To the entrepreneur who has come up short,
There is no mistaking the hurt you are feeling right now. Your business must have been everything to you. You poured your dreams and passions into something you hoped would benefit others, only to see it fall apart despite your best efforts. Entrepreneurship failure was never in the cards, but now it’s staring you in the face, and you’re wondering if it’s all your fault. You know being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, but you thought it was the right calling for you.
At the moment, you probably feel like you’re at a crossroads in your life, struggling to find a new direction. What makes it so much more difficult is the sadness you’re feeling. It’s okay to feel that way. Mourning is a natural reaction to losing something you care deeply for.
The important thing is not to dwell on the negative for too long. Failure happens to everyone—it’s how you react to it that matters. Thomas Edison encountered failure more often than success, yet that never deterred him from moving forward. “I have not failed,” Edison said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
You’ve only just started your story. As with every great story, there are low points, as well as high ones. Push on and you will see success as you shed the label of “failed entrepreneur.” Many people before you have gone through similar experiences. You can learn from their stories as they inspire you to persevere.
You’re Not Alone
When you run a small business, you know the odds are stacked against you. The chances of being successful are slim, but that’s the type of challenge you enjoy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of small businesses end up failing in the first year. The same data shows that within ten years, 70 percent of small businesses shut down.
Based on these numbers, you can see that you’re not alone as an unsuccessful entrepreneur. The statistics hold true for all types of businesses. Outside factors seem to affect everyone in largely the same way.
Don’t view your entrepreneurial dreams as an insurmountable obstacle. Instead, view them as an exciting challenge. Sure, you failed this time around, but the next time will be better. Embrace the entrepreneurial spirit once again. Don’t let a fear of failure hold you back. Many have suffered failure just like you. The following are just a few examples of people who were able to get back on their feet to pursue success.
Dave Ramsey Bounced Back From Financial Failure
Dave Ramsey may have become famous for his financial advice, but he hasn’t always been successful. Early on in his life, he started out in real estate where he eventually amassed a portfolio worth more than $4 million by the time he was 26. While this may sound like a great start, things soon fell apart for him. Over the years, he accumulated enormous amounts of debt to the point where he had to file for bankruptcy.
Needless to say, this was a trying time in his life. As he later recounted, “I was out of gas, I didn’t have enough emotional energy to fight anymore. We were just beat up and beat down.”
This type of failure is enough to defeat anyone, but Ramsey saw it as an opportunity. The failure drove him to study more about finances. “I started applying new ideas,” he said, “like a budget and an emergency fund and getting out of debt and staying out of debt.” These ideas would eventually form the foundation of the business that would lead him to incredible success.
Hold Onto Your Hope
“One of the biggest lies that robs people of hope is the one that says failure is permanent.”Dave Ramsey
Ramsey learned the importance of holding onto hope during difficult times. “That’s what hope is. It’s like the gasoline on there,” he advises. “It sets you on fire and allows you to go do things that you never dreamed you could do.” Additionally, he advises people to learn from past mistakes, much like he did. “The past can hurt, and it can be disappointing. But you can either give in to it and let it control you, or you can learn from it and make a conscious decision to keep moving forward.”
Ultimately, the lesson is to believe in yourself. Ramsey has stated that when you no longer believe in what you can do, you’ve already surrendered to defeat. “It’s crazy what people can pull off when they believe they can,” Ramsey said, “and it’s crazy what they can’t pull off when they don’t believe they can.” Take this advice to heart and believe you have what it takes to succeed.
Michael Jordan Never Shied Away From Failure
Michael Jordan may be the greatest basketball player to ever live, but that doesn’t mean he’s never seen failure. In fact, long before he began his professional career, he suffered a setback when he was cut from his high school varsity team. As he would later describe it, the incident devastated him. “I went to my room and I closed the door and I cried. For a while, I couldn’t stop. Even though there was no one else home at the time, I kept the door shut. It was important to me that no one hear me or see me.”
The failure only motivated him to practice more, highlighting the extreme determination he would display throughout his life. “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something,” he once said. “But I can’t accept not trying.”
After a storied college career, he was drafted into the NBA and took the league by storm. Even then, success didn’t come easy or immediately. Though he entered the league in 1984, he didn’t win his first championship until 1991 after many years of early exits from the NBA Playoffs. Every setback taught him something new and fueled his desire to overcome challenges and prove the doubters wrong.
Improve by Staying Determined
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”Michael Jordan
Jordan showcased his never-give-up attitude even during his brief baseball career. While many remember his time in minor league baseball as a joke, the reality is more complicated. It’s true he started off looking out of his element when he had a batting average of only .202 in his first year. However, he worked hard to improve. His batting average increased to .252 in the Arizona Fall League and may have even gone higher had he chosen to stick with baseball. His hitting coach Walt Hriniak lavished praise on him when he said, “If everybody was like M.J. the game would be better.” Combined with his 30 stolen bases and 51 RBIs, the stats show he wasn’t bad at baseball at all.
Michael Jordan’s career demonstrates that no matter how many times you fail, keep taking that final shot. Once it goes in, all the misses from before will feel like the distant past. By persevering and committing yourself to the game, you’ll keep improving, gaining experience and excellence at what you do.
Sara Blakely Used Failure as a Learning Opportunity
As the founder and owner of SPANX, Sara Blakely stands at the head of a billion-dollar business. However, her experiences with failure shaped her into the influential business owner she is today. It all started from a young age when her father taught her the importance of learning from failure. “Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week,” she said. “If we didn’t have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. Don’t be afraid to fail.”
Blakely took that life lesson with her as she entered the business world. Even then, failure was a tough pill to swallow. Her original life dream was to become a lawyer, but her first attempt at the LSAT was a disaster. So, she studied hard, prepared well, and took it again, only to end up with even worse results.
Learn From Rejection
“I saw my business card ripped up at least once a week, and I even had a few police escorts out of buildings.”Sara BLakely
Despite her failures, Sara Blakely picked herself up and pushed on. She eventually sold fax machines, which introduced her to even more failure. “Most doors were slammed in my face,” she said. With this, she learned how to pivot toward her natural talents and gifts, enabling her to step into her purpose. In the midst of so much rejection, she discovered a new passion as she created what would be known as SPANX. Seeing this opportunity, she took it and ran with it, building a company that would go on to be worth billions.
After seeing so much failure, it would have been easy to get down on herself, but Blakely took her father’s advice to heart and saw those experiences as excellent learning opportunities. She views such setbacks as “a chance to build your character.” When seen through that lens, you can stay motivated even when life keeps tripping you up.
What Failing Means
Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a person or a business owner. It’s tempting to let those doubts creep into your mind, but you need to shut them out and understand what failing really means.
When you fail, it means that you’re a risk-taker. You’re willing to do what other people aren’t, even when there’s no guarantee of success. You show courage in the face of extreme challenges. While others may feel content taking the less risky path, you have the courage to put everything on the line.
Failing also means you’re following the path of the hero’s journey. Every hero has to go through ups and downs—it’s how they learn and grow. Heroes normally always fail. In that way, they can redeem themselves in the third act. Not giving up is what makes them a hero.
Right now, you’re in the second act of your hero’s journey. You’re Luke Skywalker after he was thoroughly defeated by Darth Vader. You’re George Bailey after his financial hopes crash all around him. You are ready for your big comeback in the third act. Keep moving, and you’ll see your hero’s journey unfold.
When You Fail, Take a Step Forward
Hold on to that entrepreneurial mindset after you’ve failed. Success will come if you keep at it. John C. Maxwell writes about what you can gain in Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success. “The more you do, the more you fail,” he writes. “The more you fail, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you get.”
Maxwell also outlines how your learning experiences can benefit you in the future as long as you commit to action. “Determining what went wrong in a situation has value. But taking that analysis another step and figuring out how to use it to your benefit is the real difference maker when it comes to failing forward. Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge; let your learning lead to action.”
As Maxwell puts it, “If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.” Take a business failure as a sign you’re at least trying something difficult. Learn from it, and take your next steps into the future. One day, you’ll look back at what happened as an invaluable experience that shaped you into a better person.
Leaders Media has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.
- “Dave Ramsey: Don’t Believe the Lie That Says Failure Is Permanent.” Joplin Globe, 5 Oct. 2021, https://www.joplinglobe.com/news/business/dave-ramsey-dont-believe-the-lie-that-says-failure-is-permanent/article_0c7e0554-25db-11ec-9778-e3b4ed5a1d5a.html.
- Stibel, Jeff. “Michael Jordan: A Profile in Failure | CSQ | C-Suite Quarterly.” CSQ | C-Suite Quarterly, 29 Aug. 2017, https://csq.com/2017/08/michael-jordan-profile-failure/.
- Mike Huff, former. “Michael Jordan, the Real Story of His Baseball Career.” MLB.Com, 2 Jan. 2023, https://www.mlb.com/news/featured/michael-jordan-the-real-story-of-his-baseball-career.
- Segal, Gillian. “This Self-Made Billionaire Failed the LSAT Twice, Then Sold Fax Machines for 7 Years before Hitting Big—Here’s How She Got There.” CNBC, 3 Apr. 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/03/self-made-billionaire-spanx-founder-sara-blakely-sold-fax-machines-before-making-it-big.html.
- IraInvesting.com. (2021, January 29). Live Like No One Else – Dave Ramsey’s Story | IRAInvesting.com. https://www.irainvesting.com/dave-ramsey/
- Medrut, F. (2020, November 25). Michael Jordan’s Most Powerful Life Lessons For When You Feel Like a Failure. Goalcast. https://www.goalcast.com/michael-jordan-life-lessons-on-failure/