Failing and Quitting

This is a repost post of an essay I wrote three years ago about Failing and Quitting. There are lessons here I need to remind myself every now and then.

It’s been a just over a year since my co-founders and I decided to pull the plug on a product we had been working on for 2 years prior. I thought I should would write down my thoughts and feelings about the experience. Maybe it will help both myself and others who have gone through something similar.

So when we decided to shut down the product how did I feel? Well lets just say I had mixed feelings? Of course, how could I not have. But rather than feel devastated about it. I was ok and actually pretty excited about the future. It’s not because I had moved onto something else. (although it does helps) But rather because I don’t feel as if we failed.

Let me explain. I didn’t feel like we failed because I don’t feel as if we ever gave up. It made me realise how important that frame of mind has been in our journey.

Failing has become somewhat of a right of passage in the tech startup world. It’s a confusing concept for me. I suggest maybe we should call it making mistakes. It sounds a lot easier to handle, doesn’t it? And because it really is ok to make mistakes. (As long as you don’t make the same ones over and over.)

We all know failing or making a mistake is very different from quitting. We are always taught at school and by our parents that failing and/or making a mistake is a bad thing. This I feel is just wrong. I get it though. No one wants to make a mistake, ever! Especially publicly!

But there is a massive difference between starting something and losing or having it not work out, and starting something and quitting before its really over. That’s the real mistake.

Products fail all the time, companies open and close everyday, but I think the only way for you as a person to fail is if you quit. That’s when you become a failure.

I have friends and family who have started plenty of businesses, some were a successes, most were failures, but that didn’t mean that THEY were a failure. It just meant that some things didn’t work out like they thought and that’s all right. Mistakes were made, lessons learnt and you move on to bigger and better things. Its always about learning.

So here are a few things I have realised over the last couple of months.

1: You are not your product. Don’t think that if your product fails you have failed. Don’t be embarrassed if your product or service needs to change or close down. Remember you are not your product. It seems obvious but people forget this.

2: Don’t be so close to your idea or product that you don’t make wise decisions. You can’t be so precious about your idea that you are too stubborn or emotional to make the hard decisions. We needed to make a few hard decisions early on and quick, without those decisions I’m not sure where we would be now. (I have to thank my co-founders for that) This is also easier if you realise point 1.

3: Keep learning and never give up. If you look at business as a learning process, the hard times will be a lot easier to handle. Keep looking and learning because just when you think its all said and done, something will appear. It usually does.

So as long as you don’t quit, but rather learn and move on. This mindset can take you very far, in fact I would say its a prerequisite if you want to get anywhere in life.

So here is to making mistakes!

Just don’t quit.