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Self Development

Which Will Make You Stronger: Success or failure?

Which breeds stronger, more resilient entrepreneurs?

Jason Ankeny




Champions aren’t born, they’re made – or so the saying goes. But each champion is made in a different way, and there is no blueprint for business success: Some entrepreneurs burst out of the gate and never look back; others stumble badly, learn from their mistakes and make the most out of their second chances.

Formative success breeds sustained success, contends Ian Robertson, a professor of psychology at Trinity College Dublin and founding director of the school’s Institute of Neuroscience.

Related: 5 Tricks To Remember Anybody’s Name

In his book The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, Robertson explores the science behind how success impacts brain chemistry and makes humans and other creatures smarter, more self-possessed and more aggressive, setting the stage for even greater accomplishments to follow.

On the other hand, eventual success can be forged from the crucible of failure, argues Cass Phillipps, the founder and global producer behind FailCon.

Inaugurated in 2009 in San Francisco, FailCon is a series of conferences spotlighting entrepreneurial failures and how those negative experiences can shape wiser, more thoughtful business leaders, giving them the critical insights and assets necessary to build start-ups that thrive.

Entrepreneur pitted Robertson and Phillipps against each other to identify whether success or failure is the optimal launching pad for subsequent achievement.

Success leads  to Success:

“If you fake the external trappings of power and success, you can trick your brain into believing you are successful, and you will trigger the dopamine and testosterone that make you feel more confident.

If you go out there, shoulders squared and arms swinging, saying, ‘I’m an entrepreneur — I’m going to make it,’ you’ll make it easier to have your next creative idea or see yourself through the next setback. The most successful people are great engineers of their own brains.”

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson is an unlikely model for entrepreneurial success, but his comeback from prison exemplifies ‘the winner effect.’

When Tyson returned to the ring in 1995 after a three-year incarceration, larger-than-life promoter Don King set up a comeback bout against journeyman Peter McNeeley, a so-called ‘tomato can’ the rusty, out-of-shape Iron Mike could beat with the proverbial hand tied behind his back.

The fight lasted just 89 seconds before McNeeley’s corner conceded defeat. From there, Tyson demolished challengers Buster Mathis Jr and Frank Bruno, quickly regaining his heavyweight belt.

How the winner effect works

The winner’s corner

Professor and author Ian Robertson believes success creates more success by impacting brain chemistry.

“The winner effect is a phenomenon that occurs across species, whereby if someone wins a contest against a weaker opponent, they’re more likely to win a subsequent contest against a tougher opponent,” Robertson explains.

“Tyson wouldn’t have reclaimed the championship if he hadn’t fought the tomato cans. When you’re faced with a challenge against someone, your testosterone levels go up. The higher they go up, the more likely you are to win. If you win, your testosterone levels shoot up as well.

“The experience of winning increases the number of receiving stations for testosterone in the critical parts of the brain associated with aggression and motivation. The next time they’re in a contest, the surge of testosterone has a much bigger effect on them, because there are more receiving stations in the brain.”

Success breeds success across all walks of life, Robertson states, noting that entrepreneurs who hit pay dirt early on are likely to experience even greater professional triumphs as their careers unfold. “The main ingredient of success is having success,” Robertson states.

This is seen in sociologist Robert Merton’s theory of the Matthew effect, contending that ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’

The other critical element of success is self-confidence, Robertson believes. “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg knew he was very bright. He didn’t need other people’s approval. He got satisfaction from being smart,” he says.

“You can generate success experiences for yourself purely internally, and generate the biological benefits of that in your brain. Success and power can make you smarter, because testosterone increases dopamine, which affects the front part of the brain’s functioning. Success can make you smarter, and more able to think of new ideas.”

Failure Breeds Better Things

The merits of failure corner

Cass Phillipps is a proponent that failure and its associated negative experience can be turned into learning experiences that make you more successful.

Cass Phillipps’ start-up was tanking. Just six months after she and her partners launched social media aggregator Trogger, it was clear the company was irrevocably doomed.

“We made all the mistakes that every first-time entrepreneur tends to make,” she recalls. “But I was still telling everybody that my start-up was awesome.”

In the absence of a forum where she could openly discuss Trogger’s demise, Phillipps created FailCon in 2009. Each FailCon event in the US and abroad brings together technology entrepreneurs, software developers, product designers and investors to explore start-up setbacks and how the lessons learnt prime them for future success.

“Failure teaches self-confidence and tenacity. There are people who fail and take it very, very personally, and that makes it hard to recover from it. They are at risk of forever being fearful of taking new risks. That’s what FailCon is trying to change. We tell people, failure’s actually really great.’”

How the failure effect works

Start-up failure is essentially an MBA from the school of hard knocks, Phillipps believes. “People that use failure to become more successful are people that see their failure as a learning experience and recognise, ‘Hey, I got through that, and that was the worst of the worst. Why not start again?’

But failure isn’t just about building emotional resilience; it’s also about teaching practical lessons. Phillipps says that while many entrepreneurs attempt to build sexy, customer-facing start-ups during their first go-round, their rebound efforts are typically far less flashy and much more no-nonsense, targeting verticals like financial analysis or elderly care.

“They’re not worried about impressing their friends,” she notes. “They’re worried about building a good product.”

Failure is about gaining much-needed perspective. “The people who bounce back make sure they’re home for dinner every night with their wife or husband. They look after themselves. They make time each year to travel. For a lot of first-time founders, their company is everything to them, and it’s how they define their success. The people who bounce back are able to realise, ‘I can be a great entrepreneur. I can find balance.’”

The benefits of failure

So don’t think of it as failure, Phillipps says. Think of it as the foundation of something far bigger and better.

“Having something fail teaches you to question the decisions you’re making, be more open to alternative options and be more aware of what consequences you might have, so that down the road, you won’t have those consequences again.

“Failure — emotionally and philosophically — gives successful entrepreneurs a drive and sense of self-confidence that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Sh*t can really hit the fan, and they will be able to get through it, because they’ve done it before.”

Related: The Three Rs for Avoiding Start-up Failure

Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.


Self Development

21 Inspiring Quotes About Success, Persistence And What It Means To Be An Entrepreneur

Leaders of companies big and small share the mindset it takes to achieve your dreams in the face of all obstacles.




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True, being an entrepreneur can be exhausting, lonely, frustrating and terrifying. But it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears when you are pursuing your passion, turning your dream into a reality.

In an ongoing series called Real Entrepreneurs, we pick the brains of founders and leaders about what it is like to have every decision big and small rest on their shoulders and have compiled their thoughts on what it takes to succeed on the long, sometimes crazy journey of an entrepreneur.

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Self Development

The Mindset Strategy From The “Rock Star” Coach Can Turn Your Beliefs Into Results

William Badenhorst, a Director of Global Strengths shares his mindset secret to ongoing entrepreneurial success.

Dirk Coetsee




William Badenhorst, a Director of Global Strengths, is a coach to the coaches. His “Rock Star” attitude along with the deep driving desire to help others find their true selves formed the fabric of a highly interesting and entertaining interview.

The rolling thunder of his voice brought forth quote after quote, quip after quip and wisdom after wisdom. As a “peak performance coach” to professional athletes, celebrities,  entrepreneurs and corporate career orientated individuals, William believes that knowing who you truly are as an individual is the catalyst for lasting growth and useful change in business and in life in general.

His intense eyes and energetic hand gestures emphasized one of his core beliefs and that is that we all are nothing but our very own beliefs.

“Everyone is focused on Results”

Everyone is always focusing on the outcome – the results they want. But what creates results? Let’s do some reverse engineering. In order to achieve RESULTS we need to take ACTION. And in order to take ACTION we need to make a DECISION. To make a DECISION, we need to think about it – THOUGHTS.

The interesting thing about humans is that we do not create our thoughts, we can only control them. So what does create your thoughts? Your BELIEFS creates your THOUGHTS. So ultimately your BELIEFS creates your RESULTS.

“You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are.”


It is our very own limiting beliefs, such as for example that “I am not good enough” and “I am not deserving” and “I’m not worthy ” that creates barriers to our own success in entrepreneurial ventures and in our lives. In order to reach our limitless potential we must find and remove the self-created barriers that hold us back.

Although he loves the interaction and benefits of social media he is quick to point out that it also has created a fantasy of who and what we should be. He advises to not to adopt such fantasy as your desired reality but to instead be who you really are as an individual and goes on to quote the famous Greek philosopher Socrates:

“Know thyself, Be thyself and Love thyself”

You always end up falling back on your beliefs -whether they are empowering or disempowering. The challenge with that is that a large number of your beliefs are unconscious especially when you have not put in the work to find out what your belief system truly is.

Related: Osteostrong: An Exploding Global Movement Of Positive Change

Through his vast experience as a coach he realized that a large number of people veer away from self-awareness as they are afraid of being judged for whom they truly are.

Have Faith

The conversation naturally evolved into the exploration of the true meaning of the concept of faith and William’s mind grasped at a Quote from the apostle Paul:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

He went on to explain that faith is evidence of true-self which creates certainty which in turn is equal to confidence. Confidence brings a certain state where everything flows. He calls it “Peak State”. He further advises to search for evidence of who you really are and gain belief in yourself.

Advice to young entrepreneurs

William’s thoughts on self-development for entrepreneurs are to get a Coach. If you are already in business and don’t have a Coach – get one!  Begin with taking extreme ownership and responsibility of everything in your life. And when you do that you win.

Stop blaming everything and everyone around you. Stop complaining about circumstances. You are in control and it is up to you to make it happen.  There are no un-resourceful people, there are only un-resourceful states. Go where you are celebrated not tolerated and love yourself unconditionally. Remove the very unrealistic expectations of what and who you should be and authentically be yourself. Believe in yourself and go all in on YOU!

Related: How To Conquer Your Fear Of Becoming an Entrepreneur By Being Disciplined

Become the best form of yourself because as an entrepreneur you are the business. Play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses. You do not need a title to lead, have massive self-belief and others will follow.

Have an attitude of constant learning:

“If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”

And then yet another quote rolled off his tongue that put me in a self-reflective mood:

“A person that shines from within does not need a spotlight”

William Badenhorst, the father, the coach, the entrepreneur and key note speaker left the author and the reader with a question of mesmerising depth:

“What if you woke up this morning with only the things that you were grateful for last night?”

Gratitude is everything!

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Self Development

How You Can Move From Your Potential To Your Purpose

“Value isn’t in opinion, it’s in perspective” – Wes Boshoff

Wes Boshoff




Let’s face it, we all know that when wanting to achieve something different, you need to do something different. The challenge isn’t in wanting the different, it’s in doing the different!

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why”.

I love that because it highlights the importance of knowing that you have a purpose, and that you need to find it or design it, then live it, love it and look after it.

You have heard it said or said it yourself…”that person has huge potential, if only they would…”. It’s great to have potential but potential doesn’t equate to purpose. They are like elastics, just sitting there on the desk, and it’s not much good to anyone just sitting there. You see there is a gap between potential and purpose and that gap is called ‘The Stretch’.

Related: Founder of Five-Star Wes Boshoff Weighs In On Becoming An Entrepreneur

For that elastic to move from potential to purpose it needs to be stretched, and only once its stretched and put round a bunch of pens does that elastic really move into its purpose. We are a lot like elastics, we need to be stretched to move from potential to purpose. The stretch isn’t always easy because we tend to get twisted out of shape when we need to do something different. However, the stretch is not designed to change who we are, just change how we are.

Here are a few ideas to help you in The Stretch.

Think about what you think about – it’s all in your perspective

Things are achieved or not achieved depending on how we think about them. Do you focus on the obstacles or the opportunities? It’s easy to see the obstacles, the key is to choose which one you going to focus on. Obstacles will always get in the way of opportunities if you let them. So, remain attentive to the possibilities that opportunity brings.

That means you need to position yourself in the way of opportunity, get in its way – make something happen, don’t just sit there! There’s a catch to this one though, opportunity never travels alone, it always comes with responsibility. Do you have the ability to respond to the opportunity? Are you taking responsibility, often we are given it, but we don’t really take it! You need to take and own the responsibility to maximise the opportunity!

Beware of distraction

‘Dis’ – a prefix meaning reversal, or the absence of action and traction refers to grip. When you get distracted you lose grip and that’s dangerous. Imagine driving, suddenly, you’ve lost traction, you are heading in the wrong direction, you may even end up going backwards.

Make sure you stick to what you need to do, create daily productive habits that will help you achieve in the long term. Grow your capacity and increase your footprint. Gain traction by repeating what works for you, that way your practice becomes repeatable and your brand becomes reputable. Don’t stop moving, its easier to change direction while you are still moving, than it is to start moving.

Related: What Building A Mini Car Taught Me About Leadership

Things don’t always work out

Employ the “What’s Wrong – What’s Next?” philosophy. When things go wrong with people, products or plans, we can get caught up in drama. There’s no time for drama, simply define what went wrong and decide what needs to be done next to fix it. Once fixed, then deal with the doer of the wrong, but deal with them in the right way too…you still don’t need drama!

“Value isn’t in opinion, it’s in perspective” – Wes Boshoff

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