Talking About Failure is Good, Talking About Rigor is Better

Angel investor Elizabeth Kraus wrote an intriguing blog post about the angel and entrepreneurial community bringing discussions to bear about failure as something the community needs to do more of. I agree, but look forward to discussions turning to the rigor of passion and purpose. She posed some great questions and asked for some advice. So, here’s my response; happy reading. 

As an entrepreneur and long standing member of the business community who has met with both stunning success and staggering failure I’m glad that the venture capital community is paying attention to the attributes of failure as a topic, and I’m sure that the conversations will continue via the routine and essential topic of risk and reward which are balanced in the decisions about whether to support an entrepreneur or not, launching him/her toward success and failure.

It’s also very important to bring failure to bear as an OK topic of discussion to the entrepreneurial community, although culturally and socially we’ll always be fighting the fear of rejection in our public discussions of failure, that disclosure of our failures will potentially be perceived to be a sign of weakness and/or incompetence and used against us, which unfortunately (but naturally) became part of our psyche on the playground as 7 and 8 year olds. Hence the anonymity in the blog post that Brad mentions.

I’m hoping that the conversation moves on to include more community discussion about the rigor of passion and purpose as the source of partnership between entrepreneur and investor as the foundation of the investment ecosystem, where the here and now of decision making that happens every day in the lives of entrepreneurs can provide fruitful lessons for all of us. Not the “Oh I’m excited about this!” passion, but the basic and measurable assumptions that we’re making that determine success and failure, as we try every day to carefully gauge with our actions how long it will take for change to occur in our customers’ and clients’ buying behaviors that we hope will bring profit to what we’re working toward sooner than later. I think that discussions of rigor and learning and change will be much more powerful and enduring than those of failure. These positive discussions will help us feel connected and allow us to be more focused on positive purposeful ways of separating our customers from their money. I think better investment decisions will result as a consequence of talking about willful energy and the future, not of failure and the past.

I’m a firm believer that the entrepreneur’s ability to bring this measured passion to bear in the here-and-now of the marketplace as their ultimate measure of competence, a characteristic that should perhaps be the biggest determinant of a decision about whether to invest or not.

I think too that the well established cultural and social value of a second chance attitude should be brought to bear, where a shared comfort in learning from our mistakes can be found, helping realize a beneficial sense of belonging to our community, which is one of our most important needs.

One of the celebrations of this purpose and passion became part of my life as recently as last night on the patio of the St. Julien as my sweet and lovely wife Debra and I danced to Sambadende! We blew our weekend wad imbibing in a wonderful celebration of our life together, where we’re both sharing the rigors of purpose and passion, day in and day out. It was also reaffirming to see some of the Unreasonable Institute ‘investment community members’ dancing the night away too, as they took some time to have some fun after what I’m sure was another successful Summer Institute, full of passion and purpose. Is that celebration methodology in the Handbook of Successful Entrepreneurship? Hell no. Is it a measure of success? Hell yes.


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