This past week, I attended Power Up by SalonBiz and Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference, one day after the next, both in New Orleans. Coincidentally (perhaps?), both conferences featured speakers that discussed the F-word – Failure.
During PowerUp, the keynote speaker with Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village. He talked about The Pit, that moment when you realize things are over and you have failed. To him, it is all about the journey, the great entrepreneurial journey, and The Pit is just one piece, one segment, of that journey. To help guide your journey, he recommended the following.
Know your why
An entrepreneurial journey really is hard and every entrepreneur will have successes and failures. To pull through and get out of The Pit, it is essential to truly know not only who you are, but also why you are doing this. To make money? To create generational wealth? To build something? He reminded me of the concept of the 5 whys… the first four answers will be lies, by the time you get to the 5th answer it will be the truth and you may be in tears.
Be prepared to pivot
As an entrepreneur, persistence is essential. After all, most businesses fail because someone gives up. Yet Einstein said it right: the definition of insanity is to “do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” It is a fine line between insanity and persistence… Williamson emphasized the need to test and idea over and over again, and pivot when need be. Pivoting is not failing. Indeed, companies fail because the do not (cannot?) pivot. Ironically, when a group of girlfriends and I got together for our annual goal setting session in December 2013 and the question “if 2014 was a chapter in the book of your life, what would the title of the chapter be?” came up, I answered “pivot.”
I stayed an extra day in New Orleans to attend the Entrepreneur Magazine Growth Conference. While some speakers were similar to the 2013 Growth Conference (which I attended and wrote about), the panel discussion entitled “Failure Fest” was enough to entice me. Three entrepreneurs (including Tim Williamson, who was great a second time around!) shared their experiences with failure. Here, I was inspired by additional words of wisdom.
“The entrepreneurial journey is not defined by a company but by the journey; when you fail at one company, it is not the end of your entrepreneurial journey.” (Tim Williamson)
“Most of the collateral damage of failure happens between the moment when you know you have failed and the moment you pull the trigger on the actions you need to take. Do not procrastinate in failure.” (Patrick Comer)
“Feel the moment of failure, be emotionally present in that moment. Stare at failure and don’t try to fix it. Then move on.” (Patrick Comer)
“Look at failure as a system flaw, as an opportunity to grow and get stronger.” (Lauren Thom)
The panel ended with a Q&A, and a question I have often heard asked, a question I sometimes wonder about, was posed to the panel: when do you know you have failed? I have heard many answers to this question – but Comer’s actually resonated with me, made sense to me. He said: “Only you can answer that question; it is your own entrepreneurial journey. If it takes you 20 years to prove yourself right, so be it. If it takes you 20 years to prove yourself wrong, then that’s ok too. It is your journey.” This reminded me of my favorite Arianna Huffington quote: “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.”
After all, Failure may start with F, but it is not a 4 letter word…