Thursday, March 31, 2022

Accepting failure in your start-up. It's part of being human.

The focus in the business world is always on success, especially when it comes to tech start-ups. The whole culture of the industry centres around celebrating success, pushing for success, being successful, showing off how successful you are. But we're human and humans fail all the time. It is impossible to be successful all of the time. To err is human.

I'm currently in the midst of a personal fail and trying to sort it out. It feels like a hot mess and it's unpleasant and demoralising to have to deal with and it's definitely not playing to my strengths. It's not work related, thankfully. But it is still, in my mind, at least, an epic fail. And when you're in the midst of something like this, it's hard to see the wood from the trees and it's hard to see a way forward, or what life might feel like when you've come out of it the other side. And the self-doubt and the self-judging is evident and hard to battle sometimes.

Following my write up yesterday of the interview with Anna Gudmundson on how to take your company from good to great, another article appeared on my radar which seemed to complement it: I failed, what will people think of me? And since I'm in the midst of this hot mess I need to sort out in my own life, it really resonated. Yes, the article is focused on failing at business, but I found the insights helpful in dealing with my own situation. So I figured it might help someone else too.

The author, Wil Schroter, says: 

"In the moment when our startup ship is sinking to the bottom of the ocean, everyone has jumped on the life rafts, and we're wondering what the world will think of us, what goes through our minds?

Whether we fail or not, we've all run through the same scenarios. The only difference is when we fail for real, we get to see what actually happens. We get to see what kind of support we really have and what people will really think about us.

But what's both sad and comforting is how few people will care at all."

Wil goes on to flesh this out..
No one really cares. People are self-absorbed and wrapped up in their own life and work dramas to have any spare capacity for caring about what you're up to.
No one will remember (unless you're Theranos or WeWork ane even that won't last. anyone?). Our lives are busy. There's too much other stuff going on to remember about your start-up going under.
The emotion is raw for you. But it won't be for anyone else. This, I can relate to. Friends will empathise, but they won't feel it in the same way as you. And that's good because it means they can support you without being overwhelmed by the situation.
What really matters is what you do next. And this can be an enormous mountain to climb. You'll need to lick your wounds and will have some healing to do. You'll need to reflect on what happened and learn from it. You may need to do some self-development work. But most importantly, you need to carry on. 

As Wil says, 'This is a single chapter in our story, and it's a crazy chapter, but we've got many more to write.' It's really important to remember that there will be many, many more chapters in your life. They won't all be the same and if you have the drive to be part of a start-up anyway, those subsequent chapters are bound to be interesting. Life really does throw some curveballs at you (ill-health, the economy, personal circumstances) but you can overcome them.

You can't change the past but you can work towards a better future. And if you are having a hard time right now, as so many are, hang in there. It will get better. Try to find someone to talk to about it and give yourself time to get over it without wallowing too much. Time does heal. And with the experience comes wisdom and awareness.

Having been in an early stage start-up team and watched that team grow and the product develop successfully, only for it all to collapse in dramatic fashion after 18 months, I know what resilience it takes to deal with that and what upheaval it causes in every aspect of your life. But your entrepreneur's resilience will stand you in good stead for whatever comes next.

Let's see what the next chapter brings.

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