Many of the world’s most successful business people are so applauded for their greatest accomplishments that others tend to gloss over the enormous failures they had to endure to get to where they are. For prospective entrepreneurs who wish to reach the height of success, it’s important to note that failure is something that should be embraced and learned from. Here are a few well-known, successful people who failed miserably before getting to the top.
We start with one of the richest and most succesful entrepreneurs in the world. It’s likely that most people have never heard of a company called Traf-O-Data. It was Bill Gates’ first attempt at running a business (long before Microsoft), and its main purpose was to create devices that could read traffic tapes and lay out data based on traffic flow. The problem with this device, however, was that it simply didn’t work. The company would take continual losses for 6 years, and eventually close.
The lesson here is that an initial failure should not dissuade one from trying a second time. Perfecting a marketable product takes multiple steps and a lot of feedback, and all of this comes with encountering failure along the way.
As with Bill Gates, we know Henry Ford as a successful businessman who paved the way towards a booming automobile industry in the U.S. What people don’t hear about is how he had failed several times before creating the Ford Motor Company. He made two separate runs at starting an automobile company prior to reaching success, and both resulted in bankruptcies.
Whereas Bill Gates needed a test run in creating a working product, Ford had to remain persistent in trying to prove that his process for producing automobiles was an effective one. Not every business is destined to succeed on its second or third attempt, but entrepreneurs should note that a collapse of one’s company is not a collapse of oneself.
Thomas Edison knew failure from an early age. He was once told that he was “too stupid to learn anything”, and he was fired from his first two jobs due to a lack of productivity. He’s also famously attributed as having failed at inventing a working light-bulb 1000 times. Now, he’s remembered as an innovator who has over a thousand patents to his name.
When asked what he owes his success to, Edison stated that it was his mother’s belief in him that motivated him to be more than what others thought he was capable of. Sometimes, its important to have something as powerful and intangible as love and family to keep one’s aspirations afloat.
Vincent Van Gogh
Although we now consider Van Gogh one of the greatest artists of all time, he is famous for having gotten almost no recognition in his lifetime. It is said that he was only ever able to sell one painting despite creating more than 900 works of art. This is not to say that entrepreneurs should expect their efforts to be better recognized after their deaths; rather, it’s important to note that not every decision has to be made based on an expectation of immediate satisfaction. Patience is a massive virtue in business, and it can make the difference between validation and premature defeat.
All aspiring entrepreneurs fear failure, and it’s this fear that holds most people back from giving everything they can towards creating success. Some of history’s most successful people suffered massive failures prior to and even during their successes. Entrepreneurs should take their stories to heart and embrace the fact that failure is an acceptable step towards reaching their goals.
Image from http://aib.edu.au/blog/top-4-business-lessons-can-learn-bill-gates/