How to Accelerate your Success

When I worked in venture capital, entrepreneurs would pitch me on their business. I’d determine if their product or service met our criteria, if there was a viable market for it, and most importantly, if i believed in the leader. Was this a person (or team) that could do the job, did we want them in our portfolio, could we work beside them and support them to achieve their goals?

One day I met with two entrepreneurs who presented a great pitch. I liked the guys but something bothered me, so I went directly to my boss. Joel Solomon, the co-founder of our fund, has taught me so much over the years. But this lesson struck me like the slap across the face I needed to wake up.

I told Joel I was concerned that both these men had business failures in their past. He responded, “Just because a man has failed, it doesn’t make him a failure”.

That simple statement shocked me. Though I felt the truth of it in my bones, I’d lived quite differently. I had seen all my own failures as reflections of my tragic flaws. Each one a small death. They were signs of weakness in the survival of the fittest. They were a part of me I wanted to hide.

Constantly facing the bright light of goals and achievements, I had tucked my failures behind me, where they’d stayed in the shadow of shame, weighing me down and holding me back. Though I’d often been a risk-taker, the fear of failure had stopped me at times, made me anxious, and killed my joy. My inability to really embrace each failure and integrate it into my experience, squelched my opportunity to really learn from them, laugh about them, and lighten up.

Joel’s statement turned failure upside down for me. If they weren’t failures because they’d failed, then neither was I.

I was successful because I’d failed. I’d failed because I’d tried something new. I’d followed the impulses inside me. I was successful because I was willing to try, and therefore willing to fail, again. This buoyed me to risk, experiment, and fail some more.

Then Joel added, “My mentor taught me to never trust anyone who hasn’t been through a bankruptcy.”

That was a hard one for me to swallow at the time. Seriously, dude, my mind is imploding from your first slap, and now you add that! Bankruptcy is the ultimate failure. But Joel saw it differently. It meant truth telling, learning, slate clearing, and humbling.

Frequently, Success + Success + Success = Hubris. Often folks who haven’t failed and learned are less open to collaboration, less compassionate, less fun. And that limits their future success.

Not everyone who’s failed has learned from it, but people who take responsibility for their life and strive to do great things, see each failure as an opportunity to re-examine their beliefs and behaviours, and experiment some more.

So I encourage you to Embrace Failure to Accelerate your Success.

When you embrace failure it becomes just one experience among many. It’s simply what happens when the result of your actions doesn’t match your expectations. It loses it’s power over you, and you become truly powerful.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, said “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Stop fearing failure. Don’t shun it, hope to avoid it, or even reluctantly accept it. Get to know it. Open your door and welcome it in like a long lost friend.  Wrap your arms around it and give it a hug.

I’d love to hear how failure has informed you:

  • Have you learned and grown from it?
  • How has it contributed to your success?
  • What tips do you have for overcoming fear of it?

If you know someone who is definitely not a failure, and may need some encouragement to try again, please share this post with them.

Be Willing to Fail

When someone asks:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”:

Do you get inspired?
Does your heart race as you think of the one great thing you’ll do immediately?
Do you rush off and begin it?
Do you dream of the wildly successful life you’ll have because you did that great thing, knowing you couldn’t fail?

Or do you think “Wait a minute, there’s no guarantee I won’t fail.”

And tuck that dream back into your pocket.

Now that question, that’s been asked millions of times, is a perfectly good question because it gets you thinking beyond your fear of failure for a moment. And sometimes your fear is so great it stops you from imagining what you might do. But the moment you begin to imagine yourself attempting this great thing you want to do, something happens.  You realize you might just fail.

It’s a different way to approach it. Rather than imagining your assured success, which feeds your desire for certainty, which is fueled by your fear, you’ll connect with the love that is urging you to act. And I’ll just bet there is something you’d love to do, but fear of failure is holding you back. It may be a passing thought, a flicker of an image at the edge of your peripheral vision, or a longing that won’t let you go. There is something you want to experience, something within you that wants to be expressed. But your fear of failure gets in the way.

What if you change your relationship with failure so that instead of shunning it, fearing it and avoiding it, (poor failure – nobody likes it), you see it as an important part of experiencing life. So much can be gained from failing. Though you think you might die of embarrassment, most failures won’t actually kill you.

I’m willing to fail for love.

I play the ukelele badly. And it makes me so happy every time I do. Yes, I would like to be better, and every time I hit a wrong note, (which is more often than not) the perfectionist in me cringes a little, but the joy of playing it keeps me failing my way through song after song.

I garden without having a clue what I’m doing. I rip up lawn and level dirt and plant food and flowers, and lots of it fails. But more of it thrives. The joy I get from sitting out there listening to nature, feeling the life growing around me and sharing my bounty with butterflies, birds, bees and neighbours makes me happy to be alive.

My first marriage failed. It ended in divorce. But we loved and still love each other. We are friends. The marriage no longer served us. And love made me willing to marry again ~ I’m risking failure for love. (ps. I don’t really think my first marriage failed. It just transitioned into something else)

One of my businesses failed. I started a business in an industry that didn’t exist when we were creating it. We raised capital during the financial crisis of 2008. We failed by missing every goal we set. But I stayed connected to the love that birthed this business into the world, grew closer to my investors through the struggles, and stretched myself more than I thought I could.

I’ve also had lots of success, but within everyone one of those successes are failures big and small. If I’m not failing I’m not challenging myself and growing, and neither are you.

What are you willing to fail for?