Failure is an Option: How Successful Entrepreneurs Thrive In Failure

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Most people assume that once a business fails, that’s it — it’s time for the owner to apply for a gig at someone else’s company and give up their entrepreneurial dreams. But those who think about giving up aren’t true entrepreneurs. In fact, people who have the gumption to start a company are often those the least deterred by failure; they tend view a lack of success as a temporary downward trend necessary to reach the next upswing.

While this kind of outlook might seem delusional to many on the outside, it’s actually this very mindset that makes the best entrepreneurs successful. For proof, take a look at “How the 25 Richest Americans Failed Miserably.”

In this article, we’ll explore how failure can actually increase your likelihood of future success.

Selective Memory & Eternal Optimism

Entrepreneurs that tackle one business venture after another actually forget about their failures faster than other people. It’s a sort of selective memory, to only remember the good things in life, but it can help serial entrepreneurs approach their next project with as much gusto as the last.

And if you need anything to get a business off the ground, it’s gusto.

A study published in the Journal of Business Venturing of 576 entrepreneurs in Great Britain found that serial entrepreneurs who’ve experience some level of failure in the past have the same amount of optimism as they did before the failure. This is a marked difference from the one-time entrepreneurs, who are more likely to adjust their optimism level after a failure.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always a good idea, but it shouldn’t affect your level of optimism for what the future holds. Not if you want to succeed, that is. Take Oprah Winfrey, for instance. If she’d quit after being fired from her first TV anchor gig in Baltimore, she’d never have gone on to build a media empire or to build a net worth of $2.9 billion.

And what if Henry J. Heinz had let his initial venture as a purveyor of horseradish spoil his dreams? He’d never have built a ketchup empire. You get the idea. Sometimes (a lot of the time) failure breeds success, and it shouldn’t be viewed with fear. Rather, the prospect of failure should be viewed with a determined resolve to do better next time.


The value of confidence in the business world can’t be overstated. To borrow a phrase from RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” This notion of believing yourself is so vital for entrepreneurial success, I don’t know how a company can survive without it. Can you even think of a successful entrepreneur who seems unsure of himself; who doesn’t exude confidence — perhaps even overconfidence — from every pore?

Self-confidence is an outward effect of optimism. If entrepreneurs aren’t optimistic about what the future holds in store, they aren’t likely to be very confident, either. After all, this would mean they don’t feel that they can see a business venture through to a point of success. That doesn’t just spell a lack of belief in your business; it also points to a lack of belief in yourself.

When Steve Jobs walked out on the stage to present the iPhone, he was calm, relaxed, and obviously jazzed about his product. But he was definitely confident, too, and that showed how sure he was the audience was going to be impressed by what he was announcing.

Confidence is often a missing ingredient in the entrepreneurial package. Many have a solid vision and the drive to get there, but if they don’t believe in their projects and themselves, success becomes very difficult to attain.

Embracing Failure

For entrepreneurs, the ability to embrace failure — or at least the prospect of it — is essential for success. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to avoid failure; but you should embrace it when it becomes inevitable. Without a willingness to fail, you’ll always hold back. And most of the time, the biggest successes require the biggest risks.

For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!