Before completing his one year of mandatory National Youth Service in 2014, a friend of mine made an attempt at entrepreneurship. He served at a rural community very close to Minna, Niger state. There he was introduced to the business of farming. It held the promise of immense profit and my friend jumped at it. He began cultivation almost at the end of his service year. Little did he know that he would get more than he bargained for. The cultivation required more work than had been described and he was not skilled in it. The wait seemed longer than expected: He finished service in June, 2014 and by the end of the year, he was yet to harvest. There were also unforeseen costs that he had to deal with. In all, it was an experience, he wanted to get over as soon as possible. The only thing that kept him going was the immense profit that awaited him at harvest. Soon it was time to harvest. He made arrangement with a skilled laborer. But just before work commenced, the long awaited permanent voters card distribution came. He had applied as an INEC adhoc staff. So he went for the job leaving the laborer unsupervised. After harvest, he realized that he had only about twenty percent of the projected returns, making a huge loss. He had failed at his first entrepreneurial attempt. Discouraged, he returned back home.
Like my friend Tim, we feel bad when we fail . Our desire to go on may wane especially considering the losses we have to bear. We may be tempted to abandon our goal altogether. But in all our ventures in life, we face the prospect of failure. At one time or the other, we have all failed. The problem therefore is not failure. It is how we react after failure. Do we give up on our dreams, allowing them to be buried in our pasts? Or do we rise up despite our fall and continue the race in pursuit of success? If the latter is our choice, where do we find the strength to run in the face of the losses and shame? As we ponder over these questions, lets look at what failure is.
Failure has been used to describe the event of not been able to achieve a desired result or someone that is not capable of success. From both definitions, it is obvious there are two perspective to failure. It can be seen either as a person or an event. These different perspectives define how we react when we fail. If we see failure as a description of our person, we are most likely to give up when we fail because we will believe that our failure has proved our lack of ability or potential in that task.
People view failure based on their mindset. Those who see failure as an event have a growth mind set. They know that ability is not inbuilt. They are aware that it can be learnt and what better way to learn than from one’s mistake because experience, they say, is the best teacher. To them, the stumble means failing forward: a fall that takes them closer to their goal. They are therefore able to overcome the lack of motivation that comes with failure and can easily bounce back. Such people can move from failure to failure and eventually success with enthusiasm. That enthusiasm helps them start all over when they fail.
On the other hand, some people see failure as a description of their potentials. These people have a fixed mindset. They believe that ability is fixed and cannot be developed.They have this perception because they have been taught that ability is inherent, that it is something you are born with. If you have it, you have it. If you don’t, you cant acquire it. They also hold the belief that talent is all it takes to succeed. They do not realize that talent does not equal skill. For them, their talent should make them feel and look good.When the reverse happens, they give up forgetting that practice makes perfect. To them, a fall means failing backward: a fall that makes the distance between them and their goal farther.
Time and time again, the lives of successful people have shown us that people don’t usually start out great. In fact, they often start out mediocre or even down right stupid, but their repeated failures, if harnessed properly, can be the most valuable tool for shaping their success. Therefore, a correct understanding of the role of failure in success is in itself a panacea for the discouragement that accompanies failure. Learning to take the occasional stumble as an opportunity for growth starts with changing our mindset. We can change by consciously telling ourselves that failure is a learning process. When we embrace this, we easily find the motivation to continue.
It is not enough to just know that failure is a learning process. It is also expedient that we actually learn from our failure. Knowing is one thing but doing is another. Learning is done systematically not presumptuously. It is done by evaluating the process to discover pitfalls and lapses we have encountered. By so doing, we can begin to find methods of correcting these lapses or at best, avoiding them in our next attempt. It also involves extracting all new information we have acquired that, if available at our first attempt, may have aided our success. All these lessons can then be taken and incorporated into a new plan for achieving our goal.
Lets take Tim’s business venture as an example. In order to learn, Tim will have to look for the pitfalls of his venture.The obvious pitfalls were lack of expertise, over projection of returns and poor management in harvesting. The possible improvements could be more research into viability of business, getting more expertise by working on other people’s farm. New knowledge available to him is proper supervision of harvesting and threshing is a major determinant of final result. All these lessons can form the basis for improving the business process and will take him a few steps closer to success.
When gathering lessons, it is also imperative to be balanced in our evaluation. There is always the temptation to excuse away some pertinent issues because our desire for achieving the set goal is high and we are optimistic about it. This is very detrimental. Avoid being over optimistic thereby turning a blind eye to key factors that can save us future heartache. Sometimes, the proposed venture may be unrealistic. If we do not settle down to do a thorough evaluation, we may be setting ourselves up for more disaster. The evaluation process is where we decide if the idea is worth working on again or if it should be dumped. Being able to discern when a goal is no longer worth pursuing is important in any venture. For an entrepreneur, it can mean the difference between failing to succeed and outright suicide.
After gathering all lessons learnt, it is best you plan your comeback. Planning involves modifying process for achieving set goals. This is done by incorporating lessons learnt and new knowledge acquired into the initial plan or process. By doing this, a new plan or strategy will be formed. This plan will definitely inspire confidence and act as a propelling force for you. By planning, you give yourself something to look forward to. This will fuel a desire to achieve this new goal, thereby providing the needed motivation to go on.
With your new plan in place, its best to stop reminiscing on losses made in the previous attempt. Learn to accept that loss is inevitable. This is where many people get stuck and never move forward. In constantly counting their efforts and investments that has gone down the drain, they lose the faith required to move on because they suddenly become afraid of taking the risk necessary for success. This fear of failure then cripples them, making sure they never again aspire to greatness. Not being able to accept loss is one deadly killer of motivation.
Losses are expensive and drain us of energy. It is a very heavy weight to carry. In the race for success, light is smart and fast. We cannot afford to be encumbered with something as heavy as the pain from our past failure. Pain that persists because we have refused to accept that loss is the price we pay for our education. I am not saying that we become oblivious of what those losses cost us. That will be disastrous because we can easily forget the lesson of the experience if we do that. Instead, I am advocating that we embrace that loss. See that loss as part of the process. Take that loss.
Focusing on our goals is one way we can rid ourselves of this deadly killer of faith. When we constantly remind ourselves of our goal and the reason behind it, we fan to flames the desire to achieve it and regain our strength.
Finally, remember that success is not about never failing but about getting ourselves up every time we fail. So if you don’t succeed the first time, never give up. Just dust yourself up and try again.