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Fail Faster

We all know the saying, “nothing is more certain than death and taxes”. Another of life’s certainties that is not captured in that famous saying is failure. Like trying to pull a stuffed animal from a claw machine at the local arcade, failure is inevitable. But before you drain your entire allowance into that claw machine, now might be a good time to pause, reexamine your possible outcomes for success, and potentially walk away a little wiser and with enough capital to play again another day. Truly brilliant entrepreneurs aren’t bothered by failure, in fact, they fail faster.

Perseverance is a fundamental component of success, and without determination, hard-work, and just plain old sweat, great ideas wouldn't come to light, companies wouldn’t be built, or relationships {personal or business} wouldn't come to pass. But dogged determination isn't the only factor in success, knowing when to say “when” is.

As I work with entrepreneurs and business owners, the stories of success can be abundant, varied and frankly grand, but the one thing they have in common is, failure. The most successful business people fell flat on their faces, but got up, dusted themselves off and carried on. Now, the difference between a fool and successful businessperson, is the ability to learn from that experience.

Why Are We Afraid of Failure?

The fear of failure is wired into our DNA, or as some psychologists call it “our reptilian brain.” Our brains are a mixture of logic, reason and emotions to guide our choices. Our mere survival as a species is determined by our successes. The responses of early humans determined their survival in dangerous situations - whether it was weather, predators (both human or animal) or starvation, our brains are hardwired to fear failure and love success. And that fear drives many decisions in our business life. We are afraid of failure for many reasons, from the contradicting voices of our egos, to our general well-being, to our relationships (both business, personal, and romantic) and down to the impact of failure on our wallets.

Failure is scary, it can sometimes affect the core of our being, making our minds muddled or paralyzed - which can make our decision making quite poor. And if that fear is ever present, it can even affect our physiological health by the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Fear not only affects our business’s bottom line, but also our general well-being.

Why Failure is a Valuable Tool

I’ve experienced failure in my own life, from business relationships, career choices, to romantic partners - And I am not alone in these experiences. However, I have taken the wisdom of these “face plants” and integrated that wisdom into my personal and business life with success.

In business, what choices did I make that led to these failures? Did I choose the right team members for a specific task? Did I have the right finances in place? Did I properly determine that oh so valuable calculus of risk versus reward? Was the corporate culture in alignment with the goals of the organization?

In some cases, I did not make the correct choices or did not foresee other variables that determined my success. A victim of a youthful ego, boundless optimism, incomplete skill, and a variety of other factors led to a failure or two...ok maybe more. But all of these failures taught invaluable lessons for future success in all aspects of life.. So what at first is experienced as failure can be a truly valuable life experience to guide wise decisions in the future. My business today is a success as a result of lessons learned.

Since our fear of failure is palpable and omnipresent - one should experience and feel it as fast as possible, learn from it’s wisdom, apply that wisdom, and move on. Use the wisdom of past failures to illuminate your choices and decisions in the future, and one will become more adept over time at discerning a clear path to failure or foggy path to success. So it only makes sense that if you're on the clear path to failure, listen to that inner wisdom and get it over with. Fail Faster! If you fail faster, you will free up mindshare, time, and the opportunities to achieve true success.


Dax Kimbrough is the founder of Convection Consulting. He has held executive positions in entertainment, media, marketing, small businesses, and startups. Dax received his Bachelor of Science from Florida State University and Executive MBA from University of Southern California. He was professor of Marketing and Finance at The University of Southern California. While he is not helping businesses thrive, he spends his free time on the California shore or making Southern BBQ.

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