The two invariably cross paths. Those engaging in risky undertakings respect that the odds are against them. On the one hand, it’s important for entrepreneurs (painting with a very wide brush) to wear their failures as a badge of honor, but it’s a slippery slope. Underlying anticipation of failure can become too enmeshed with the outlook an innovator has on their venture.
Facing tough odds, the last thing an entrepreneur can afford to do is frame their work with a backdrop of failure; it redefines the parameters in which they operate. Negative reinforcement is a reality, and effects the decision making process. Comfort with failure as a plausible outcome severely limits the risks a person will take, and that are necessary, to achieve their ends and can similarly distort the energy with which they represent the idea. It can also lead to other counterproductive activity such as “cover your bases” mentality, in which 80% of your effort is devoted to your venture and the other 20% to Plan B in case the floor falls out; start-ups need 100%.
Painting with a narrower brush, an overwhelming majority of the most successful start-ups come from entrepreneurs who believe so deeply in the need for their business in the world, that they cannot conceive of a future in which it fails to take form. That’s not to say they don’t often reposition their business and improvise based on a changing environment, but there is a core to their effort and a belief in the concept that is constant and unwavering. On the other side of the spectrum, while “get rich quick” start-ups do reach the big leagues, it happens with less frequency and is rarely on the same order of magnitude. The high start-up-turnover (volume) model that these entrepreneurs use bakes a disproportionate amount of “failure” into the recipe, and it generally shows.
Brave innovators today need to be pushed to not accept failure as an alternative, and this value cannot simply be told. The onus is upon the start-up community at large, those on any side of entrepreneurship, to not allow so much flexibility and understanding in failure, to encourage entrepreneurs to really understand and then pursue what they believe in, and to be candid with those that are at 80% that they need to push higher; because that’s what it will take. The combination of variables that result in the success of a start-up are many and not clear cut, but we can at least take small steps forward by mitigating the ones that clearly do not further venture efforts.