Failure Is The Only Option

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Failure Is The Only Option

Seven Habits of Highly Failed People

Failure Is The Only Option

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." – Winston Churchill

That is if you really want to succeed. Most of us have grown up listening to the mantra “failure is not an option” or “not acceptable”. Almost all the people we know, and had to listen to, have used it at some point of time or other in their association with us. Failure hurts, it means loss, no one in their right mind should like it, but it’s an inevitable part of life. There are more failures even in, or rather, especially in the lives of those who have met with great success, be it Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs among many, many others, and one of them is George Davison, the mind and driving force behind Inventionland. (link - 8020strategy interview with Mr. Davison)


George Davison says - “failure is the only option”.  And you must listen to him because he has probably failed more than a lot of people.  That is because he has succeeded more than most people.  His firm invents more than 2000 products a year and considers over 125000. Inventionland is the world’s largest invention factory.  You may not recognize him as a household name but it is very likely that you have looked at his products among over 1000 retail stores they sell at – from Wal-Mart upwards.  Mr. Davison is as American as an apple pie because inventions and inventors, or enterprise and entrepreneurs are a hallmark of Americanism.  And he is the epitome of inventions and entrepreneurship. 


Inventionland is a magical place much like the creations of his role model Walt Disney.  It reeks of creative imagination throughout its 61000 square feet of office space. At the same time it churns out inventions like Fords assembly line – another one of his role model.  His third role model, Edison has inspired him to embrace failure as a necessity to reach success. George recommends that your business plan must include failure as a part of the development process.  That is if you want to succeed – eventually.

Another example of entrepreneurial success and Inc 100 CEO Jaswinder Chadha says that failing, failing fast, and failing forward is a necessary part of success (link to Jassi Chadha’s interview).  Most executives and entrepreneurs – in jobs, or on their own get so gung ho and stuck on their idea that they forget that failure will happen.  They are not prepared and are derailed by failure, many never regain their passion and momentum, others do so after much loss and heartbreak. All this is not necessary if you make provisions for failure in your business plan. 


Failures help refine our ideas, our product solutions, as well as ourselves. You need to use it as a learning tool. Inc CEO Louisa Jaffe, of TAPE LLC, treats all experiences as assets they include failures. She has embedded this attitude through the rank and file of her organization and it shows in the amazing success she has been able to create.

Shanker Sharma, VP of product development at mytablenow, says about golf - “hole in one is never an objective”.  Likewise success without failure in entrepreneurship should never be an expectation or a goal.  There are too many unknowns and so you must not solidify any plans early on.  As say, Ahmad Mahmoud, SVP at HP, go northward don’t worry about the specific address just yet. Failure can immobilize you if you are not prepared for it, take it in your stride by expecting it and using it as your springboard to success.

So what can entrepreneurs do to accommodate failure in their business plans?  There are seven things that are critical to realize.

1)      Aim to succeed at the category and not on any particular product or concept.  This will keep you flexible in your development as you engage with the market.  Most likely what you thought was only directionally correct.

2)      You must plan your resources to survive failures.  It all depends upon how well versed you are with your category and market.  The less you know the more you should expect course corrections and failures.  There is no magic number.  One can always off set the risk with better preparation and more time. Bottom line is be ready to lose what you risk and have a plan B to survive.  One should only jump without a safety net only when it is a predictable repeat launch. 

3)      Develop a platform for continuously and constantly engaging with your target audience with interactions that help you gain insights into potential customer response.  This is more like active market research.

4)      You must typically race to finish ahead of others.  In most situations there are others working on the same project.  Fail fast if you have to, but keep moving forward!

5)      Don’t do it alone.  Get help.  Enlist help from mentors, specialists, advisors, and even consulting firms. Get mentors who will help your manage failure, as well as successes – even as a little boy George Davison had several mentors in his life whose words still guide him on issues ranging from HR to taxation, even after decades. His first failure that took a lot of effort and time would not be so had he the benefit of the hindsight he has now. 

6)      Morph it if you can, quit if you can’t, but don’t push it because you must. You may not succeed with your idea. Learn when to quit.  There will come a time when you may realize that the idea has been rejected or beaten to.  May be the time for the idea is past, or may be it lies ahead in the future.  Your efforts are not always going to result in a reward. 

7)      Fail or Succeed, always continue to learn and grow as an individual.  May be the failure was only a way to get into the doors for bigger success.

Mentors can make your success easier, says Josh Lannon another superachiever who turned a grave problem into a highly profitable business opportunity in an area where that kind of success is not common, what’s more his business of helping people get de-addicted is also a substantial contribution to the benefit of the world in general. 

8)      However, there is no reward worth putting your family at risk thoughtlessly. Similarly, avoid jeopardizing your nest egg as it should be relative to your age.