The newsletter of August will always be about entrepreneurship because that is when I opened up my own law practice three years ago in August 2013. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx (a women’s apparel company) said that “Growing up, my father used to ask my brother and me what we had failed at at the dinner table.”
Before she became the billionaire founder of shape wear company Spanx, Sara Blakely failed a lot. She always wanted to be a lawyer and failed the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Spanx would not have existed if she did not fail the LSAT. “The biggest fear is to not try” Blakely says. All that training proved useful when she cut the feet off her pantyhose one day and realized she had a viable product: a slimming, seamless undergarment that no one would know you were wearing. “One of my greatest weaknesses,” Blakely said, “is also one of my greatest strengths: being underestimated.”
WHAT WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM FAILURE
The most successful people will tell you that at some point in their careers, they thought they were going to fail. Not because they didn’t have enough confidence in themselves, but because they had risked everything. The difference between these successful people and those we never hear about again is that the former kept going.
“So I’ve looked failure in the eye, and just kept right on going.” Says Cindy Gallop, founder of make love not porn or, as Ben Horowitz says in his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building A Business When There Are No Easy Answers”: ‘Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, ‘I didn’t quit.’
For many entrepreneurs, the fear of failure is rooted in a fear of being perceived as a quitter. The truth is that if you have poured your energy selflessly into an endeavor, only to walk away after extinguishing all options available to you, you will have earned infinitely more respect than those who have never tried.
Everyone seems to want fewer entrepreneurial failures. The recent Fast Company article asks, “What if we could cut the 90% failure rate in half?”A high failure rate means that entrepreneurs are willing to pursue their dreams. Starting a business means that people feel optimistic about themselves, their market and their country to invest their time and money, and maybe create jobs and wealth. Very few people start a business in the middle of a war zone. So we want more people to start a business because it reflects optimism about the future. Let’s celebrate this, and the failure that accompanies a high entry rate.
What they – and all of us – need to realize is that having a track record of trying, failing, learning and then succeeding is part and parcel of being a entrepreneur.
It’s estimated that between half and 90 percent of startups fail in less than five years. Typically, we celebrate success and frown deeply on failure, dividing the world into winners and losers but that is NOT the way successful people see things. Bob Caspe, who started three high tech companies and is founder of the International Entrepreneurship Center in Newton, says from his perspective, failure — and, for that matter, success — are just moments in time, highs and lows on a continuum. In the 1920s the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company was over 60 years.
Today, it’s 15, as the fates and fortunes of entrepreneurial companies and founders ebb and flow at an accelerating pace.
Even the best-laid business plans, smartest technologies and savviest investors frequently get it wrong, and until a few years ago failure was a forbidden topic among entrepreneurs. “I think companies fail, people don’t,” says Scott Bailey, who advises entrepreneurs not to take failure personally, but do take it to heart.
- Confidential mid-figure settlement-Employment Case in Federal court. Wrongful termination. Client was terminated when on a brief medical leave. Client came to to me after the one year FEHA (Fair Employment and Housing Act) statute so there was no attorneys fees or FEHA causes of action.
Quote of the Month
“So, so many people don’t take risks for fear of failure. They don’t start the business, they don’t go create the art they want to create, or they don’t go try out to be in the play or whatever it is, for the fear of failure. Once you redefine that for yourself and realize the failure is just not trying, then life opens up to you in many ways.”-Sara Blakely CEO and founder of Spanx