I remember watching a movie where one of the main characters died. The people left behind were at a funeral and saying goodbye for the last time when one person decided they had grieved enough and said ’let’s not mourn his death, but celebrate his long and good life.’
I liked that quote.
And it’s possible to put it in context when it comes to creating a startup and failing.
Because, let’s face it – 99 % of all entrepreneurs will fail again and again and maybe eventually create something that works. That’s the nature of creating something. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it – but it’s not.
Oh, you failed? Maybe you should try something else..
When you decide to quit your job in Denmark to become an entrepreneur, this is how your friends will look at you:
They’ll tell you it’s a bad idea. So will your parents. Both of them do it with the best of all intentions – because they care about you. They don’t want you to get hurt. But in reality, they’re hurting you by creating boundaries that do not need to be there.
If you decide to start up regardless and you fail – of which the odds are pretty good – they’ll tell you ”I told you so,” roll their eyes again and wait for you to become trapped in the rat race with a job again.
This is bad.
I had a great trip to New York in spring 2012 with the law faculty at Aarhus University. In New York, and in the rest of USA, your friends will say ”Great, that sounds awesome, how can I help?” if you say you want to start up for yourself.
And when you fail – because people do that of course both in Denmark, USA and everywhere else around the globe – they’ll say ”Nice try, when will you try something new?”
Failure is acceptable because failure means that you tried. At least in the USA. In Denmark, failure is failure. And some people treat failure like the imminent end.
American Seth Godin, whom is one of my favourite authors, has some interesting views on failing. Check them out here:
Doesn’t work – next
It rarely works out the first time. And if it does, it’ll take you a LONG time.
JUF.dk, which I’ve been dedicated to for almost one and a half years now, is my fourth company. The first three have been shut down and I lost money on all of them.
Were they bad ideas? Maybe. Did I execute well on them? Obviously not.
But they taught me both what was working and what was not, which I can use now with JUF.dk.
I wouldn’t be here, had I not failed with the first three (and maybe I’ll fail with this one too, but I know I’ll create something new and better time after time).
Let me give you another example.
A friend of mine, Jesper Hvejsel, created his business, Made4men.dk, in 2007. Seven years ago. In this post, he explains how the first five years basically didn’t work – they did not make money, new competition killed the market and they had issues releasing new products. But they kept going and eventually turned around (and personally, I think he and Karsten at the company are some of the coolest guys in all of Jutland).
Another good friend in Aarhus, Andreas Linde, has been working on Vitam.dk for around the same time as I have on JUF.dk. This is his third try at making a real business. The first two didn’t fail per se, but they didn’t become what Andreas wanted either. But it looks like Vitam.dk – after just one and a half years – will become exactly what they wanted and a lot more too, actually.
This works in larger scale as well. My friends from Bikester has started up shops all over Europe in order to find out which works – and which they need to work a bit more on. They’re in 14 countries now and
slowly quickly figuring out what works and how to fix what is not.
Keep trying – it’ll work!
I think stubbornness is what sets great entrepreneurs apart.
Even when things don’t look like they’re going to work, the great entrepreneurs keep on going. They keep on doing what they do best.
But you have to keep trying something new, if what you’ve been doing this far doesn’t work.
I saw this definition of insanity a while ago:
And I can relate.
If it doesn’t work, and you keep doing your daily grind day after day, it still won’t work. It won’t change.
But if you change what’s holding you back, it will change and you will be rewarded.
Let’s celebrate failure in the Danish culture – because with failure, you at least tried. And, as legendary ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, you’ll miss 100 % of the shots you never take.