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Why Failure Is An Entrepreneur's Best Friend

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Why Failure Is An Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

In life failure is inevitable. Sure it hurts, it’s made fun of, it’s pushed to the side to find the “success stories”, and its generally not welcome.

But it’s unavoidable. Especially for the entrepreneur.

It’s no secret that half of firms started are extinct by year 5. And though the numbers do vary by industry, the truth of the matter is, many entrepreneurs do not realize their dream.

But failure, when leveraged correctly, is actually a good thing.

What exactly is an Entrepreneur?

Before I say why… let me explain.

The word “entrepreneur” is derived from an old French word “entreprendre” which means “undertake.” So an entrepreneur is someone who undertakes some venture, enterprise, or idea and assumes responsibility for the outcome. So in reality, a true entrepreneur is NOT solely in the business field.

An entrepreneur can be…

  • An author wanting to change the world
  • A speaker wanting to make a difference
  • A musician working to be famous
  • An artist striving to be known
  • A leader wanting to take an organization from good to great
  • An athlete yearning for greatness
  • Or a college dropout wanting to become a business mogul

The main criteria is this: taking the path of most resistance and assuming responsibility for the outcome.

A List of “Failures”

But no matter how great the entrepreneur…they’ve had failures. In fact, what makes them “great” is that they’ve failed MORE times than everyone else!

So here’s a list of some of the great “failures” the world has ever seen:

And so on.

I do question the role education has in creating entrepreneurs… but I can never question the role the “school of hard knocks” has.

What do you think?

Michael Holmes is an author, blogger, speaker, and internet entrepreneur. When he's not eating Chipotle chicken burritos or screaming at fighting matches he can be found teaching Biblical Strategies for Startups on his blog

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  • Welcome to Bloggertone Michael! It takes several years to build “an overnight success” 🙂

  • Hi Michael, welcome to Bloggertone. “I do question the role education has in creating entrepreneurs… but I can never question the role the “school of hard knocks” has” This is a great line and so true, failure is a wonderful teacher as long as we realise so.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome Michael.
    Great post.
    “If you have never failed….You have never lived” –

  • Thanks Greg! I also loved that video of yours…I have it to put it on my page…and at least I know I’ve lived lol!

  • Thanks for having me Niall! That “soundbite” actually came out of my own life. I’ve had failure after failure and wondered for what purpose…it was only later on did I see that those “failures” were just setting me up for success. Thanks again for having me

  • Thanks Fred! Or according to Malcolm Gladwell…10,000 hours;)

  • Welcome to Bloggertone Michael. I believe failure is only that if you don’t learn something from it, it’s a bit like stupidity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Once we learn that something, we change the methodology and start over, like Edison did with the lightbulb. Great post!

  • George Pearson

    This was a good post Mike! It’s funny the amount of people that see failure as a bad thing…and it is bad if you allow it to defeat you…but like you said if you leverage it correctly it can lead to great success. Good stuff

  • I’m getting so many welcomes today…I feel like I joined a new family:)

    Thanks Mairead! I used to badmouth myself about my failures…I mean if you fail you’re obviously a failure. It wasn’t till I learned how to divorce the two and realize most successes were failures first. And then I realized I was on a good path.

    And its funny you say Edison because according to Napoleon Hill he failed over 10,000 times! Wow! That’s what you call persistence…

  • Thanks George!

  • Samantha Clooney

    Hi Michael,

    Welcome!!!! this is a great post, unfortunately in Ireland we do have a very negative view on failure, we need to see it more like the American’s as as another notch on the way to greatness!! Excellent Post!

  • Robert Cherry

    Hello Michael,

    I’m a fan of your post. Anyone who takes the time to research their topics in a blog post shows that they really care and have a passion for what they do. I also love reading about start-ups and the failures of others so that I can learn from their mistakes before making my own, which tends to happen. Being on my first venture capital funded though, you’re always hoping to strike a minimal amount of success to build at least some kind of faith in future projects, even if things don’t go as intended. Lucky for me, I’m only 26, so I have a lot of failing already on my shoulders, but with some definite room to fail again in the future.

    Thanks again for the post,
    Robert Cherry
    VP, Game Design/Co-founder

    P.S. An interesting tidbit for one of your talks is that the word “entrepreneur” was originally introduced to the English speaking folks across the Channel around the late 15th century, but never stuck. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the word actually came about as we know it today. It just shows that ventures that fail at first can eventually find their legs with enough time and growth.

  • This is so true! If you fail in Ireland – you are demonised! Enjoyed the post also – thanks for sharing Michael.

  • Hi Michael,

    I see this as something that has to come from parents, especially when kids are real young.

    I wrote about how my 9 yo started to use Google Adsense on his blog. What was interesting is that his motive wasn’t primarily about money but more to do with financial independence. swap ideas with him all the times and try to plant ‘seeds’. He knows about pricing strategies for example and how this works. For me, it’s about creating a framework that kids can understand on their level… and maybe when they get older it will stand to them. Regards, Ivan

  • Barney I think at long last that attitude is changing, we are starting to realise that to be successful we have to stumble along the way.

  • Hey Robert,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. When I write anything I try to “link the heck out of it”…or do a lot of research so that its something that’s of real substance. So I’m glad you appreciate that.

    You’re 26? That’s cool…I’m 29. I have failed so many times in my life with different ventures it wasn’t even funny.

    It got to a point I think my own Mom lost faith in me 🙂

    But…I, like you, have learned that failure only leads to greater success…and in fact, I ‘ve learned more through my own failures…and like you I’m ready to fail some more.

    Oh thanks for the tidbit by the way 🙂

  • Hey Samantha!

    To be honest, I don’t even know if its an American thing. I haven’t been to Ireland but I think failure is failure to most people. People only talk about, write about, share about success stories. And somehow the failures get forgotten or pushed out of the way.

    So, I don’t think its an American thing or an Irish thing…but a human thing.

  • I had to check out that post before I responded…9 years old??? Wow!!

    I was upset that that I may not…well won’t…make the 30 under 30 list of entrepreneurs (I’ll be 30 February)…but you’re son make make the 20 under 20! lol

    And you are right stuff like that does come from parents….and I think ( I can speak only for America) the school system.

    When a baby first learns to walk there’s no pressure, if he or she falls, they learn from it, and try again. It’s only when we get older and hear “no; what you can’t do; and etc” that we become more self conscious.

    Now the school system rewards compliance not innovation. I wrote about this in a blog post: “Does Education Make You a Better Entrepreneur?”

    The whole purpose of the school system was to create compliant workers. It kills an entrepreneurial drive.

    But I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Also, you’re 26 so look on the bright side…you’ve got plenty of time to make the 30 under 30.

    I’m not gonna make it…I turn 30 February 🙁

  • Thanks Barney!

    I can only speak for America…but if you fail here too you’re considered washed up. So I think its not an American or Irish thing but a human thing.

  • This was a very execellent post, not just good. Why? I have failed at many things in business and still try to find my way. You can google my name and see where I am, and where I probably SHOULD be. Not everyone sees this as you do; some people feel like if you failed more than once, give up, you’re not doing it right. I feel like God gave me these gifts to use and if I pay attention to what is put in my face, I can use it wisely and finally be successful. Thanks for sharing; excellent post.

  • Hi Mike,

    We lived in China for two years and one of the problems they have is that while the kids are super smart with maths/science, the system doesn’t teach them to ‘question’ the ways things are and how to improve the system.

    It’s a very convoluted area but one they are concerned about as all the ‘smart’ kids are heading to the US where they can leverage their skills.

    This is an acknowledged problem across all Asia, not just China. Singapore has the same issue.

    …which of course is someone else’s opportunity 🙂


  • Oh absolutely! Someone will be making a lot of money fixing these “problems” 😉

  • Hey Mrs.CEO…;) I’m glad you stopped by.

    I think that with ANYTHING you want to achieve you’re going to have adversity…its just part of the game. I think the adversity is there to separate those who want it from those who REALLY want it. And the more I think about it failure has so much benefits:

    It builds character
    It makes you appreciate success even more
    It make you an “expert” of sorts
    And it ultimately leads to success.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  • Hey Michael,

    Great article. In my experience (live in Barbados) education and society has so much to do with making the decision to choose the entrepreneurial path. Our system is biased towards getting educated and getting a job, whether it be doctor, lawyer, engineer.

    Recently, however there seems to be more emphasis placed on early education as a means to changing the mindset and show that entrepreneurship is a viable option and not just to be chosen when one can’t find a job.

  • Hey Deidre,

    Thanks for commenting…I’m glad you liked the post.

    That appears to be a very positive shift!

    I’m a big fan of Robert Kiyosaki and his ideas about the world operating in the industrial age: “Go to school, get a job” have been on point for some time in my opinion.

    So the fact that you can see the educated becoming more empowered to empower…is a great step forward 😉

  • Your response is incredibly rude, and thus it would indicate to me that you may have issues in establishing effective working relationships. If we were in an interview situation, I’d continue the conversation to gain more information about this aspect of your character. nnPeople’s behaviour and responses to things in an interview give me an indication of how they might respond under stress, and most working environments tend to have some stress from time to time. nnnn

  • Paul

    Claire, trust me, if we were in an interview situation, I would tell you I am not interested after hearing your questions.nnAs a hiring manager I can tell you that it is not in the best interest of the company to waste anyone’s time, be it the applicant or myself. nLike I said, you are the type of person that believes you can find out days worth of information from a simple question. I know you will not listen, but if you do, take this as advice, a person’s ability to handle a stressful situation varies on the degree of the situation.nnSince you know so much, can you answer me why HR is outsourced so often?? Companies like ADP and Paychex are often hired by many companies that have realized that HR departments don’t contribute much, and I can cleary see why, you think you can find good talent based on an applicant’s well rehearsed answer to stupid questions.nSorry Claire, but I think the crowd here agrees with me.

  • Thanks Niall, Iu00a0agree that Kanchi do great work. Their o2 Ability Awards are a great incentive for businesses to make an effort at Accessibility. Accessibility is a massive challenge for web designers and business owners, it would be easier to pretend that the issue does not exist but the bury the head in the sand approach means we are excluding lots of people from what is happening online. It is only when you ask someone with even a minor disability to try to use a website that you see how little things could make their use of the site so much easier. I recommend that everyone that is serious about their site does some user testing with different user types, you would be amazed at the results.

  • Beatrice, I’m delighted to see this post, I have blogged about it in the past, and felt like a lone voice in the wilderness. A lot of people feign interest about accessible websites, but when it comes to investing time and money, most won’t bother. I have made my own consulting site WAI AA compliant, purely because I wanted it to be accessible. I also run a holiday cottage business and our cottages cater for those with disability. This sector forms a significant part of our business.u00a0 We have been awarded two ABLE Business Excellence Awards, oneu00a0for customer service and one for the buildings,u00a0by Rehab & EIQA. This is theu00a0Q mark for accessability. However, we have yet to make the website fully accessbile, and it is on the cards for next year. So, I look forward to Part 2 🙂 Thank you Beatrice.

  • Thanks for the feedback Helen. It is not a topic that really excites people so it is great to get feedback. I have great respect for any business owner that makes even a small effort to have an accessible website. Your Kilmore Cottage website may not be entirely Accessible but it is a reallyu00a0nice site and it with some changes it could be more Accessible. I will tryu00a0giveu00a0lots ofu00a0practical info in Part 2.

  • Julie Painter

    Got ideas for improving accessible technologies?u00a0 Come to the next 508 Listening Session on 6/17 @Stanford U. #opengov

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