger, faster and smarter than ever.

On the other hand, moving from one failed idea to another and just repeating the same mistakes – we’ve had plenty of those too. Startup junkies of the worst kind, those addicted to the startup lifestyle, people who have pivoted so many times, are they even back where they started, those determied to retain their CEO title without understanding for one second what it means.

There’s a big difference between making a wrong call in a planned experiement and it not going to plan and actually failing because you had no plan. Yes, the biggest risk of all is taking no risks but only if those risks are planned and measured. Failure should always be the worst possible outcome, something that you avoid at all costs, something that happens only after you’ve exhausted all options, failure should (and does) cut into your soul and take a piece of you with it.

How do you know when you’re really failing? The really really serious kind? Well look at the core of your business, if that’s whats failing then you’re in very serious trouble. If your product isnt engaging with customers, if they dont seem to understand how great it is, they dont want to pay what you want them to pay – those are all life ending problems to be handled immediately.

Ask any good entrepreneur what their three biggest failures are and there’ll be no hesitation in them listening them off, they live with them every day and will never forget the hard lessons learned. They are battle scars that shape every decison and action they take going forward.

So avoid failure, embrace success and when stuff goes wrong, pick yourself up. learn from it and try again. Learning from mistakes is great, celebrating failure is not.

Failure always has consequences.

DC has led growth and marketing at some amazing Irish companies like @teamwork and @trustev. He’s passionate about helping people start their own businesses. In his not so spare time, he’s helped over 80 startups across the globe get started, get funded and get noticed. He’s the co-founder of BUILTINCORK, a community initiative to help Cork technology, digital and e-commerce startups start locally but grow globally.

One comment

    Hi DC

    Couldn’t agree more with this. I’m sick of hearing phrases like “Fail Faster” or even worse “Fail Better”!

    And you’re right, the taste of failure is an incredibly bitter one. I’m still feeling it now, years after our company failed. I don’t even like talking to people about it when I meet old friends and they ask about the company and what actually happened. But I have learned a lot from the experience and I’m bringing it forward to other companies that I’m working with. You become better at pre-empting situations, make clearer decisions based on empirical knowledge and generally more calm; the power of which cannot be underestimated when it comes to rationality and being on top of a situation.

    Thanks for posting this, only found your blog recently and now slowly working my way through it. Great content.


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