Failure is Not Final

learned from mistakes

Let’s just put it out there: failure sucks. It breaks us down, makes us feel like we’re not worthy of success, like we’ll never make things work and should just flat out give up and walk away. But the fact is that every failure and every mistake is an opportunity for growth, a moment that takes you one step closer to success, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Today’s business graduates face the very real possibility of failure. Many will fail to get the jobs they really want, encountering stiff competition for the most attractive positions. Others will work hard toward building a business, only to see it fail, as 50% of small businesses do in their first five years. In business school, you’ve probably spent hours upon hours reading about how successful business have risen to the top, and you may even be putting together a seemingly can’t-fail business plan of your own. But first, you should know that failure is very likely to make its mark on you. I know it’s grim news to share, but there is a silver lining: there’s always the possibility of success, even in the face of failure. But to make it work, you’re going to have to confront your mistakes and use your failure as a growth opportunity.

Dal laMagna is the founder of Tweezerman, a company most famous for its tweezers that has enjoyed wild success and several awards, including Allure‘s Best of Beauty Award for the last 10 years. LaMagna is doing well now, but before Tweezerman came incredible failure. In fact, he wrote a book, Raising Eyebrows, about his major mistakes, including drive-in discotheques designed to compete against Woodstock, an ice cream parlor, and a waterbed store. All of these mistakes earned him a whopping $150,000 of debt, but for laMagna, it was just an expensive education (even after receiving an MBA from Harvard). These unsuccessful ventures that ultimately failed taught him how to do better, building a more sustainable and responsible business when he finally got it right with Tweezerman. LaMagna’s story tells us that success is a journey that for some only comes with persistence and learning in the face of failure.

As a small business owner, I’ve had my own fair share of failure. We’ve made mistakes, received bad reviews, dealt with tough customers, and even thought about throwing in the towel a few times. I’m not ashamed to admit it; no one is perfect and these things happen even to the best of us. Long-lasting success comes from confronting your failures head on and learning from them. In my business, we make it a point to examine what went wrong when a client becomes unhappy or we feel that we’ve failed in some way, and we use this knowledge to consider what we might have done differently. And then we put that knowledge into action. This has helped us evolve through the years and ultimately, provide a better experience for every client that follows. Even five years in, we still make mistakes and continue to learn. This is success, this is improvement following failure.

Failure hurts, but it’s not the end of the road. In your post-graduate life, you’ll face tough odds when it comes to finding success. It’s not easy to get a job or start a business these days, even for the best and brightest of candidates. As a business student, you’re in a great position to learn before you leap. Make it a point in your studies not just to look at how businesses have become successful, but to consider their major (and minor) mistakes in more detail as well. We recommend checking out books like Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t and Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. It’s free to examine the failures of others, but very expensive to make them yourself.

How have you learned from your mistakes? Any painful failures that have led to success? Please share your own experiences in the comments.

Image courtesy: Flickr user zoonabar