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Famous Entrepreneurs on Failure: Steve Jobs, Sagmeister and Oprah Winfrey

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Apr 19, 2014

We live in society where failure is equal to bankruptcy and broke. We consider people who fail as loser and lacking ability. Unfortunately this is very limiting view. Misrepresentation of failure has made enough damage to the heart of progress. However, if you want to make a difference you need to think differently. You need to learn that failure is not a curse rather something that tells few things about us: [1] we are trying [2] we are learning and growing. Throughout the history accomplished people embraced failure and renewed themselves with learning from failure and tried again.

I believe we need a completely different perspective towards failure-a different terminology and a different level of judgment. Like that of Thomas Edison “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” and that of Louis Boone “Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things.”

Why we need a different perspective towards failure

Success does not come from nowhere. It takes solid background and lots of hard work. Most of all you need to know how it works. Background of all success is invariably failure. If you take time to dig deep into the stories of successful people you will be surprised how hard they tried again and again.

Everything you do in life is a matter of practice, even starting business and taking initiative too. Why failure is invaluable because it teaches you a lot. “Life is all about learning and one of the most memorable ways of learning something is by messing up.”- Dr. Wayne. W. Dyer.

Failure is opportunity: Every Failure is an opportunity in disguise. It tells us what works and what does not. Failing in a venture gives us necessary lessons to make next one a success.

Every time you fail, you get closer to success: "I can absolutely say that if I hadn’t spent 1.5 years working on a startup which did not succeed, there is no way I could have had some early success with Buffer as quickly as I did." ~Joel, Founder & CEO, Buffer

Famous entrepreneurs on Failure
Famous entrepreneurs on Failure

How to think differently about failure: Famous Entrepreneurs on Failure

We must get over our conventional mindset of failure avoidance and must look at failure with a more open mind to understand it and to learn from it. Taking a different perspective on failure is hard work. But people who have achieved extraordinary feat in life teach us how to think about failure and look at it.

Fear of failure is way more dangerous than real failure. It is anticipation of failure that stops us from moving, starting and taking risk. You never achieve anything through not walking the path.

“Most people never pick up the phone, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you gotta be willing to fail… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”~Steve Jobs

Making is all about trying a lot. You try hundreds of things and then you get one right. That’s how things work.

It is very important to embrace failure and to do a lot of stuff — as much stuff as possible — with as little fear as possible. It’s much, much better to wind up with a lot of crap having tried it than to overthink in the beginning and not do it.” ~Stefan Sagmeister

Failure is a very natural phenomenon. Sometime, on life’s way, you will stumble. But it should not frustrate you or stop you. rather what we all need is a documentation of our failures from where we can draw inspiration and lessons to move ahead.Oprah Winfrey in her beautiful Harvard Commencement speech spoke of that very truth about Failure.

It doesn’t matter how far you might rise — at some point, you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do — raising the bar — if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages predicts that you will, at some point, fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure — failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.

Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure. . . . And when you’re down in the hole, when that moment comes, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while — give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost — but, then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake. Because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.

And then, figure out what is the next right move. The key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional GPS that can tell you which way to go. ~Oprah Winfrey


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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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