A man once decided to teach his young daughter about the concept of failure. Everyday, after coming home from work he asks his young daughter, “what new thing did you do today and how many was a success or a failure? He would reward her when she succeeds and even more when she fails at any task. This helped her to view failure and success both as an event with either presenting you its own set of rewards. It was a view that will help Sara Blakely become, at the time the worlds youngest self-made female billionaire.
Contrary to what most people think, studies have shown that failure and success are two natural events that present both rewards and catastrophe. It all depends on how an individual or organisation makes use of the outcomes. The concept of failure is particularly important from the point of view of small business and several startups springing up in Nigeria on a daily basis.
According to research nearly 50% of small business fail in the first five years a statistics that is likely higher in sub Saharan Africa, particularly in Nigeria. If this statistics is real then there has to be an inherent advantage in failure as you would with success. So let’s consider some of the inherent benefits of failure;
Failure Allows You See Risk Differently – A few weeks ago, I read an article from one of the founders of Iroko TV, Nigeria’s leading online Nollywood channel. He mentioned that the success of Iroko TV had generated about 1,350 percentage returns in 30 months and is now a multi-million dollar company. But he has had his own fair share of failure. According to article, him and his partners had “blown” over N320m in venture financing in Nigeria that ended up failing (Venture Capitalist lose their investments in about 75% of Startups). But that wasn’t enough to deter him especially when he remembers his own company. As far as he is concerned, out of the numerous failures he is sure to encounter all he needs is just one success story and his risk will pay of in thousands of percentage returns.
Failure is synonymous with courage: Most businesses fail because someone out there was brave enough to create something tangible albeit unsuccessfully. However, the courage and desire to make it work is an indelible virtue that most successful people rely upon on their way to achieving success.
Failure is an impetus for success – A lot of successful people I have known or read about have a familiar story. Their most cherished successes are usually out of several failures they had encountered in the past. Rather than allow failure deter them, they turn it around as a driving force for future successes. An example that comes to mind is when the current chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga failed to win GSM license during the failed bid of his company CIL. Rather than let that deter him, he went on to form Globacom, which eventually won, not only a GSM license but to become the second National carrier for Nigeria.
Failure makes you learn fast – Writing exams was always something I loathed as I was growing up. However, I started to notice a familiar pattern with questions I often failed. I looked up the answers and never forget them again. In fact, answers to the questions I failed live with me longer than the ones I passed. Most successful business owners, quickly identify grey areas on their path to achieving more success not because they remarkably brilliant but because they had towed that line before. Their wisdom is mostly out of personal experience or that of people who have shared their experiences.
Ignorance Leads to failure and then success – In the story of Sara Blakely above, she said her big break came when she met a billionaire owner of a retail store. She never went to business school or had any connections or any prior experience with a manager of a company let alone a CEO. Because she was used to failing and getting “no” for an answer, she bravely called the CEO directly got an appointment to meet with her and the rest like they say is history. As often said, you don’t fear what you don’t know about. The ability to conquer the fear of failure often leads us to take on big things regular people consider impossible and making a success of it.
There is always an opportunity in failure – during the stock market crash of 2009, many people lost nearly all their investment as the value of stocks plummeted. Admittedly, stocks were highly overpriced before the crash making the losses even the more heart wrenching. 5 years, later many of those stocks are yet to bounce back. A lot of folks vowed never to invest in stocks again. Rather than accept defeat only, the failure of that investment should serve as a tonic for better investment strategies. Renowned investors such as Warren Buffet once said, “be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy”. Ironically, a stock market crash is typically the best time to invest in stocks is most stocks are under priced presenting risk takers with a huge upside when the market bounces back.