The mistake: an entrepreneur’s biggest teacher

In every human endeavour, mistakes have always had an educational purpose, even if sometimes it’s hard to see. And yet, we do not like them because it puts us out of our comfort zone and into dealing with our own insecurities. Sometimes, we linger on in making the same mistake over and over again because we are too afraid to do the right thing and break the vicious circle. Sounds familiar?

“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool…the mistake”, said some maniac, genius and pioneer of artificial intelligence in a very futuristic tv series popular nowadays. We are going to discuss this one “tool” that especially young entrepreneurs should know how to use to their benefit.

The spectre of mistakes a young mind can make along the way of starting and building a business, is very large. From not spending enough money or spending too much money, to not thinking of direct competitors or making hiring decisions based on cost, it can all go wrong for various reasons, so many that your heart will have a hard time beating normally through all of them. But the mistakes are everywhere. As a young entrepreneur, one might get carried away by his biggest ideas and forget to set an attainable and measurable goal. One might think he can do it all himself. Others might feel stuck by the fear of “what if”. The fear of making mistakes is even greater than the mistake in itself. And that should be an encouraging thought. Yes! Don’t be afraid! Make the mistake and then act on it!

Starting young, starting fresh, you might be too in love with your products and forget about your clients (don’t do that!). You might get over-excited over your innovation and forget about marketing and selling. (don’t do that!). As you can see, there are many things a young entrepreneur needs to avoid doing, but the problem is there are so many that no list can be made by a human being in the present and not even in the nearest future. What we’re trying to do here, is make a point of how important it is to make mistakes so that you can learn first hand what works and what doesn’t. Failing big, failing awkwardly does not mean “the end”. That is why we have prepared a little list of people that have made mistakes a couple of times before making it. And you, sure as hell, know all of them:

  1. Walt Disney: He was fired from the Kansas City Star because he had no talent, he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. Several more of his businesses failed before he came to be the acclaimed and world-renowned entrepreneur, animator and film producer we know of today.
  2. R.H. Macy: It took him 12 years to open four retail dry goods stores which then all failed. But he learned from his mistakes. He moved to New York City and established a new Macy store on Sixth Avenue, which went on to become one of the biggest department store chains in the world – Macy’s.
  3. Colonel Harland David Sanders: He was again fired from a couple of jobs before founding what we now know as KFC. He was selling his own recipe of fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky. He recognized and believed in the potential of the restaurant and the franchising concept and travelled along U.S looking for someone to sell his fried chicken recipe. And after some searches, some as the word goes, he finally got a business deal in Utah. And you all know the rest.
  4. Henry Ford: We all know him for the Ford Company.  What people don’t know, is that his first business, Detroit Automobile Company failed abruptly and was dissolved just 2 years after founding. He then went on and co-founded another company which we now might recognize as Cadillac Automobile Company. He left it himself and went on. After that, the story is simple. He revolutionized the automobile industry, pioneering not only the Model T and the assembly line, but also the very concept of a personal car for every family. Driving became “the thing”. As you can see, Henry Ford was no stranger to failure, but he also didn’t give up. Yet, when we think about him, we don’t picture his failures, because all it took was succeeding just once and then maintaining it, which is no trifle business, either.

As you can see, mistakes can make one even stronger. Mistakes are not to be afraid of or ashamed of. They are tools, business tools even. To know to wield them is to eventually win. History teaches us that through its many examples. But as shining as these examples and lessons are, they didn’t feel that easy for the ones involved. Now we all know of these people’s failures and celebrate them. We don’t know of those who gave up along the way, we don’t know of their mistakes. There’s no wonder why, is it?

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