August 3, 2020

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” If we apply that quote to the precarious world of business, notice how the top entrepreneurs always redefine failure as a valuable experience to learn and improve themselves? Elon Musk started SpaceX even though he felt that the odds of success were less than 10 per cent. 

When we can embrace the likelihood of failure, our fear of the outcome diminishes immensely, “as those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” Like Musk, Jack Ma and Jack Dorsey all have one thing in common: they are comfortable with discomfort and seek to reinvent themselves or change the way they do things. Along with discipline, passion and dedication, here are five things successful entrepreneurs never do.

They never give up.

Most people get disheartened by failure. But intrepid entrepreneurs like billionaire Richard Branson will tell you that despite numerous setbacks, they remain relentless in the pursuit of their dreams and move forward quickly by learning from their mistakes. They see failure as “not trying,” because success doesn’t come without the first step—which is to try. To them, there are no dead ends, but only detours they must make in order to reach their final destination.  

While Silicon Valley has this mantra of “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, start-up founders take it all in their stride. And above all, will exhaust every prospect till they crack the code. For Whatsapp co-founder Jan Koum, success didn’t come overnight. When the app was first released, it was a resounding failure. It was unpopular, had many glitches, and was constantly crashing. Koum considered throwing in the towel and finding another job. However, after a series of pep talks with a friend, he decided to press on. Today, WhatsApp is the world’s leading mobile messaging service. Koum’s secret? He focuses single-mindedly on doing just one thing well.

They never live in fear or make excuses.

Every unstoppable entrepreneur knows when to put their ego aside and not let hubris cloud their decisions. They are conscious of their own strengths, as well as their shortcomings, but are able to leverage both to their advantage. When they make mistakes, they are quick to take ownership instead of blaming others and immediately correct them. You will never see them resist change or avoid taking risks to prevent more mistakes from happening, because that’s when fear takes over—hindering the pathway to success. American business magnate Henry Ford lost funding from his investors not once, but twice. In his first venture, the Detroit Automobile Company, his shareholders started getting impatient with Ford when they saw weak results—and the company eventually dissolved. The next venture, the Henry Ford Company, floundered and bumbled since the beginning, gaining him a bad reputation in the auto industry. Eventually, Ford learnt from his mistakes and created Ford Motor company. In a month, the first car was built, and Ford went on to revolutionise the world of automobile production. He famously said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” 

They are never comfortable and always adapt to changing market conditions.

Great entrepreneurs know the importance of being flexible. They are never obsessed with perfection or rigidly sticking to a plan; nor will they push the panic button each time things don’t go as anticipated. These movers and shakers embrace diversions and detours by adjusting according to the changing circumstances, and recalibrate strategies to capitalise on opportunities. If you lack an agile mindset, your business will lag behind, so always have Plan B, C, D and E. Warren Buffett bought over an obsolete and dying textile mill called Berkshire Hathaway, and transformed it into one of the world’s most valuable companies by being adaptable. Initially, Buffett felt that he had made a poor capital-allocation decision, making Berkshire “the dumbest stock he ever bought.” However, instead of selling Berkshire, he hired new management staff and instructed them to make the company as profitable as possible. Since taking over, Buffet has managed to increase Berkshire’s investments from roughly US$23 billion in 2009 to US$128 billion in 2019.

They never focus on others, only on themselves.

Successful entrepreneurs do not seek external validation from others. Neither do they concern themselves with the public’s perception of them. They zero in on the end goal, not on detractors, since they are confident in their own abilities. Although it is prudent to be aware of your competition, don’t always compare yourself with what’s out there in the market. No shrewd entrepreneur will allow himself to be distracted by the noise around him or be affected by naysayers, since everyone has their own definition of success. Plus it takes too much energy to please everyone when it can be channelled to more high-impact tasks. Ariana Huffington, founder of the wildly popular Huffington Post, got rejected by 36 publishers for her second book before she finally found one who accepted her. If she had listened to all the “nos,” she would never be where she is today.

They never compromise on values.

The most successful businessmen will not compromise their moral values for quick wins. To them, it is more crucial to do the business the right way, rather than fast-track success. Dara Khosrowshahi, the current Uber CEO, has a mantra: “We do the right thing. Period.” While Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb recognises the importance of being principled, no matter what you do. He says, “Integrity, honesty—those aren’t core values. Those are values that everyone should have.”

Moreover, they remain true to their provenance, with an emphasis on running a purpose-driven business. Take, for example, actress-turned-entrepreneur, Jessica Alba, who created The Honest Company to sell ethical and non-toxic beauty and baby products. In nine years, Alba’s company, which was valued at almost US$1 billion in 2017, has become the go-to marketplace for ehtical consumerism with safe, innovative formulas and thoughtful designs. 

Remember that these people never settle for mediocracy. They strive to go beyond the ordinary and are aware that the toughest battles are fought in their head. Which is why they never let the fear of failing or failure cripple them. But harness the power of failure to propel them to greater heights.