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Entrepreneurs Expect to fail


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Entrepreneurs: Expect to fail and stop being so hard on yourself

As a marketing entrepreneur, I frequently deal with business owners and entrepreneurs who are struggling to make it and fear they will fail. Nobody starts a business thinking it will fail, but many do. Often failure is an essential part of ultimately achieving success. Many of the most accomplished business people we know have failed repeatedly on their path to success. So why do we dread failing? What is failure, really? And why is it so important?

Recently I had a special guest on my podcast, Rana Gujral. Rana, an extraordinarily successful and talented engineer, entrepreneur and writer for many of the entrepreneurial sites, was recently noted as one of Huffington Post’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs. His career just about anyone would envy, however, he is also very well-acquainted with failure. In an exclusive interview with Rana, he explores the concept of failure, what it really means to fail and how it can actually be beneficial to your career.

(The following conversation has been condensed and edited to bring out the highlights. But if you would rather listen to the full interview, here’s the podcast as well:)

Audio Player



Top Dog Radio: I get tapped all the time coaching people from a marketing standpoint that are start-ups, and they’re on the verge of failing or they’ve failed, and they’re frustrated. You wrote an article that in a synopsis says why your start-up will fail. I really wanted to bring to our listeners a concept of what you define as failure and why is it necessary to fail and why it’s okay.


Rana Gujral: I think we tend to think about  failure in a negative light, and we think that failure is painful. That it causes emotional turmoil, we’ll be upset, and feel guilt, regret, and remorse. But, it doesn’t have to be any of that. Largely, it is viewed as such because society tends to celebrate successes and highlights the perfect journeys toward those successes. Those journeys are filled with trials, upsets, and setbacks, but it’s not glamorous to talk about those things.


As a result, we don’t realize what some people have to go through in order to get to where they are in life. I used to think of failure as how others perceived I should have achieved in a certain situation. If I didn’t measure up, then I’d failed. However, if I decided not be bothered by what other people think, I would have judged myself less harshly. I think most people think that way and see themselves through other’s eyes. As a result, failure becomes this daunting thing and we’re always trying to live up to other people’s expectations. It doesn’t have to be that way.


Top Dog Radio: Absolutely, it doesn’t. How do you recognize it’s a failure and not just a learning lesson, and how do you recover from it? How do you avoid getting stuck in this “woe is me” state of mind?


Rana Gujral: That’s why it is crucial that through these life-altering lessons we become better people. Not just in terms of being better human beings, but we also gather new skills. Failure is a chisel that chips away all the excesses. It strips down our egos, and it shapes us and molds us to achieve other bigger things. If we didn’t have failure and people didn’t go through failure, we’d be less capable of basic compassion and empathy, and as a result, we would be less likely to achieve great things.


Failure is always there in the back of your mind. You recall how it felt, and you’re humbler as a result, and you act differently. You think about how to react in a certain situation differently because of your past experiences, and that allows you to be better equipped to deal with a new opportunity.


The implication here is it is necessary to fail. Why? One is to gain more experience. Second, is to gain more knowledge. It helps us become more resilient and we grow. There are some very basic aspects of success, which most people ignore. One of the single biggest aspects is the amount of value you create. If you go through life and continue to create and add value in every situation you’re in, you’re eventually going to be successful.


Most people don’t reflect on that. If you reflect on a situation where you think you failed and ask, did I add value and did I fail despite that, or did I fail because I didn’t add value? That’s where the differentiation is. If you come to the conclusion that I failed because I didn’t add enough value, I could have done more, that is an immense learning opportunity for you. You would do things differently in the future. As a result, you would become more consistent with your achievements down the line.


Top Dog Radio: I couldn’t agree more. It’s vital to sit and reflect. A lot of people want to say, okay, that chapter’s done and move on. You’re really missing a huge opportunity to explore and learn by doing that. For all of those individuals who are listening this is where people connect with you. When they know you’ve gone down a path that may not have been what you expected and learned from that. That’s where you connect with others, don’t you think?

Related article: Everything I learned about marketing came from the board game CLUE

Rana Gujral: Definitely. Everyone can relate to failures. Even successful people. Not everyone can relate to successes because they are very subjective. Showing your vulnerability is a huge component to building trust. It’s not really a topic directly related to failure, but it’s related to being more self-aware. Deciding it is okay to be more vulnerable and accepting your vulnerabilities translates into being okay with failing. That allows you to do what I did. Which is to say okay, I can leave this and go do this instead. This might result in a situation where I fail, but that’s okay.


But then what if you don’t fail? What if you succeed? You wouldn’t know unless you took a chance and made yourself vulnerable to failure. That’s the key.


Top Dog Radio: Would you share a failure that really impacted your life?


Rana Gujral: I’ve failed countless times. I failed when I built a product which I was absolutely sure of, and it didn’t succeed at all. It was a miserable failure, and we lost tens of millions of dollars because of it. I’ve failed by hiring the wrong people, who I bet on, and they almost destroyed my company.

Each of those situations has helped me solidify my gut. I reflect back and ask, was my gut instinct telling me to lean a certain way? Did I heed it or not? I’ve come to the conclusion that whenever I’ve strayed away from my natural instincts, I’ve not achieved the results I’ve wanted. I’ve learned to trust my gut above all.


Final takeaways from my interview with Rana Gujral:

  1. Failure should not be feared but is one of the greatest life learning lessons. Change the way you see it.
  2. Through failure, we become better, more capable people and are more likely to succeed in the future.
  3. Embrace our own vulnerability, and therefore the possibility of failure, we open ourselves up to being able to pursue more opportunities. We are able to accept when something is not working and move on. Also, and perhaps one the most important nuggets to be gleaned from this conversation, learning to trust your gut is vital.

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