Take a moment to look at the title of this blog.
What is your first impression? Do you now expect an article about failing in business or, perhaps, one that advocates “failing” in order to succeed in business?
If you guessed the latter, you’re right! Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of failing in order to succeed.
It’s not about having a tolerance for failure, though that certainly helps. But I’m referring to the act of failing – you know, the product that didn’t work, the services that fell short, the criticisms that were so loud, the talks that didn’t fill the room and the money that was lost. These failures may sting, but they will also powerfully transform you, just as they have for many leaders before you.
I’ll give an example from own family heritage.
My great-grandfather invented a revolutionary way to liquefy sugar, which saved food manufacturers millions of dollars and helped build his business into a multimillion-dollar organization in the early 1900s (including world famous Grandma’s Molasses® – see photo).
His success was built from many failed inventions; yet, his legacy of inventing this new process overshadows any failure he ever encountered.
As the story goes, this discovery happened by accident while my great-grandfather was conducting an experiment in his own bathtub to find a new formula for molasses. He asked his assistant to heat the syrup mix to a specific temperature and then remove the heat. Instead, they both went about their business and forgot about the mixture.
When they came back more than four hours later, most of the water had evaporated, and the bathroom was a total mess, with sugar residue all over the place. Needless to say, my great-grandmother was not happy when she came home later that afternoon!
But they discovered something big. The sugar had not solidified. It remained in liquid form. This led to the invention of a new product called Nulomoline (patented in 1909), which significantly reduced the cost of refining and transporting sugar. And because of its purity, less was needed to reach the same sweetening level as with granulated sugar. This was a big advantage to manufacturers of baked goods, soft drinks and candy.
Of course, we don’t write about the many failures that my great-grandfather experienced while inventing different formulations of molasses and sugar products. It’s just not interesting. But cumulatively, these “failures” led to some great discoveries that catapulted a molasses and sugar-refining business which lasted for more than 100 years.
So, I challenge you to consider these questions:
Here’s to all your future failures, and to failing with passion. You may be surprised at how much you are really able to endure and how doing so will help you excel – both personally and professionally!
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