12 years have gone by since I set foot into entrepreneurship. Through this journey, I have contributed to several failed startups. I am yet to find out what works, but I have learned what doesn’t.
Edison failed over 10,000 times before he invented the lightbulb. When he was asked how did he deal with failure, he said, “I have not failed. I have 10,000 ways that do not work.”
Honestly speaking, such quotes sound inspirational only in hindsight after success. If Edison had failed to invent the bulb, people would have quoted Einstein saying, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.”
I do not have the credentials to pull off an inspirational quote like Edison. Instead, I will speak about the knowledge I have gained through entrepreneurship.
These lessons not only apply to work and business but also other aspects of life. Though I haven’t achieved my goals yet, I am now an improved person compared to myself a decade ago.
Here are the 5 lessons my journey taught me:
1. Take responsibility for your actions
When things went right, I patted myself on the back for the job well done. I considered myself a wonderful decision-maker and a visionary. But when things went wrong, I found reasons to justify why the idea failed. It was either the market, the inability of users to deal with the change or the failure of somebody else in the team.
The good deeds were mine, but the mistakes were somebody else’s.
Things go wrong in life all the time. Ideas fail, mistakes occur, and unforeseen factors change the outcome.
Today, I have learned to take ownership of any event that goes wrong in my life. Instead of trying to justify why things went south, I take it as a lesson to improve.
- What could I have done better?
- How can I prevent it the next time?
- How can I solve the problem right now?
Whenever things go wrong, you have two options. One, to find an excuse. Second, to use the opportunity to look deep into your soul and check what could you have done better.
2. Stop making performance relative
During my startups, my measure of performance always relied on comparison. “How is my business doing compared to …” “My product has lesser features compared to ..”
Sure, you must analyze your competitors. But many a time, I have entered a rat race just to beat an opponent even if it served no purpose.
The same behavior occurs in life where you measure your happiness by comparing your salary with your colleagues or your house with that of your neighbor. Such a comparison never ends.
Today you compare your car with a Ford, tomorrow with a Mercedes and day after with a Ferrari. When you beat one competitor, you find a tougher opponent to beat which keeps happiness eluded.
Instead, you must try to be better than a prior version of yourself. Every 3 months, your skills and behavior should have improved by at least a little bit.
When you embark on a journey of comparing your performance only against yourself, you enter an endless race of self-improvement.
3. Your fear lies more in your mind than in reality
Before starting my first venture, I feared, “What if my venture fails?” But the actual reason for my worry was, “What would people think of me if I failed?”
I took the leap anyway, and the business failed. I had expected people to laugh at me. But it turned out that I neither faced ridicule nor support. People were too busy with their own lives to bother.
Many of your fears are only in your head. You worry about the worst-case scenarios and hypothetical outcomes of failure which rarely occur in reality.
I am not saying entrepreneurship has a high chance of success. Just that handling failure is easier than you think.
4. Not everyone thinks and behaves as you do
I would grow frustrated when my team members and partners did not see a situation as I did. I complained, saying, “Why is that so difficult to understand? Isn’t it obvious?”
No matter how evident things seem to you, other people will have their perception. If everyone thought and acted as you did, the world would be full of people who nodded at each other. There would be no arguments, no debates, and no exchange of ideas.
The beauty of life lies in the diversity of thoughts and expression of ideas. Just because someone does not think as you do, does not make him wrong or you right. Two people can have polar opposite opinions and still be right in their own ways.
5. Your reality is defined by what you choose to see
During one of my business ventures, we did achieve success. Yet, I was dejected because our business wasn’t as successful as a massive startup like Instagram.
Whether you look at a situation in a positive or negative light lies under your control. An optimist sees the glass as half full while the pessimist views it as half empty.
The reality remains the same, and how it affects you depends on what you choose to see.
Every step in your journey provides you an opportunity to learn. You can choose to find an excuse at every step or utilize the platform to come out a better person. The choice is yours.