The Core Four of Entrepreneurial Success – Part 4

By Paul R. Scheele Ph.D. | Lead

Make progress every day toward your desired success with the Core Four principles. Here is the fourth and final post in this series.

#4—Fail Fast and Often (aka, There Are No Failures When You Are Learning)

Successful entrepreneurs often describe an event that almost led to the demise of their business. The stories of survival share similar themes of recognizing what was happening, adapting asap, and learning that served them for the long haul.

If anyone says, “Failure is not an option,” I say, “Correct! It is a necessity!”

The key is learning agility: 1) get rapid feedback to recognize your missteps, 2) adapt to correct course as often and as quickly as possible, and 3) be your own best learning coach and consultant along the way to stay calm and carry on.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Nelson Mandela

I often share the story of a seamstress who came to my personal development workshop. When I mentioned that learning often requires 2 steps forward and 1 step back, she mentioned that in sewing there is a stitch that does exactly that. Called the “stretch stitch” it is commonly used on the bias, as around the shoulder of a sleeve, and provides 2 essential benefits; strength and flexibility.

Learning from our challenges gives us strength and flexibility in our work, our leadership, and our ability to serve our customers. Rigidity, complacency, and denial are the killers of entrepreneurial endeavors. Fail when you do, keep on learning, and adapt to succeed.

As a failure begins to unfold, it is common for the human mind to enter a state of disbelief or denial. In an article by Chris Argyris titled, “Teaching Smart People How to Learn,” published by Harvard Business Review, Argyris explains that most people become defensive when confronted with the reality of a failed decision or action. Denial and defensiveness can thwart learning and success.

When reality conflicts with our mental model of how things are supposed to be, you will feel it as a “disorienting dilemma.” Embrace it. If we are to survive our challenges, we have to recognize the reality of the situation quickly, because a bad situation can become much worse in the blink of an eye.

As my brother-in-law, a comptroller in several entrepreneurial businesses often repeated:

Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.

Once you embrace the dilemma, create a safe space to challenge your habits and expectations that got you there. Adapt. Keep moving. That safe place begins within, and ideally, extends to a group of confidants who can help you think through a next move. Give it your best shot and take the learning forward with you. Always keep learning, it is your best route to success.

Action Step
Make learning your business advantage. Take a step back for each two steps forward to build your strength and flexibility. Consider a current dilemma that may be surfacing, take steps to learn more, then choose a new way forward.
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