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“Recognizing and moving past failure will accelerate the growth of your company.”

On Saturday, I spent the morning in the rain watching my little sister’s graduation from Villanova. Held in Villanova Stadium, it brought back memories of a very public failure of mine. As a senior in college, I was running in one of my last track meets and finished dead last. It was interesting to reflect on the race while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

We talk a lot about failure in the startup world. It gets glorified as something we learn from and grow from. However, most of this glorification happens significantly post-failure and is talked about only after that person has seen success. Very rarely, if ever, do people in the midst of a failure accept, embrace or discuss their failure. It’s like the dirty little secret that we glorify only after we’ve been successful.

This attitude is dangerous and counter-productive to a healthy environment of building companies. When it appears that everyone around you is “killing it” and “doing great” there is little substantive conversation about how one can help or potential pitfalls that one could be avoiding.

The startup community needs to do a better job embracing failure in the moment. It is not a defeatist attitude, but instead, an attitude of growth. Recognizing and moving past failure will accelerate the growth of your company. Many times, successful entrepreneurs take a revisionist history to their failures. Like most, they don’t embrace or recognize a failure at the time. Without that recognition, it’s hard to move past it and successful founders spend more time than they should in that pit of failure. Having the ability to recognize and own a failure will accelerate growth.

Shifting the culture to truly celebrate failure is probably a difficult concept to achieve. It takes an underlying shift in the cultural fabric of the startup ecosystem. It has to be true failure recognition and not simply embracing superficial failure or wrong decisions. People need to stand up and own their failures – big and small.

jim
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