The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, to fight with everything you’ve got, to be willing to leave everything out there on the battlefield—without knowing, until that do-or-die moment, if your heroic effort will be enough.
Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Unlike Edison, many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity. When we do make missteps, we gloss over them, selectively editing out the miscalculations or mistakes in our life’s résumé.
“Failure is not an option,” NASA flight controller Jerry C. Bostick reportedly stated during the mission to bring the damaged Apollo 13 back to Earth, and that phrase has been etched into the collective memory ever since.
To many in our success-driven society, failure isn’t just considered a non-option—it’s deemed a deficiency, says Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. “Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list,” Schulz says. “It is our meta-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.”
When we take a closer look at the great thinkers throughout history, a willingness to take on failure isn’t a new or extraordinary thought at all. From the likes of Augustine, Darwin and Freud to the business mavericks and sports legends of today, failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success.
“Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there,” says Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. “Instead they choose to play it safe, to fly below the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they generally never attempt anything great at which they could possibly fail (or succeed).”
However, in today’s post-recession economy, some employers are no longer shying away from failure—they’re embracing it. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing that those who have been in the trenches, survived battle and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance. They’re veterans of failure.
The prevailing school of thought in progressive companies—such as Intuit, General Electric, Corning and Virgin Atlantic—is that great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common byproduct. Executives of such organizations don’t mourn their mistakes but instead parlay them into future gains.
“The quickest road to success is to possess an attitude toward failure of ‘no fear,’ ” says Heath. “To do their work well, to be successful and to keep their companies competitive, leaders and workers on the front lines need to stick their necks out a mile every day. They have to deliver risky, edgy, breakthrough ideas, plans, presentations, advice, technology, products, leadership, bills and more. And they have to deliver all this fearlessly—without any fear whatsoever of failure, rejection or punishment.”
The same holds true for personal quests, whether in overcoming some specific challenge or reaching your full potential in all aspects of life. To achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you have to push yourself.
When we think of people with this mindset, we imagine the daredevils, the pioneers, the inventors, the explorers: They embrace failure as a necessary step to unprecedented success.
But you don’t have to walk a tightrope, climb Mount Everest or cure polio to employ this mindset in your own life. When the rewards of success are great, embracing possible failure is key to taking on a variety of challenges, whether you’re reinventing yourself by starting a new business or allowing yourself to trust another person to build a deeper relationship.
“To achieve any worthy goal, you must take risks,” says writer and speaker John C. Maxwell. In his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, he points to the example of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who set several records and achieved many firsts in her lifetime, including being the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Although her final flight proved fateful, Maxwell believes she knew the risk—and that the potential reward was worth it. “[Earhart’s] advice when it came to risk was simple and direct: ‘Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.’ ”
Of course, the risks you take should be calculated; you shouldn’t fly blindly into the night and simply hope for the best. Achieving the goal or at least waging a heroic effort requires preparation, practice and some awareness of your skills and talents.
“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone,” Heath says. Although you might fail incredibly, you might succeed incredibly—and that’s why incredible risk and courage are requisite. Either way, you’ll learn more than ever about your strengths, talents and resolve, and you’ll strengthen your will for the next challenge.
If this sounds like dangerous territory, it can be. But there are ways to ease into this fearless mindset. The first is to consciously maintain a positive attitude so that, no matter what you encounter, you’ll be able to see the lessons of the experience and continue to push forward.
“It’s true that not everyone is positive by nature,” says Maxwell, who cites his father as someone who would describe himself as a negative person by nature. “Here’s how my dad changed his attitude. First he made a choice: He continually chooses to have a positive attitude. Second, he’s continually reading and listening to materials that bolster that attitude. For example, he’s read The Power of Positive Thinking many times. I didn’t get it at first, so once I asked him why. His response: ‘Son, I need to keep filling the tank so I can stay positive.’ ”
Heath recommends studying the failures and subsequent reactions of successful people and, within a business context, repeating such histories for others. “Reward them and applaud their efforts in front of the entire organization so everyone understands it is OK to fail. So employees say to themselves, ‘I see that Bill, the vice president of widgets, who the president adores, failed, and he is not only back at work, but he is driving a hot new sports car. I can fail and come to work the next day. Bill is proof of it.’ ”
Finally, Heath stays motivated by the thought that, “if I become complacent and don’t take risks, someone will notice what I am doing and improve upon my efforts over time, and put me out of work. You’ve got to keep finding better ways to run your life, or someone will take what you’ve accomplished, improve upon it, and be very pleased with the results. Keep moving forward or die.”
[ Credits: This article appears in SUCCESS magazine and can be viewed on their website here ]
For startups, hiring remains a perennial problem area. If you are an entrepreneur and are looking to hire for your startup, there are some mistakes which you need to avoid. The Power of Ideas website from Economic Times has listed the top 10 mistakes in startup hiring. Reproducing the list below:
If you have any more to add to this list, please share in the comments.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak with a few aspiring entrepreneurs from my alma mater in Mumbai. The event was on the lines of Startup Weekend and was organised by a bunch of bright students from VJTI, Mumbai. Here’s their website. Now, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of other entrepreneurs. This occasion, however, was special because it combined three things which hold an important place in my heart – entrepreneurship, starting early and VESIT.
Since what I had to say that day is what I feel strongly about, I decided to sum up the key points here. It would be interesting to know your views about this, so feel free to comment.
There are a few questions that keep popping up when I discuss startups and entrepreneurship with students. There are some ‘Whys’ and some ‘Hows’. Today, I will try to put forth my answers to these questions.
On two different levels, entrepreneurship is extremely important. On a macro level, entrepreneurs are the growth engines of a nation’s economy. Without enterprising businessmen, who dared to dream, huge industries like construction and shipping might not have been in existence. And without today’s startups, industries of the new economy would not be taking shape as you read this.
On a personal level, it has the potential to generate immense wealth for you and enable you to have a huge impact on the ecosystem – in terms of taxes, infrastructure and jobs. A huge payoff and creating lasting wealth in the long term is what every entrepreneur has the chance of achieving.
It has to be you – because you are brilliantly positioned to make a mark in the world of startups. You belong to a fabulous educational institution with teachers who can be good mentors, peers who can be amazing sounding boards and alumni who can be your stepping stones as you venture out. You have access to resources that others would give an arm and a leg for. You are also part of the age bracket where most of today’s early adopters and tommorrow’s highest spenders come from. You think and live like them and are thus best placed to design products and services that would appeal to them. In short, you have a crucial connect with the market.
As students, your brain is currently in a phase of discovery and innovation. Devoid of conditioning by a job routine, you can think up creative solutions to problems and needs. With time to spare after classes are over and a ready pool of talent and test customers, you can launch and iterate your startup quickly. And is there a downside? What if your startup fails? I can assure you that having the experience of launching and running your own startup will be an amazing addition to your resume.
There are some reasons why you should NOT pursue entrepreneurship. Do not launch a startup because it is ‘cool’ to do so. Do not do it because your friends are doing it and do not do it because you think you can do a better job of running a company than your next-door neighbour. The main reasons you should ‘do a startup’ is if you have the passion, ambition and drive to pursue a dream.
I have listed 6 steps that form the crux of how a startup should be launched and run. These are by no means the only steps involved nor does it mean that each startup has to pass through each step. Consider it a short checklist for your entrepreneurial journey.
So, if you are a student who want to start up but is unsure, take a deep breath and go out and startup.
The author is Director, Virtual Ladder HR Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Founder – Jobs In A Jiffy. Views expressed are personal.
Do you go into an interview with a plan in your mind? Or do you just decide to wing it most of the times? If you are like most recruiters, you will have taken both approaches at some point of time. Think back to those occasions and try to recollect which interview went better and got you more insight in a shorter time!
Chances are very high that you will remember the planned interviews having been shorter and better. It has been observed that preparing for an interview for as little as 15 minutes can cut the interview duration by up to 60 minutes. So, if you want a more meaningful evaluation of an employee in a shorter interview, here are a few things you can do:-
There is also a strong case for going beyond the resume to seek out the facets of the candidate’s personality which determine suitability for the job. This is especially true in the case of startups. That will be the subject of our next post on this blog.
If you have any more tips to make the interview shorter yet better, please comment and share with us.
Working for a startup is more than just a job – it is a way of life.
Being an employee in a startup is not everybody’s cup of tea. Startups need employees of a particular mindset. Though it might be wrong to generalize and knowing that each startup job will have some unique requirements, I can at least list down some characteristics which are common to successful startup employees.
There are more characteristics that employees working in a startup should have, but these are the absolute essentials according to me. If you have more to share, feel free to comment.