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Why We Should All Embrace the F-Word (Failure) | LinkedIn

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August 16, 2013

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All too often, the word “failure” carries with it the threat of a career-ending catastrophe, so much so that uplifting euphemisms such as “opportunity” are thrown about in its place. But “nothing succeeds like failure,” according to Lewis Schiff’s latest book, "Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons." As executive director of Inc. Magazine’s Business Owners Council, Schiff has seen his fair share of successes that grew out of an entrepreneur’s initial failure.

From JetBlue Airways to Pixar, Schiff points out that entire companies wouldn’t exist without failure. (Airline founder David Neeleman reportedly believed that “JetBlue wouldn’t exist today if he hadn’t failed so badly as a Southwest vice president,” Schiff writes; Pixar began as a hardware and software company for universities and medical research organizations before enchanting audiences as an animation company.)

Along with wealth coach Russ Alan Prince, Schiff commissioned a study to explore the gap between those who have successfully created wealth and those who haven’t. In "Business Brilliant," Schiff distills four years of research and interviews with 800 households (including 400 self-made millionaires) into seven universal principles. Schiff clues us in on the seventh principle: “Nothing succeeds like failure.”

LINKEDIN: Based on your interviews, why do you think people fear failure so much?

SCHIFF: Most people experience failure in a shameful and shocking way. It’s as if they got punched in the mouth. While you may one day get punched in the mouth, it will leave you shocked and surprised and you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid it. Self-made millionaires are more apt to experience failure the way we might experience going to the dentist. It’s uncomfortable but inevitable. And it’s essential if you want to reach your goals.

LINKEDIN: What’s the best way to overcome the fear of failure?

SCHIFF: The best way to overcome your fear of failure is to spend more time with people who (a) have failed, (b) talk about their failure and (c) have pushed past failure. This is one of those examples where it takes a village to cure your fear of failure.

Success in business is like success in so many other things—a mix of skills, talents, behaviors and attitudes. But one thing it’s not is a mystery. The research we share in "Business Brilliant" lays bare the essential elements one needs to be successful. However, it’s no longer just about wealth and toys. In today’s economy, it has become apparent that those who don’t burnish their "success" techniques are going to end up being unsuccessful. There’s no credibility anymore to the story that you can just do a good job and your employers will take care of you. Risk is being shifted from the institutions we used to rely on to ourselves. It’s no longer about being rich or being middle-class. Today our choice is simple: either thrive economically or else it will be difficult to survive economically.

LINKEDIN: Many entrepreneurs are wrestling with the lack of funding to get their businesses off the ground (or to maintain their businesses). What are some successful strategies of self-made millionaires that entrepreneurs can follow?

SCHIFF: One thing we learned from studying successful self-made millionaires is that they aren’t afraid to ask. That goes for raising money to start a business. The availability of angel money has never been greater and the awareness of the value of angels has never been stronger. If you can’t find an angel and convince them of the value of your idea, then you must re-evaluate your own performance as an entrepreneur. Convincing others about the idea of your products means you will be able to sell your product when it’s a reality.

Also, if you are willing to try, you must be willing to fail. If you’re willing to fail, then you must be willing to go to your friends and family and ask for money. If they say "no" and you keep pushing through, that means you have what it takes to push through failure. Trust me, I’ve done this myself and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in business.

Photo: amboo who?/Flickr; Lewis Schiff

LINKEDIN DISCUSSION: How do you overcome the fear of failure?

Featured on:Leadership & Management

Posted by:Amy C.

via Why We Should All Embrace the F-Word (Failure) | LinkedIn.


Born in 1964, business owner, from Woodbridge, VA, owns ExcitingAds! Inc. ( and blog ( He was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. His elementary school was ST. Michael's Convent High School, Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated high school from ST. Bonaventure's Convent High School, Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan. His pre-med college was S. A. L. Govt. College, Mirpurkas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan in 1990. Earned equivalency certification from Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA in 1994.

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