In the end… experience teaches us.
For the duration of my short career, I have tried to plan and mitigate risk at every step. I have read books, listened to podcasts and sought out mentors to learn the right way to manage and grow a business. It has been a sensible approach, and I have learned a great deal in the process. The value of these sources of information lie in the opportunity to learn from others journeys. With time being the limiting factor, why make every mistake, when there are resources to help you avoid many of the most common pitfalls.
Nevertheless, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that there is no lesson learned like the ones learnt through your own experience. From our successes and especially our failures. Each of us has our own individual path, and our greatest insights occur when have tried and failed, again and again, until eventually we stumble upon a method or process that is agreeable to our nature.
In the same way, with entrepreneurship, I have learned that you never know the defects of your organization until situations take turn for the worse. Then, you have no choice but to see its faults up close. Sometimes a ‘cleansing storm’ can be the best thing that can happen. But only if we can learn from its underlying causes.
Ray Dalio is the CEO & founder of Bridgewater Capital, the largest hedge fund in the world. In his latest book, Principles, he offers us a simple mantra that encapsulates this process:
PAIN + REFLECTION = PROGRESS
What follows as a lesson is clear, and at the same time a difficult pill to swallow. It is ok to make mistakes. It is ok to fail. In fact, if you aren’t stumbling once in a while you aren’t trying anything new and are unlikely to make progress. I always find it helpful to remember the Michael Jordan Nike advertisement, where the man widely greatest basketball player of all time recounts all of his failures on the court. At end of his list, he offers us a take away; ‘I have failed again and again in my life… and that is why I succeed.’
Entrepreneurship, like any other craft or skill, takes time to get good at. The only way you will improve is by trying, failing, learning, and subsequently improving. Failures are simply part of the process of getting better. If you aren’t making mistakes you simply won’t improve. But the key is not to make the same mistake twice.
Learn as much as you can from others experience, and let your curiosity fuel your quest for knowledge and understanding, but don’t expect this to be sufficient information for your own journey. The very best lessons will come from your own path, and this is precisely because they are yours, and uniquely yours.
As a business owner as an entrepreneur, this reasonable acceptance of failure not only applies to you, but also to those you surround yourself with, the people that work with you. If you don’t leave these people space to fail, they will subsequently fail to develop or grow either. Even at Google, they have an internal SOP to address failure and subsequent learning – ‘the postmortem’
The comfortable status quo is an indication letting you know you aren’t going anywhere fast. As Carl Jung said, ‘man needs difficulties, they are necessary for his health.’