Lessons from Failures
This week I want to touch on an important topic that was brought to my attention by a colleague of mine, Xavier Lemon. Xavier insists, as I agree, that a big aspect of being an entrepreneur is being able to walk away from failures with a lesson learned. This has been a major driving force in my success and in the success of many others around me. In order to appropriately touch on the topic I thought it would be wise to garnish lessons from those who have truly achieved success.
Steve Jobs, as many of you know, created Apple. Apple is currently worth more, in liquid cash value, than most countries. That’s right, they are worth more than most countries on planet earth. This stature, however, did not come easy. Steve jobs overcame many a failure before he was able to solidify Apple as the market giant it has become. Apple’s current market value is around $741.8 Billion.
Jobs created Apple in 1976 with a few friends in none other than his parents garage – the common breeding grounds of many startups, worldwide. It wasn’t until 1985, after a series of unsuccessful product launches (Macintosh and Lisa), Steve Jobs was kicked out of his own company. This is where most would mark a failure and choose to leave it all behind. However, instead of giving up, Jobs created a new company called NeXT, Inc. which would later become acquired by Apple for $429 million and 1.5 shares of Apple stock – Oh, and Steve got to regain control of the company he originally founded.
Jobs later went on to say, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
I think the lesson to learn from Jobs and his downfall is that failures aren’t always failures. In fact, if we adjust our perspective lens and look at them in a different way, failures are our opportunities to persevere as individuals and redirect ourselves toward success. Learning from your missteps and reevaluating your initial derailment from success can cause these ‘downfalls’ to turn into quite the motivating sources.
As most of us know, Henry Ford was the man that revolutionized the automotive industry, specifically, by creating the assembly line. This, however, did not happen instantaneously.
Ford Motor Company was founded in 1899, with the help of a few wealthy investors. After two years of tinkering and engineering the perfect car, the investors thought Ford was too much of a nit-picky perfectionist to get an automobile to market that was not only efficient, but inexpensive and reliable at the same time. Ford’s original model was far too expensive and kind of a clunker. That is why the company decided to initially close its gates in 1901, leaving Ford to pick up the pieces by himself.
He did just that.
Over the next 5 or so years, Ford used his initial failure to motivate him towards creating the vehicle that started it all – the Ford Model T, which came out in 1908. The rest of this success story is history, a history that still resonates with the American population, as Ford, is still one of the largest and most reputable American automotive companies ever created.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” – Henry Ford
This quote explains the lesson in Ford’s failure fairly well. If you would have given someone the choice in 1900 between a faster car or a faster horse, most would ask for a faster horse. Cars just weren’t popular yet. What we can learn from Henry Ford’s ‘failure’ is that innovation isn’t always going to be successful. If you have an idea that isn’t out there yet, most likely, people are going to shoot you a crazy gaze every time you try explaining your novel idea. Get up, brush yourself off and make those naysayers wish they would’ve jumped aboard when they had the chance.
J.K. Rowling, as many of you know, is the best selling author that created the Harry Potter series. More interesting than her novels, is the path she took to get to where she is now. While she is currently one of the most successful women of all time, she insists, it wasn’t always like this. At the age of 28, Rowling was a struggling single mother living off of government aid, trying to make it as a writer. Harry Potter was initially rejected by over 10 publishing houses. Her publicist insisted that she should focus her time on other ventures, since writing, would not make her enough money to support her family.
In 1997 however, after years of persevering through the turmoil that is the publishing industry, Rowling was picked up by Bloomsbury Publishing and became an almost overnight success.
What does J.K. have to say about the lessons to be learned from her failures and success?
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default” – J.K. Rowling
Her initial failure would have been enough to deter most people from the risky and back to the mundane. However, Rowling believed in her writing and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Understand that we will all fail at some point. Unless you want to fail by default and live an overcautious life, then get out there and don’t be afraid to fail. Just get out there. If for nothing else than to learn a lesson…
Editors: Angelina D’Albero