Category: Failure

“When it is dark enough you can see the stars.” – Charles A. Beard

This one came from the great series, “From The Earth To The Moon.”  The series showed the glories and victories of NASA’s journey to the Moon but it also shared the failures, which were numerous.

A corollary is this, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

When you are headed down a path, you have set up all your assumptions and milestones on which you’ve built your hope.  Then you hang on.  This produces all the great stories of loyalty and perseverance.

But sometimes, it takes a total meltdown in order to see new potential.  As long as you head down a certain path, you are focused on what’s in front and not so much on what’s around you.  Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  The tasks make us feel like we’re making progress.  Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society” made his students stand on their desk to get a different perspective.

Once a week or once a month, stand on your own desk (whatever that means to you) and take a look around.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“If you’re too afraid to mess up, you’re too afraid to do better.” – Coach K

We work hard to achieve something that works and is profitable.  The next thing that occurs then is the push for efficiency so it takes less and less time to accomplish routine things.  This is the birth of bureaucracy.  Bureaucracy puts boundaries around people and processes.  That is it’s purpose; efficiency!

Out of these boundaries come rules and once you have rules, there are only two possibilities; follow them or break them.  We are are taught from an early age how important it is to follow the rules.  Those that break them get punished and those that call attention to the stupidity of arbitrary rules are branded as rebels and malcontents; all bad.

So now we have a culture where people are afraid to “mess up.”  Here’s the thing:  If you don’t ever mess up, you’ll never be any better than you are right now.  Innovation, self awareness, and growth itself all come from tearing down what we know and are comfortable with and constantly rebuilding, learning from both what works and what does not.

This is the job of the entrepreneur; fail until you find what works, build that up and then start all over again.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb

Mr. Proverb seems to be a smart guy.

A startup is a lot about failures.  Your success depends on it.  You will find out much more about what doesn’t work than what does and much of that has nothing to do with customers and their needs, (but of course there is that…).

You will run into difficulties with suppliers, partners, and investors.  You will have issues with intellectual property, licensing and other negotiations.  You will have employee issues and you may have to fire key people.  You will face financial pressures and you may have to downsize.  Then there’s the economy and the federal government.

You will fall down a lot but the point is to always get back up skinned knees and all.  We have a nice term for it now.  We call it a “pivot”.  Each pivot makes you smarter and stronger.  Embrace them.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

A lot of people in middle age have had entrepreneurship thrust upon them by way of a job loss or other major life change.  Perhaps it’s the kick in the behind that got them going on starting their own company.  Maybe it’s a point of having no other choice.  Regardless the reason, they are now on their way.

Others choose to retire but not.  A serial entrepreneur I know is fond of introducing himself as one who is constantly failing at retirement.  He’s pushing 70.

Solving problems for people is not the domain of any particular demographic.  While youth may have energy and cutting edge technology on their side, those with years experience have been through failures that have informed their leadership and ability to make good decisions.

You don’t have to be in your twenties to start a company.  You just have to have a customer with a problem you can solve.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Why is there never a big red button?” – Dr. Who

We all want the obvious answer.  We want all the customers to agree.  We want the big bold sign to tell us which direction to take.  We want to know in advance what will happen.

When it’s big decision time, we want the big red button; partly because of the fact that we need rituals to emphasize the importance of the moment, but mostly because we want the clear binary, black and white scenario where we know what happens if we push the big red button.

But it’s never that way.  You can’t know the outcomes, one choice over another and you can’t collect enough data to make you comfortable making the decision.

The best you can do is be true to your core values and make the decision based on the best data you have available.  Then you have to own it. If you’re wrong, fix it or pivot, but don’t sit around assigning blame.  Move on.

You’re going to be wrong a lot.  That’s the way it is.  You probably won’t even be right half the time but that’s usually good enough.  Sailing never follows a straight line.  It’s a series of moves and counter moves that gets you where you are going.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“I wouldn’t change a thing, even the epic professional disasters, …” – Seth Godin

“…because every one of them is responsible for what I get to do now, and I can’t imagine a better gig.”

I just finished Seth Godin’s book, “The Icarus Deception”.  On the surface it’s about artists and the creation of art but it’s really about taking risks and how we have been indoctrinated over our lives to fear risk and in particular the opinions of other people.

Learning and perspective come through failure and failure is not usually fatal, in any sense.  Making art is about changing the status quo, and isn’t that really what entrepreneurs are all about; changing the world?

Read “The Icarus Deception” by Seth Godin


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“To acquire good judgement, you need experience. To gain experience, you need bad judgement.” – Lee Martin

You will make bad decisions.

You may try hard not to by making sure you have all the data and have analyzed all the potential outcomes.  But you can’t control all the variables and you can’t foresee all the potential outcome.

And sometimes you just screw up.

You need some failures in order to learn better.  You need some failures to avoid arrogance and hubris.  And you some some failures, if for no other reason, to know that they can;t kill you and eat you.

Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from moving forward.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“You’re worth nothing to me unless you’ve had three spectacular failures.” – Dan Wieden

This quote came from a talk at the 2013 SSTI conference in Portland.  Mr. Wieden was speaking about the investor’s perspective on startups.  The point he was making was that more learning comes from failure than from success.

Another way to say it is that previous success does not always predict future success.

Still another way to say it is; failure is not the end of the world.  You take those experiences with you and they inform your world view form then on.

A good friend told me the story of the conversation he had with his wife when they were contemplating starting a company.  The question was raised, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  His wife replied, “well, we’re not going to starve…”



Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Failure is always an option” – Mythbusters

My nephew, wore a tee shirt the other day with this quote on it.  By the way, it was black with a very simple white line of text.

Entrepreneurs fail.  It’s part of the deal.  Those who don’t fail never take any risks.  They stay comfortably in the crowd until one day, they are notified their services are no longer needed.

You need to try things that fail.  You will learn more.  You will find out what matters.  When you find out what matters, you might change the world.

Thanks for the quote, Matthew!

“The worst outcome for startups is not failure – it’s mediocrity.” – Dharmesh Shah

In order to”dent the universe” (with deference to Steve Jobs), you have to think big.  If you think big, its is highly possible you will fail…big.  You’ll work just as hard making a small idea successful so you might as well go for the dent.

The other side of this is that entrepreneurship is not a part-time job.  You have to be all in, what ever you do or you’ll be in the no man’s land between success and failure.

Dharmesh Shah writes a very fine blog: OnStartups at