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Turning lessons into growth when building a start-up

April 7, 2021

Check out these amazing tips from our guest writer Felix Lindsell, who writes editorials for the Start-up consultancy ‘startupme.nl’. He talks about the false meaning of “failing”, lessons and growth!

Despite the image that leading companies project, they all have their own challenges and getting where they are today required a great deal more failure than it did success. The difference with top companies is that they utilised the lessons in a positive way. The following offers some insight into the nature of ‘winning’ versus ‘losing’ and how these things contribute to success.

“Winning” 🏆

I think we can all agree that winning and succeeding without making mistakes feels great. The only issue is, without failures, our sense of invincibility grows. With this perception of winning can come an ignorance of vulnerability, and no matter how successful we may become, our vulnerabilities don’t disappear.

The world’s top CEOs might have a forcefield of economic stability around them and win at every profit margin… However, tell Jeff Bezos that his shoes look cheap and we would likely see that he’s just as sensitive as the next person and his embarrassment, equally felt. For success to feel good, failure and vulnerability must rest as the counterbalance.

We’re all vulnerable to different things and this is a golden rule to remember. Winning does feel good, but when it happens, we can be left with our head in the clouds. It’s essential to keep both feet on the ground and positively realize that failing in one department shouldn’t imply unilateral losses in other departments. In fact, it's quite the contrary!

Feeling Good 🙌

Undoubtedly, being successful has a great influence on feeling fulfilled and helps us understand what processes produce good outcomes. On top of that, winning feels good as we experience it, so it often encourages us to be productive and push ourselves further. An instant surge of gratification rises as we hit our goal and it doesn’t take months of quiet self-reflection to realize that it feels rewarding!

Winning and achieving are certainly important, but remember - they don’t make us invincible.

No such thing as “Losing” 🌈

It wasn’t until game number 53 that the inventors behind Angry Birds finally got their first win. Colonel Sander’s KFC recipe got cast aside 1,009 times before getting the break that’s now built him a legacy. Put succinctly by businessman and author R. Kiyosaki: “Failure is part of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”

Sometimes, albeit rarely, a first attempt turns out to be brilliant. When this happens, luck and context usually play a large role. I may have no experience in stocks and shares, but the first day I decide to invest in bitcoin, shares peak and I withdraw with a swift profit and a boyish grin.

Fortunate things do happen, nonetheless, we want our successes to have some long term reliability. Learning and developing from failures is an irremovable part of the process.

This, of course, also applies to your start-up’s journey.

Put most simply: to do the right thing, you need to understand what the wrong thing is. We all learn quicker from first-hand experience than we do from hearing about something; so, what better way to understand failure and mistakes than to experience them first-hand?

Yes, we should seek success, but we should not feel flattened if failure rises in its place.

Learning Curve 🎢

It’s much easier to make a mistake than it is to do something flawlessly. With this fact comes the truth that failures will crop up more than successes - learning from them is essential, but letting them get you down is unnecessary. With every challenge, every loss and every fallen hurdle, there comes an equal opportunity for growth.

Of course, mistakes are no use if we don’t learn from them. Using these shortcomings in a developmental way is only effective if we analyze the process; then correct and redirect our course for the future.

When treating this process as a learning curve, mistakes cease to feel like failures anymore. Instead, the hiccups become stepping stones. As Eddison said “I have not failed. I have only found 10,000 ways that do not work.” It is precisely all these attempts and faulty prototypes that can lead to that lightbulb moment. In Eddison’s case, it quite literally did!

To sum it up…🌈

  • Be realistic: if you set high-reaching goals, this may require that you jump more hurdles
  • Just as injury should be considered part of playing a sport, failure should be considered part of the path to success
  • Learn from both what went right and what went wrong for the clearest future solutions
  • If failure leaves the ground fertile for growth, then success offers us the chance to flourish

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