“I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
It is frequently said that failure is something most entrepreneurs encounter on the long, bumpy road to success. Failure provides an opportunity to learn, revise and improve. When discussing why they failed an entrepreneur may identify the cause as being an inexperienced team, a deal gone bad, being messed around by investors, bad timing or some other external reason.
While these factors may have been present, unless the entrepreneur takes full responsibility for the failure i.e. holds themselves to be 100% accountable, the true lessons from failure will not be learned.
The Danger of Cognitive Dissonance
In practice people tend to avoid holding themselves accountable and prefer to talk about failure in the abstract or in terms of shared failure i.e. ‘we failed because’ or ‘the tough economic climate made it impossible for their startup to become profitable’.
This happens for a number of reasons. Firstly and most obviously, people do not like to think of, or describe themselves, as failures. Secondly, as humans we tend to suffer from Cognitive Dissonance. Because we tend not to possess a self-image of ourselves as a failure, our brain strives to ensure that our interpretation of events is consistent with our self-image. Cognitive Dissonance causes to us to make excuses for failure and blame others.
“Great companies have high cultures of accountability”
The Antidote of Accountability
Accountability is one of the pillars of the Entrepreneur High Performance Program. This is because, It is only when you hold yourself to be 100% accountable for your failures, that you can truly learn from the experience and assume control over whether you succeed in the future.
By blaming failure on someone or something else, you inevitable tell the world and yourself that you do not have the power or influence or control what happens in the future. Once this happens, your chances of success drastically diminish.
When you hold yourself to be 100% accountable, you automatically assume responsibility for making sure you succeed. You are no longer victim to the actions of others or external events.
If investors start to mess you around, you will challenge them and / or find alternative investors. If your team is inexperienced, you will make the necessary changes. And if you’re struggling to make a profit you will re-evaluate your business model and try alternatives. The and only then, do you begin to truly benefit from the lessons of failure.