Entrepreneurship takes a great deal of dedication and a clear understanding that failure is going to be your constant companion. You’re going to have to be able to recover quickly from setbacks, and you’re going to have to be comfortable with failure. It’s going to happen. If it hasn’t happened for you yet, brace yourself. It’s coming.
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The public school system here in American doesn’t prepare students for failure. It’s more about giving you the tools you need for success… As long as those tools don’t include a heavy dose of failure.
Entrepreneurship and the Public School System
Growing up, my teachers impressed the importance of following rules. And, if you broke them there were consequences. I was expected to conform with everyone else. In fact, I was kept in from recess for an entire week because I refused to change how I held my pencil.
But entrepreneurs by very definition are nonconformists. That’s why they have the potential to be successful. They see things differently, and they don’t accept the way things are.
I believe great entrepreneurs are made. Some are more apt from the beginning then others, but you’re not destined to be a worker bee the rest of your life. It just takes a little faith and developing some thick skin. Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo, and that’s not easy.
Sometimes those failures are out of your control, other times it’s because you did something stupid. But you’ll learn from it, and that’s all it takes to not fail the second time… well, maybe the fourth time.
But sadly, that’s not how our school system works. It doesn’t reward self-discovery through stupid mistakes and failure. Schools tend to nurture absolutes. They say that you are either right or wrong. They teach preparation as the best way to avoid wrong answers. They tell you that you can select A, B, or C… that there is a right one to select. They push creativity aside in favor of conformity. It’s easier to do it this way, but it’s not the best.
Children Are Perfect Entrepreneurs… If You Let It Happen
I received a call from my daughter's school last year. She had started her own banking system involving bottle caps, and the school felt it was a disruption to the learning process.
Her grade decided to build a cooperative future city and each student would be responsible for constructing a particular building. Halfway into the project someone donated a few hundred bottle caps from soda bottles that could be used as windows. Each student was given random bottle caps. But not every kid got what they wanted. Some wanted “red” bottle caps, others wanted “blue” bottle caps and so on.
And here’s where my daughter’s bank came into the picture. Over recess she told her classmates that she could get them the color they wanted if they would they would give her two bottle caps for each one. The kid that wanted the “red” on got the “red” one. The kid that wanted the “blue” one got the “blue one. Every kid ended up getting what they wanted, and they were all happy.
By the end of the day, my daughter had about 100 bottle caps and her classmates only had about 5 each. But everyone was happy with what they had. However, when my daughter’s teacher found out what had happened, he took her bottle caps and redistributed them evenly back to the students.
But the part of the conversation that made my day was when the principle told me that this wasn’t the first time my daughter had tried something like this. Apparently, she had tried to create a bank on other projects, but the teacher always stopped her. That’s why she did it at recess. She had learned from her previous failure.
Drawing It All In
Here’s the point, if we lock ourselves into a step by step process, we won’t be prepared to fail. We will find ourselves inevitably making mistakes, but we won’t be learning from it. You have to be ready to break the rules and fail doing it.
I started my first “real” company when I was 23 years old. It failed hard, and I was not ready. I didn’t know how to learn from it. I had no idea what to do when everything came crashing down. But I had a mentor that helped me learn that failure is positive. And the faster your fail the quicker you can succeed. It’s about repetition. Fail quick. Fail hard. Fail so you can learn and succeed.