To succeed we need to learn to embrace failure

I’m excited to be travelling to Fukuoka, Japan in a few days’ time to lead a delegation of 15 UK entrepreneurs to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20YEA) Summit. The G20YEA comprises bodies from G20 countries that promote youth entrepreneurship. The summit is a chance to share ideas and together work towards global change.

The theme for this year’s G20YEA Summit is “Imagination Economy – For a Sustainable Future”. It’s all about how creative thinking is shaping the economy of the future in a sustainable way. The topics are going to be sometimes surprising and always thought-provoking: how Pokémon enriches both the real and virtual worlds, thinking out of the box to access untapped job markets, and how AI and AR (augmented reality) fit into the economies of the future.

How these concepts align with setting up a sustainable, ethical business is going to be pertinent to anyone in a small business, and I’m sure there will be plenty for me to take away and apply to my work with young entrepreneurs.

And it might amuse you to know that I’m leading the F*ck Up Session – yes it really is called that – where entrepreneurs from around the world will be sharing their biggest failures and the lessons they’ve learnt. I’m embracing the shift to being honest about mistakes and understanding their value. While at first it’s counter-intuitive, seeing your failures as opportunities means you’ll be following in the footsteps of some impressive achievers.

Sir Edmund Hillary failed to conquer Everest on his first attempt in 1951, but insisted he could one day succeed, reasoning that while the world’s highest peak couldn’t get any bigger, he could. And so he reached the summit two years later.

Bill Gates may be world-famous for his incredible business skills, but did you also know that he dropped out of Harvard? The end result wasn’t so bad, as he went on to set up Microsoft.

Another champion of failure was prolific inventor Thomas Edison. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” he said.
The more we accept, share and embrace failure, the richer our lives become. We can all learn from the greats mentioned above, and just as much from our own and our peers’ failures.

If you’re starting a business, I think this will ring true. There are so many steps along your journey where it’s a fine line between success and failure. Business failure rates in the UK after one year are generally quoted as between 80 and 90 per cent. That’s a lot of pressure. It makes you wonder whether the reluctance up to now to discuss failure, and its actual value, has contributed to this statistic.

I’m eager to find out more about the phenomenon of failure at the summit, and while I’ll be leading the session, I’m sure I’m going to come away with plenty of lessons learnt and new perspectives on success and failure.

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