Starting a Business - Taking Risks and Accepting Failure
While on vacation to Disney World, we visited Hollywood Studios. If you’ve ever been there, you know that the Toy Story ride is THE most popular ride at the park. We always go straight to that ride upon entering Hollywood Studios. Despite getting to the park just before it opened, the line was already 30 minutes long by the time we made our way to the ride. So we got a Fast Pass for the next open slot, which was around 1:00.
Promptly at 1:00 we showed up with our Fast Passes and headed on in. By then the stand by line was 75 minutes and the Fast Passes were all gone so I knew this would be our only time to ride that day. As we made it up to the front, the usual discussion of who gets to ride with Mommy versus Daddy ensued and, in an unusual stroke of luck, my daughter chose me. You see, while there is always a discussion, my son usually prefers me and my daughter usually prefers her dad.
For the uninitiated, the goal of the Toy Story ride is to shoot electronic darts at electronic targets in various scenes in Andy’s room. You have bullseyes of different values and, like a video game, you have a dashboard that keeps a tally of your points.
So we get on the ride and I am certain that I am going to blow my daughter away, she’s going to cry, and then I’ll explain to her how she’ll get better as she gets older. But things didn’t happen that way. In fact, in scene after scene, I saw that my daughter was crushing me! I thought, “How could this be? I am a much better marksman than she is!” I was taking my time and focusing on all the targets with the highest value. I couldn’t understand how this 4 your old could be beating me at this game. So I sat back and analyzed what she was doing. And in doing so, I learned something about myself and I learned something from my youngest child.
1. Its OK to take a risk – Attorneys generally tend to be risk averse and I am no exception to that stereotype. So naturally, I devised my strategy of aiming for only the highest value bullseyes. My daughter hit whatever she could. And it turns out that since she aimed at all the bullseyes, she was able to hit more. She took a risk by aiming at more targets rather than playing it safe and only aiming at one type of target.
Its so scary sometimes to take a risk. Quitting my job and homeschooling was a huge risk on so many levels. But the risk has paid off so far. At least I believe that when I look at my kids and see how well they are doing. But for the most part, I am extremely risk averse. I have watched opportunities pass me by because of my aversion to risk. I’m going to try to do better.
2. Its OK if you miss the target sometimes – in using her strategy, my daughter missed targets. In fact, she missed a lot of targets. But the sum total of missing targets while trying to hit many different types of targets netted a better outcome than my stubbornly focusing on one type of target.
Most super successful business people will tell you of the failures they endured and learned from before they because successful. We spend so much time in institutions that punish us for failure that we lose sight of the fact that we can actually learn from failures. Failure helps us learn what we are good at, it helps us refine our strategy and it helps us to get better at what we are doing.
The reason why we are risk averse is because we are afraid of failure. But really, it seems that being risk averse is a failure in itself because we can't truly protect ourselves from risk if we don’t know what could truly happen from failure.
3. Its OK to reach for the stars but don’t overlook the opportunities that pop up along your way to outer space. After being steadfast in focusing on only the high value targets, I adopted my daughter's strategy. So I hit at low value targets as well as high value targets. Since I AM a better marksman than she is, I ultimately ended up winning the game. But she had such a huge lead on me, my win was slight.
These are lessons that apply in life and when thinking about starting your small business. If you spend too much time thinking about it, you'll never get going or expand. At some point, you have to take a risk in order to move forward. If you fail, learn from the failure, refine your goal and strategy, and then try again or try something else.
Regardless of whether you fail or succeed, you'll be in a better place for having tried than you would have by over thinking and doing nothing.