“I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
It is frequently said that failure is something most entrepreneurs encounter on the long, bumpy road to success. Failure provides an opportunity to learn, revise and improve. When entrepreneurs discuss the reasons they failed, they may identify the cause as being an inexperienced team, a deal gone bad, being messed with by investors, bad timing or some other external reason.
While these factors may have been present, unless the entrepreneur takes full responsibility for the failure, meaning he or she holds themselves 100 percent accountable, the true lessons from failure will not be learned.
The Danger of Cognitive Dissonance
In practice, people tend to avoid holding themselves accountable. They prefer to talk about failure in the abstract or in terms of shared failure (i.e. “We failed because…” or “The tough economic climate made it impossible for our startup to become profitable”).
This happens for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, people do not like to think of, or describe themselves, as failures. Secondly, human beings tend struggle with this form of self-awareness because we suffer from cognitive dissonance. Because we usually don’t possess self-images of ourselves as failures, our brains strive to ensure that our interpretation of events is consistent with that self-image, thus causing us to make excuses for failure and blame others.
“Great companies have high cultures of accountability.”
The Antidote of Accountability
Accountability is one of the pillars of the Entrepreneur High Performance Program. It is only when you hold yourself 100 percent accountable for your failures that you can truly learn from the experience and assume control over whether or not you succeed in the future.
By blaming failure on someone or something else, you inevitably tell the world and yourself that you do not have the power, influence or control over what happens in the future. Once this happens, your chances of success drastically diminish.
When you hold yourself 100 percent accountable, you automatically assume responsibility for making sure you succeed. You are no longer victim to the actions of others or external events.
If investors start to mess with you, you will challenge them and/or find alternative investors. If your team is inexperienced, you will make the necessary changes. And if you’re struggling to make a profit, you will reevaluate your business model and try alternatives. Then, and only then, do you begin to truly benefit from the lessons of failure.