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Failure, Success, and Can-Do Attitude

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Failure, Success, and Can-Do Attitude

This part 2 of the series focusing on the “Can-Do” attitude. In part 1, we started the discussion of the “must-haves” that are crucial to an entrepreneur’s success. Thank you to everyone who has added comments and furthered the conversation.

I’ve been watching the Ryanair/AerLingus/Hanger 6 situation and noticing how each player has been portrayed in the media. Michael O’Leary has definitely used the Can-Do attitude since he began leading Ryanair. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed over the years is his capacity to be a lightning rod. To be fair, I’m not sure which annoys people the most- his success, his personality, or both.

Even if you don’t agree with his methods, O’Leary’s example leads us to the important questions about implementing the “Can-Do” attitude. What are the cultural attitudes towards going after your dreams? What happens if you succeed? What do people say when you fail?

The original Can-Do post started with anBusiness Success and Failure American perspective and the “must-haves” to foster it in your own thinking. The active discussion in the comments ended up focusing on failure and how it is defined and experienced in Ireland. Two themes emerged out of the conversation. The first theme is that there is frustration with current mainstream thought and the second theme is that failure is poorly tolerated.

What is in your philosophical soup? Not only are there national ideas about failure and success but there are class definitions and family definitions. These cultures influence your business philosophy, planning, and actions on a daily basis. To have a successful entepreneurial venture, it is crucial to take the time to examine how they are true for you. Your belief system impacts your decision-making. Personal and professional attitudes are influenced by what is around us and it is worth emphasising that we’re not alone with these thoughts or questions.

Just yesterday I was engaged in a conversation about how difficult it is to reconcile the desire to help with the necessity to monetise services with 3 different people who are highly competent business owners. They felt bad that they need to charge something for their time and expertise. One of my most recent clients did not move forward in his startup until he identified that his reluctance to make any money from his business had to do with overidentifying with his father. There were messages that “people like us are supposed to…” have a job with predictable hours and predictable earnings. Other rationalisations I hear is that an entrepreneur is engaged in a noble cause, having fun, or they are too new to charge market value. It’s hard to believe in your abilities when you feel such self-doubt.

So, how do you implement the “Can-Do” attitude with all these messages in the background?

Is it time to start a thought revolution?

Growing a business locally or internationally takes a different mindset; the CEO Mindset. Elli St.George-Godfrey, a behavioral economics coach, international expansion consultant and founder of Ability Success Growth, uses her 3 Keys Coaching process to help business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to unlock the CEO within. Under her guidance, personal styles are fine-tuned allowing the senior leader to “authentically inhabit” the role of CEO and collaborate with their team more effectively. With this focus on both the people and the organization in which they work, Elli’s market-proven coaching helps leaders and their teams develop styles and capabilities which enables them to collaborate and effectively join together to optimize the business outcomes.

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  • HI Elli. Interesting examples. Regarding the tough one on personality, it must be really tough but at the end of the day I’m not sure that will go away complete in order to execute your business without any of those thoughts. You just gotta do it!
    Undercharging for being new in the marketplace is probably one of the most normal mistakes any entrepreneur make but we all learned the hard way 🙂
    I don’t really have an answer regarding overcoming all these messages.. I guess it’s all about personality. Some people are better running in a straight line with all the burden, others prefer to take a break, resolve those issues and then continue whenever it’s time…

  • Philosophical soup – brilliant! My soup certainly has challenged me and I have had to go against some seriously ingrained “life outlooks” in order to start my business. Particularly after giving up working in big business combined with decent salaries and stability. Thank goodness I did – much more content now! Having a business partner helped with this as he has different soup so we drive each other along!

  • Hi Elli, loving this series! Is it time to start a thought revolution? OH AM I ON YOUR WAVELENGTH 🙂
    Let me be controversial/provocative here, I think all of us are mentally unwell to a greater or lesser extent, and this has a direct impact on our decision making. How about all companies paying for their senior managers to attend counseling of some sort as part of their responsibilities. I think this would have a significant positive impact on the company culture.

  • Hi Elli,

    I found this and the previous article very interesting, especially the discussion around failure or rather our perception of failure. We put so much emphasis on physical and financial preparation for setting up a business and yet our psychological preparation is as important, if not more so.

    I gave a talk to a group of Transition Year students this week about creativity and problem solving, looking at how our ability to solve problems depends entirely on how we view the problem itself. If we see difficulty, we’ll experience difficulty – if we see opportunity, we’ll experience opportunity.

    It all comes back to mind-set and the ability to see the possibilities even in the things that don’t go exactly how we would choose – for example: ‘So I didn’t get the job but being called for interview shows my CV works and I have gained experience of discussing my work / business – now I have to focus on improving delivery in the interview situation.’ The classic example of this is Thomas Edison designing the first commercial lightbulb, in his words – ‘I haven’t failed – I just found 1,000 ways not to do it.’

    I’m not entirely sure where it comes from but I’ve both experienced and observed the huge pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect – instantly! People don’t want to try new things in case they are confronted with ‘failure’ or ridicule and yet the willingness to try and keep trying is exactly how we become accomplished – as in the Malcolm Gladwell book, ‘Outliers’, Fred mentioned in the previous post.

    And this is at a societal level too – everyone wants the economy fixed with one big idea that works first time, when what we need is a willingness to work together and try any number of solutions for as long as it takes. Then to keep on working together to keep everything working!

    I guess the hardest part is bringing those negative messages to the surface so we can be aware of how they sabotage our plans and reduce their impact. Perhaps it has to do with the emotional value we place on success?

  • Anonymous


    There is no right or wrong answer since it depends on how much discomfort you feel about leading your business to where you envision and what is getting triggered.

    Going through my morning reading today, I found this article, which talks about how the leaders of the organisation are responsible for how excellence is incorporated into the culture. Peter Bregman is quoted, “The willingness and desire to make personal changes themselves will radiate out into the business.”

    No one said it would be easy, it becomes a question of how effective do you want to be and are you willing to go through the process?

  • Anonymous


    You are a living example of this post! Good on you for not drowning in your soup! You also point out how important it is to have someone who cares enough to drive you along. Besides, a business partner has a stake in your success and vice versa!

  • Anonymous


    I’m not sure if I joined you on your wavelength or it’s been serendipity! This stuff is the meat and potatoes of what I do with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial business owners.

    Because we are human, we bring our strengths, weaknesses, values, and biases to everything we do. That is why coaches like me exist-we bring the very tool that you are urging. Growth in companies can be steady or even exponential when the leaders get out of their own way and make it part of the organisational culture.

    Please be controversial! You are a thought leader also! In fact, consider yourself “double dog dared” by me to live on your wavelength!

  • Anonymous


    I totally agree! Perhaps we give too much weight to failure and success which causes us to forget that there is not single big idea that will resolve all of the issues.

    It’s also challenging to stay in a mindset of possibility when bills are due, there aren’t enough customers, and the media goes on and on about how dreadful everything is. It’s important to acknowledge that nearly everyone is having a rough go at it right now. No rose-coloured glasses here!Still, reframing circumstances to include that opportunities exist is a much more hopeful and motivating perspective.

  • Anonymous

    I think the first thing to do is deal with ‘all these messages in the background’! That’s what I focus on – and try to remember to focus on it all the time, and not just when I feel I need to because of some problem or other. And yes, I think it is essential that we have a thought revolution. How else are we going to deal with the changes that are coming at us at an ever increasing rate? Each of us have the opportunity as never before to influence mainstream thinking ofr the better. It comes with responsibilities and a requirement to be authentic, but that is all good, isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    The messages in the background sometimes serve as a warning but more often are an hindrance. The messages are manifestations of our fears. That’s not necessarily a bad or good thing. We have a choice to listen and follow or reject them. While developing the skills to listen or reject takes practice, it allows you to open up for your thinking for alternatives.

    As for the thought revolution, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Authenticity is the antithesis of complexity. Good comes from how we use the opportunity.

  • One very important aspect for small businesses is ~ “If you do not ask, you might not get” Certainly it is not a given, that when you bill a client with “30 days Credit” stamped on the invoice, that the money just magically appears in your bank account in 31 days.nnSmall businesses must be VERY pro-active in getting paid, ever before they consider hiring in the heavies, but once every channel has been used, it is imperative to hire the right people – thanks for sharing some great tips there Dave.

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