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Do you fail enough?

May 9, 2011

Quick. When was the last time you failed? I recently read this blog post from Chris Dixon, and I’m giving it a shot.

Chris proposes a rather simple philosophy. “If you’re not getting rejected every day, your goals aren’t ambitious enough.” This reflects something I’ve thought a lot about. Let’s say you want to maximize your performance (not an unreasonable goal). Therefore you want to push yourself to the limit in every aspect of your life. But how can you know that you’ve achieved maximum performance? You have to fail.

I took an incredible class at Stanford last year from Professor Clough, the premise of which was that we have to learn from our failures if we want to be successful. Professor Clough pushed us through simulations and real-world activities to fail as frequently as possible. This allowed us to learn about our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Chris Dixon is proposing that we do the same thing with our businesses and our lives.

Another one of my favorite classes at Stanford is the Lessons in Decision Making (MS&E 450) seminar from Professor Howard. He proposes that regret and fear are irrational and that we should erase those emotions from our vocabulary. Let’s say you’re pitching to potential investors. If you let fear of failure enter your decision calculus, you probably won’t even attempt to pitch to some VCs. By sitting out those pitches, you’re missing out on an opportunity to fail. First, every failure is an opportunity to learn and to improve. Second, you might even succeed every now and then.

The only line I remember from Fight Club is “How much can you really know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight.” I feel the same way about failure. How do you know what you’re capable of unless you know what your limits are? How can your push yourself to succeed if you are not actively aware of your own limits?

I’ve tried getting rejected a bit more over the past few months, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty challenging. According to Dixon, that means that my goals weren’t (and still aren’t) ambitious enough. So go out, make your own luck, and ask for what you want. Don’t let fear or regret dominate your emotions – go out and focus on getting rejected.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2013 8:14 pm

    That is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!


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