Failure, in order to grow

Failure, in order to grow

There’s one place we want our business to fail.


As biz owners and “parents” to our businesses, the thing we most fear is failure. We love our babies, and second place to seeing them hurt, we don’t want to see them fail.

But there’s a weird catch: In order to grow our business, it must fail. At least once. (For most of us, it will fail many times before it finally gets where we want it to grow).


The business must fail us.

It must fail to entertain, enlighten, fulfill, enthrall, and woo us out of bed in the morning.  It must fail to bring  us the excitement and feel-good feelings it once did when it was shiny and new. In fact, if we don’t  experience an eventual dissatisfaction in our business — in the form of restlessness, boredom, apathy, dullness, or malaise — the business (and we) will not grow.

As early business owners we could make quick adjustments and continual tweaks to make our business and systems better, because we’re simultaneously close to it and our customers. But a system under continual change isn’t sustainable — to itself, or to us. (In fact, it’s exhausting). A system has to eventually click into place, and do the right things over and over and over and over and over.

The whole purpose of a system — its reason for being — is to reach a pinnacle of repetition and sameness.

Which is why we don’t like them: because they’re boring.

But it is exactly at the point of utmost predictability and uniformity (what we might call “monotony”) at which our business really starts to hum. It’s the launching pad for growth.

To go to the next level in business means taking a leap, and a leap in business, literally is a leap of faith. It means letting go of our comfort zone, the familiar, and the status quo. (Even the status quo we ourselves created. Even if it’s a good and hard-earned status quo. Even if we really like the menial tasks we’ve attached ourselves to.) When we’re averse to change, we need something else to activate the change for us. This is why a “passion-fail” in business can be a great thing.

The business owner’s version of “No Pain, No Gain”

Warning: this won’t sound fun. We usually detect it as an inner groan of dread when we wake up in the morning. The business starts to feel un-fulfilling, un-adventurous; like a drag. Our insides begin to complain, “Yuk. This works for the business, but I don’t want to do this anymore.” And that is our signal for celebration.

Because we probably shouldn’t be doing it anymore. We have outgrown an aspect of the system, and that uncomfortable feeling is our cue to replace ourselves with someone (or something) who can do it with verve. Even (especially?) the tasks we’ve been owning for years; even if the now-dull-drum feeling accompanies the role we played to give our business notoriety, personality, or clout. It’s our sign we’re ready to move on.

Now, envision this:

Creating. Conceptualizing. Going to the drawing board of something — this business? a new product? a different business? your life? — and brainstorming.

Collaborating. Excitement. Newness. Freshness. A re-fueling of the energy you’ve lost.

This is what lies in the other side of boredom.

We know the entrepreneurs who have jumped the gun and head straight to recreating when they get so much as a sniff of boredom. This is not a choice for perpetual start-up mode. We have chosen to build, and in the long game, when we feel this grating and regular rhythm of dis-ease,  we get to celebrate the moment our business fails to excite us.


Full image available via artist Laurel Justice.
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