In the last five years, if you’ve read any business book, blog, or speech, you’ve heard many pieces of contradictory advice. You’ve probably heard a version of this:
Business is all about taking risks
or this:
To succeed in business, you must first fail
These sayings are probably true. Almost every successful entrepreneur has gone through many failures. Richard Branson failed in many of his ventures. Peter Thiel fails in most of his risky investments. They are super successful, and they have made it. But is it really because they took risks, and because they have failed, that they have become successful? Or is failure and risk-taking just a side effect of the path to success? Earl Nightingale said famously: “You Become What You Think About”. It means that what you think about expands, and your thoughts direct your energy. If you told a new entrepreneur to “focus on failing,” what are the chances that they ended up failing? Probably 100%. If you told a 22 year old to “take risks in business”, what are the chances that he would do some thing stupid and put his entire life savings on the line? More than if you didn’t give him that “advice”. Entrepreneurship has become a race to the bottom. It’s a competition between who can fail the most. It’s a competition to see who can take the biggest risk. And more than ever, businesses are failing. Businesses are going down the drain. This is not a good thing. It cannot be a good thing. There is a huge amount of wasted effort, wasted potential, and wasted time when a business fails. People don’t learn how to succeed in business from what they do wrong: they learn what not to do. To really learn how to succeed, you must first succeed, and then you know what you did right. But you might ask: “Why have most successful entrepreneurs taken risks and failed: shouldn’t I follow in their footsteps?” Of course you should. But do you think these people succeeded because they followed other people’s advice to fail? Do you think Donald Trump is so successful because he he spends millions of dollars on yellow Lamborghinis? Imagine he said: “Over the course of my life, I have earned billions of dollars in real estate, and I have spent millions of dollars in luxury cars.” So is the key to becoming a billionaire, purchasing luxury cars? If you have a high AQ (Awareness Quotient), you won’t fall for the bait. So if success didn’t come from risk taking and trying to fail, what did these successful entrepreneurs do to succeed? Successful entrepreneurs don’t do something to become successful. There is no magical course of action that leads to success. If there was, we could just follow the steps–one by one–and everyone would become billionaires. Successful entrepreneurs all believe in a cause. For Donald Trump, this is “thinking big”. For Mark Zuckerberg, it is “connecting the world”. For Steve Jobs, it is to “think different”. For Richard Branson, it is to “have fun”. When entrepreneurs find their “why”, they unleash superpowers. It’s like getting a pill that will make you invincible. When this happens, every challenge pales in comparison. You see your vision, and you just need to figure out how to get there. What others see as “risks”, you see as “opportunities”. “Risks” do not exist, only opportunities do. There is not even a thought of failure. Sure, you might experience “losses”, but even the Broncos lost a few games last season. Even the greatest entrepreneurs experience losses. But not failure. Failure does not happen. That’s why having a passion is so important in entrepreneurship. You need to be able to work 80 hour weeks. You must enjoy your work. You must aim to be the very best in what you do. Not second. Not third. You must aim to be perfect. And if you do, there is nothing that will stop you from success.