Paula Young-Libby is the CEO of MycoCann, Inc. an ag-tech startup with sights on revolutionizing how cannabis is grown. Join us here every week as Paula gives us an exclusive peek into the entrepreneurial experience, this week she discusses failing your way to success.
One of the most contradictory and counter-intuitive things about life in general and entrepreneurship, in particular, is that in order to succeed, one must actively seek to fail. I don’t know anybody who has ever accomplished anything who has not failed a thousand times more than they succeeded in any one task. This is even more true for those who are acknowledged champions.
From sports to science, from art to zebra handling, the people who are the best at what they do are the ones who failed the most, because they’re the ones who tried over and over until they excelled. They knew that in order to learn, in order to improve and develop and grow, they would have to continually push themselves past their comfort zone and take real risks. They had to seek out the point of failure in order learn how to get past it.
It is more than just taking risks. This willingness—eagerness, even—to fail is at the core of the entrepreneurial experience. Entrepreneurs who fail quickly enough to course correct before crashing their companies have a much better chance of navigating the dangerous startup waters than those who refuse to act on or even acknowledge problems until it is too late. Fear of failure clouds the judgement and skews the perceptions, making it difficult to clearly identify the pivots that could wind up saving the company.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that if all you do is fail, you are bound to succeed. Failure without improvement is a recipe for disaster. But if you are not willing to write that email, pick up that phone, talk to that potential investor, customer, manufacturing partner, or software engineer because you might mess things up, or they might say no, becoming an entrepreneur probably isn’t for you.
In order to succeed, one must actively seek to fail.
It is a daunting task to be responsible for the life and well-being of an infant company, as well as the livelihoods of those who work for it. Failure of the company has very high stakes, but I believe in my company. I believe in my product. I believe the world will be a better place with my product in the marketplace. This gives me the courage to face the horde of tiny failures that will ultimately lead to my eventual mind-blowingly huge success.
If you lack a similar conviction for your company, team, or product, then that is a red flag that you need to fix things until you are as fiercely confident as I am. If you can’t, then you may want to consider closing up shop before you build up too much debt or hire too many employees. Because without that conviction, you won’t have the strength to survive the insane whirlwinds of failure that make up the startup experience.
This is why investors are so interested the quality of the teams they are investing in, and in seeing those teams mitigate as many risks as possible before they plunk their money down. They know most early stage companies will fail, some spectacularly. Teams who have the courage, conviction and intelligence to rapidly iterate failure into success are the ones who are most likely to build the most value in a company, and get that investor a happy and lucrative return.
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