I’m a failure. Many times a failure. It’s probably the most salient fact about me as an entrepreneur. And failure is my friend.
In fact whatever success has happened in my business life is directly related to my many failures–failure as an academic, failure as an actor, failure as an opera singer, failure as a Broadway producer. Still I did all those things with passion and a committed heart and one day found myself a successful entrepreneur, seemingly without even planning to be. Honestly, I don’t believe the mantle of success, however minor that success be, would ever have been fitted to me without fully embracing a lifetime of failures and personal botches. Somehow a glomeration of insufficiencies, by some magical alchemy, created a new being of entrepreneurial adequacy and fulfillment.
I realized my debt to failure several years ago, when one of my employees asked me the secret sauce of what I did as an entrepreneur and salesman for my company Corporate Rain. My rather pompous and condescending reply, I recall, had something to do with bromides like hard work, honesty, preparation–the usual suspects. But my employee interrupted me saying. “No, no, no. I want to know the special, personal thing you do that makes you really good.” After stuttering a minute, the only thing I could come up with was that I got good by being quite bad–over and over again.
My client and entrepreneurial colleague Walt Lawrence, of Concussion Advertising in Dallas, recently sent me a quote. I’ll share it. It’s excerpted from a famous speech Theodore Roosevelt gave on April 23, 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”