Every quarter Chris Yeh and I convene some friends in the Bay Area to talk about topics that are not usually talked about. We've had conversations about humor, happiness, Americanism, storytelling, death, love, belief systems, and advice. This time the Silicon Valley Junto met to discuss Failing Forward: Dealing with and Learning from Personal and Professional Failure.
In entrepreneurial circles failure is absolutely part of the game. If you haven't failed, you haven't lived, as they say. Probably the most inspiring aspect of Silicon Valley is how many failed entrepreneurs there are who get back on the saddle. Here are some general notes that I took from the Junto conversations:
- People whose identity is wrapped up in being “successful” tend to take on projects / tasks that are easier to lower their chances of failure.
- Introspection produces wisdom. Success doesn’t produce introspection.
- If you’ve "failed" by conventional standards, but you’re happy, it doesn’t matter.
- People we see as happy usually have a way to measure failure.
- Repeated failure can be a lifestyle. The importance of lots of little “oops" as opposed to one big "oops."
- Failure is the intrusion of reality into our perception of ourselves.
- Successful failure helps you realize personal competencies.
- Some baseball players go 4 for 10 at bat and they’re still considered some of the greatest hitters of all time. Success is relative. In Latin America, for example, a "successful" company can mean not selling it but rather keeping it and passing it onto your kids for them to run.
- Be terrified of failure and avoid failure until the moment it arrives, then be able to let go (and ignore sunk costs) and embrace it / learn from it. This is tough: you don't want failure, but you do want to see the silver lining when it happens.
- What's harder – personal or professional failure? Consensus: personal.
- One approach is to not believe in failure. If you fail, just change the rules of the game. If you fail, just continue pursuing the larger vision in a different way.
- A very hard question: when to quit? When to accept failure versus to keep going and keep being persistent?
- It's possible for something to "fail" but not be a "failure."
- Book recommendations: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Code Named Ginger.
Here are Jackie Danicki's notes from the meeting.