Connect with us

Lessons Learnt

How To Fail Better By Reflecting On What Went Wrong

Failing better means trying and trying again, but with a difference.

Leah Weiss

Published

on

failure

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

— Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett

Physical, emotional and mental learning all depend on non-judgemental pauses for realistic self-appraisal, re-mindfulness of our intentions and rededication to our purpose.

At some point in recent history, this bleak and somewhat obscure line from existentialist playwright Samuel Beckett became the motto of the new entrepreneurialism. It isn’t clear if it was business mogul Richard Branson, self-help author Tim Ferriss, tennis pro Stanislas Wawrinka (who has ‘Fail Better’ tattooed on his arm), or someone else who first adopted the term, but somewhere along the line the business crowd embraced it. Perhaps because ‘failure’ sounds grander than ‘mistake’. Perhaps because so many start-ups that failed out of the gate went on to become household names.

In any event, this Beckett prose piece became a popular catchphrase, first in the tech world and now in just about every sector.

People have always made mistakes and sometimes tried to learn from them, but the entrepreneurial embrace of the ‘fail better’ philosophy suddenly put defeat on a pedestal, making it a cause for celebration.

Heroes who failed on the way to success

oprah-winfreyAn abundance of anecdotes and examples was found to affirm this ethos: Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. Ben Franklin’s inventions didn’t always work. Early in her career as a television reporter, Oprah Winfrey was fired. History is full of persevering heroes who failed on the way to success.

Related: Beauty Of Failure: The Art Of Embracing Rejection

In a recent article he posted to LinkedIn, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen wrote that Microsoft might not exist if he and Bill Gates hadn’t failed with their first company (a traffic data analysing project called, naturally, Traf-O-Data).

“While Traf-O-Data was technically a business failure,” Allen wrote, “the understanding of microprocessors we absorbed was crucial to our future success. And the emulator I wrote to programme it gave us a huge head start over anyone else writing code at the time. If it hadn’t been for our Traf-O-Data venture, and if it hadn’t been for all that time spent on UW computers, you could argue that Microsoft might not have happened. I hope the lesson is that there are few true dead ends in computer science. Sometimes taking a step in one direction positions you to push ahead in another one.”

‘Fail better’ captured the spirit of the start-up business culture

As ‘fail better’ achieved meme status in Silicon Valley, where it captured the spirit of the aggressive optimism and disruptive thinking beloved by start-up business culture, the irony of the expression’s original and famously pessimistic coiner, Samuel Beckett, was lost on most. In the backlash, however, some non-literary critics dismissed ‘fail better’ as wishful, or even reckless, thinking.

Mindfulness acknowledges both these points of view. From a Buddhist perspective, ‘failing better’ means acknowledging human imperfection and accepting that failure is part of the learning process — if we give people room to learn. Failing better means trying and trying again, but with a difference. Reflection makes the difference, and not just in Silicon Valley.

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has researched the role of reflection in the workplace and found that it is worth the time not only in the wisdom it generates but also in the productivity that emerges.

One of her studies, which she conducted at the IT firm Wipro in Bangalore, India, examined how providing structure for reflection and for sharing about work impacted follow-up on various tasks. The researchers studied several groups of employees in their initial weeks of training for a particular customer account and divided them into three groups: the control group, the reflection group and the sharing group.

Reflection and sharing enhance lessons learnt from failure

In the reflection group, on the sixth to the sixteenth days of training, workers spent the last 15 minutes of each day writing and reflecting on the lessons they had learnt that day. Participants in the sharing group did the same, but spent an additional five minutes explaining their notes to a fellow trainee. Those in the control group just kept working at the end of the day and did not receive additional training.

Over the course of one month, workers in both the reflection and sharing groups performed significantly better than those in the control group. On average, the reflection group increased its performance on the final training test by 22,8% compared to the control group. The sharing group performed 25% better on the test than the control group, about the same increase as for the reflection group. In addition, the participants who had been put in the reflection group (rather than the practice group) “improved their likelihood of being in the top-rated category of all trainees by 19,1%.”

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

The same researchers also studied whether people appreciate the power of reflection, and they learnt that when given the choice, 210 out of 256 participants opted to get more experience and only 18% chose to have reflection time. Reflection is clearly valuable but it isn’t necessarily valued.

Just like pausing before we jump into something (which is what we do when we set our intentions), pausing after we have jumped into something takes only a moment, but has a profound impact. We pause not to slow down, necessarily, but to re-perceive our thoughts, emotions and context with fresh perspective. Practice makes perfect, perhaps, but in practice we also see how far from perfect we are.

Similarly, when we try to be more compassionate, toward others or ourselves, we also notice how we’re not; and when we care about suffering in the workplace, we realise that we often don’t know how to make things better. It’s like the physical assessment you have with a trainer when you first join a gym, testing your body to see where it is weak, as part of the process of building strength.

Physical, emotional and mental learning all depend on non-judgemental pauses for realistic self-appraisal, re-mindfulness of our intentions and rededication to our purpose. Sometimes what we see in these moments isn’t what we’d hoped for. But, instead of viewing our failures as evidence that we suck at our jobs or that we are worthless as people, we can choose to approach them as evidence that we are engaging, that we are working at it and that we will get there.

Acceptance of failure is a necessary part of innovation

With all the talk of embracing failure, there is less talk in corporate culture of reflection, but that’s just what Severin Schwan, CEO of biotech giant Roche, touched on in a 2014 interview with Reuters entitled For Roche’s CEO, Celebrating Failure Is the Key to Success. In the piece, he emphasises the need to foster acceptance of failure as a necessary part of innovation.

“We need a culture where people take risks, because if you don’t take risks, you won’t have breakthrough innovation,” he said. But, he also went on to suggest that it’s important for managers to praise people for the nine times they fail, not just the one time they succeed. Schwan even takes his direct reports out to lunch to celebrate their failures. Rituals like this offer an opportunity for reflection.

The person who encouraged me to attend my first-ever meditation retreat, a mentor I had known since childhood, told me that transitions were the times of the day to pay the most attention to, for example, when you are moving from morning to afternoon, from one project to another, or from work to home. She told me not to think of the cushion part of meditation as the main event but, instead, to notice the thoughts and habits that come up when we’re not meditating.

When we pay attention to the transitions, the spaces in between become their own instruction.

Leah Weiss, PhD, is a researcher, professor, consultant and author. She teaches courses on compassionate leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is principal teacher and founding faculty for Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Program, conceived by the Dalai Lama. She also directs compassion education and scholarship at HopeLab, an Omidyar Group research and development nonprofit focused on resilience.

Lessons Learnt

SA Entrepreneur Takes First-Of-Its Kind Business To An International Level

Jo Farah shares some insights on his entrepreneurial journey as Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) gets underway.

Entrepreneur

Published

on

jo-farah

South African-born entrepreneur and creator of the world’s first environmentally friendly sneaker care product – Jo Farah says entrepreneurship has always been part of his DNA, and making a valuable contribution to society his ultimate goal.

The founder of Sneaker LAB – an innovative business that’s managed to create a first-of-its-kind, biodegradable sneaker care product, delivered his sentiments on entrepreneurship and his entrepreneurial journey as Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) kicked-off in 170 countries around the world this week.

Farah, who’s been mentored and groomed by his entrepreneur father, says developing a successful business has always been part of his life’s plan. And while he managed to establish a few start-ups during his entrepreneurial journey, which includes founding a guerrilla marketing agency in South Africa, and producing ads for the likes of Adidas, New Balance and Puma it still wasn’t enough.

After returning from the United States in 2008 with just one thing on his mind – to help cure South Africa’s conundrum by creating jobs for the unemployed, and in-turn fostering economic growth, Jo invented a one-of-a-kind sneaker care product, and put shoulder to the wheel to establish his business in 2013.

Related: How Lorenzo Escobal Bootstrapped His Way To Competing With Titans And Attracting Top-Tier Clients

sneaker-lab-founder-jo-farahStarting a sneaker care product range was a natural choice, especially considering Jo’s passion for sneakers, street wear and urban culture. He also wanted to create a complimentary product to accompany the list of sneaker brands that has inspired him over time. Jo’s work behind the scenes commenced in earnest and in no time he conducted enough research to support his theory – there was a gap in the market for branded sneaker care products. He knew that he was on a good wicket.

“There already was a range of non-branded products on the market, but my research revealed there was a healthy appetite for branded, environmentally friendly sneaker care products. That spoke directly to my business model,” he says.

Today, Sneaker LAB has placed Cape Town on the map with its premium global status – it’s the only sneaker care product range in the world to be Green TAG certified, environmentally friendly and biotech driven. Its products are water-based, readily biodegradable, and the packaging is suitable for recycling. The business also operates internationally, in 50 countries across Africa, with an experiential brand store in Braamfontein Johannesburg; as well as downtown Los Angeles in the USA; Asia and Europe.  The business is growing by the day, with a store in Tokyo set to open soon.

As an entrepreneur he’s grown in leaps and bounds, and despite many changes along the way, his sentiments on entrepreneurship remain.

“Inspiring potential entrepreneurs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and embark on an entrepreneurial journey is one way of solving some of the world’s most critical problems, and freeing the economically marginalised,” Jo says.

Related: Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

He urges young aspiring entrepreneurs with an entrepreneurial mindset to take the plunge and to channel time and energy into developing their business ideas into something tangible and workable that could generate good long-term financial returns.

“People will tell you that it can’t be done, but believe me, it can. All you have to do is to believe in your idea and to work hard and smart and you’ll reap the benefits,” Jo says.

 

sneaker-wipe-sneaker-lab

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

9 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Spend Their Weekends

All work and no play makes for a very dull entrepreneur.

Published

on

weekend

Successful entrepreneurs have a passion for what they do, so working hard is part of their DNA. But anyone who is successful also recognises that life and work are a marathon, not a sprint. Even they need downtime on the weekend to ensure they’re up to the task of being creative problem solvers and innovators Monday through Friday.

Sure, they may spend some time catching up on administrative work. They may spend time on a big project that needs special attention. And they should definitely spend time thinking about the future and considering the big picture.

But what successful entrepreneurs don’t do is spend the entire weekend buried under work. We all need a break, and entrepreneurs are no less immune to burnout than anyone else. Their weekends are spent restoring their bodies and minds, and getting prepared to function optimally come Monday.

Here are nine things successful entrepreneurs do over the weekend to unwind and re-energise for the week ahead.

wake-up-routine

1. Wake up at about the same time

Successful entrepreneurs understand that staying on track for the week ahead means keeping the same sleeping patterns, even on weekends. That means going to bed and getting up at about the same time all week. This is because your circadian rhythm will stay consistent, so your body will naturally know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

As tempting as it might be to sleep in, doing so can throw off your sleep/wake cycle, disrupting sleep patterns and giving you a poor night’s rest. Make sure you aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night to avoid a sleep deficit. Also, getting up early means you’ll be ready for whatever the day brings and you’ll have time to accomplish all the things you hope to do.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

2. Spend quality time with loved ones

It’s no surprise that weekdays can be hectic and filled with obligations. There’s a good chance you spent more time in front of your computer (and with co-workers and colleagues) than with the most important people in your life. Make sure you’re tending to the quality relationships in your life by making them a priority on the weekends.

Have a date night with a partner. Go for a long walk or enjoy a leisurely lunch with a friend. Make sure you’re building and maintaining those relationships by really listening to them. And then share what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling. The support and connection you feel with others will give you resiliency and can support you in stressful times.

3. Pursue a passion

Is there some hobby or activity you’ve been wanting to try but have never made time for? Dedicate some weekend time to pursuing a passion that’s outside of work and beyond your normal day-to-day obligations. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to paint, take up photography or write a novel.

Whether it’s a long-lost hobby or a labor of love you’ve dreamed of embarking on, stop telling yourself that you’ll get around to it “someday.” Set aside a quiet weekend morning or afternoon to work on it. Pursuing your interests beyond work improves your mental health and reduce stress levels. Plus, focusing on activities outside of work will improve your creativity and give you a chance to look at life from a new perspective.

Related: How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

camping trip

4. Find time for a mini-adventure

Weekends give you a chance to unplug from life, put aside your daily responsibilities and go have some fun! Let loose and break out of your rut by taking yourself on a mini-adventure. Get out of the house and find a change of scenery.

A mini-adventure means sticking close to home, so hiking the Grand Canyon may be a bit much, but an overnight camping trip or a day hike is totally doable. Spend an afternoon at the beach or take your bike out for a long ride. The point is to get out and make a memory that will give you a smile for the rest of the week.

5. Fuel their creative mind

Successful entrepreneurs make sure they take time to feed their creative minds by finding ways to connect with the arts. You don’t need a degree in art appreciation or music theory to enjoy the benefits of engaging with the arts. Simply visiting a local museum or spending time listening to music will suffice.

Viewing art can be like a mini-vacation for your brain. It activates areas of the brain that are involved in processing emotion and engaging your pleasure and reward systems. Listening to music can have an even more dramatic effect. In fact, music has been found to stimulate more parts of the brain than any other human function.

6. Relax, reflect and renew

Savvy entrepreneurs have learned that they must give themselves the space and time to decompress and mull over the events, issues or dilemmas they face. Giving yourself time for self-reflection allows you to link and construct meaning from your experiences. Reflection is one of the main ways we gain insight and foster complex learning and personal growth.

In our busy world, we are often dealing with packed schedules and juggling multiple issues. Make sure you find time on the weekend to disengage from your hectic schedule and just chill. Try journaling, going for a walk, taking in the beauty of a sunset or even just focusing on the present moment and being aware of all the sensations you’re experiencing.

Related: Get Your Weekend Started

hiking

7. Get outside and exercise

Whether it’s getting out for a walk through the neighbourhood, shooting some hoops or taking a run through the park, high-achieving entrepreneurs get outside on the weekend to stretch their legs and soak up some vitamin D. There are some great benefits to an outdoor rather than indoor workout (although the most important thing is getting exercise, however it works best for you).

Getting some natural sunlight may be a welcome reprieve from artificial lighting if you spend most of the week in an office. Studies have found that adults tend to exercise for longer when they’re outside. You also tend to burn more calories and work slightly different muscles because of the wind resistance and changes in terrain. Perhaps most important, you’ll have a chance to admire nature and the outside world, which is good for your mental health and well-being.

8. Socialise and network

Successful entrepreneurs realise that any event or gathering is a chance to get to know other people and learn something new from someone you haven’t met. Set aside time to socialise with friends and family or get to know colleagues and workmates. If everyone else is busy this weekend, look for other opportunities to socialise and do something fun and interesting.

Check out a local community event. It could be a great chance to learn more about where you live and network and make connections with others. You could also look for a volunteer opportunity with a charity or nonprofit you’d like to support, such as a local animal shelter, senior centre or food bank. If you enjoy active sports, join a local team or club. If you’re into less strenuous activities, consider a joining a bowling or bocce ball team.

9. Catch up on rest

It’s been a busy week, and you’re feeling sleep deprived and run down. While sleeping in isn’t a good idea, successful entrepreneurs know when they need to catch up on some much-needed rest. A 10- to 20-minute power nap may be just the thing to help you feel refreshed and alert – a short snooze is actually much more effective than a cup of coffee in providing an energy boost.

It’s best to keep naps short: 30 Minutes or less. Longer naps are more likely to leave you feeling groggy and can interfere with your nighttime sleep quality. So when that wave of post-lunch sleepiness hits, go ahead: Indulge in an mid-afternoon nap and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

How Lorenzo Escobal Bootstrapped His Way To Competing With Titans And Attracting Top-Tier Clients

Inception Automotive Detailing was founded in 2011 by Lorenzo Escobal. He was only 18 at the time, and the business started small, but Lorenzo has grown it significantly over the last few years and aligned it with top brands. His secret to success? Being proactive and not being afraid to ask for what he wants.

GG van Rooyen

Published

on

lorenzo-escobal

Vital Stats

  • Player: Lorenzo Escobal
  • Company: Inception Automotive Detailing
  • Location: Toronto, Canada
  • Established: 2011
  • Visit: inceptionautodetailing.com

As is often the case in the world of entrepreneurship, Lorenzo Escobal launched his own business purely out of necessity. Attending university in 2010, he realised that finding a job shortly after North America had experienced a financial meltdown wouldn’t be easy. If he wanted to be sure of an income, he would need to create it for himself. So, having detailed cars for friends and family since he was 15, he decided to launch his own operation called Inception Automotive Detailing.

He bootstrapped the business — launching with just $1 200 — and grew it slowly. Today, the company boasts clients like Google and Tesla. Here are Lorenzo’s tips for bootstrapping a small business capable of competing against much bigger players and attracting top-tier clients.

1. Build a great website and market online

The fact of the matter is, your company is judged largely by the quality of its website and online presence these days, especially if you’re taking your product/service to the client. Even if you don’t have fancy premises, you can create a professional appearance by investing in a great website.

Most people are going to find you through your website, so make sure it instantly impresses. Also, invest time and money in creating effective online marketing campaigns on Google and Facebook. Funnily enough, Google approached us about detailing work by finding us on Google.

A good website and good online reviews got us a foot in the door. From there, we could prove ourselves through our work.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

2. Learn to network

Attracting clients online is important, but real-world networking shouldn’t be neglected either. There is immense value in joining professional organisations and attending conferences. It’s a great (and affordable) way to market, and you never know how the connections you make may pay off down the line. Networking and being in the public eye also builds credibility for your business. I’ve put a lot of time into getting my name and brand out there, but it’s been worth it.

3. Remember that no one is truly ‘self-made’

Every entrepreneur benefits from the wisdom and hard work of others. I’ve had great mentors who have helped me immeasurably in growing my business. I’ve also had the privilege of working with a great team who has helped me make the business what it is today. I do my best never to forget this, and I view myself not as a boss, but as a part of a team. Sure, I attend a lot of conferences and events, but I also jump in and help when there’s a lot of work to do.

As an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever’s needed — even if that means grabbing a mop and cleaning a dirty floor.

4. Make things happen

As an entrepreneur, you need to create opportunities, not wait for them to fall into your lap. I managed to get work from Tesla, for example, simply by asking for it. I filled out the contact form on the Tesla website and got a reply three days later.

Many entrepreneurs think that it’s pointless to approach large organisations because they’ll never want to do business with a small operation. Never simply assume that. Just ask, and see what happens. Sure, you’ll have to deal with a lot of rejection along the way, but that comes with the territory. Great entrepreneurs are never afraid to put themselves out there.

Related: How Matthew Piper And Karidas Tshintsholo Launched Their First Business From Their UCT Dorm Rooms

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPOTLIGHT

Advertisement

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Entrepreneur-Newsletters
*
We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.
Advertisement

Trending