Last week on my way to the Frankfurt Book Fair I was reading a newspaper article about Peter Thiel, Paypal founder and one of the first Facebook investors. Without doubt a successful entrepreneur who knows a great deal about startups and innovations.
In his book Zero to one, Thiel explains that, based on his experience, luck has little to do with success, and that thinking of fortune as a decisive factor for success is emphasizing on the wrong issue. It is essential to think more and better about which bets and make, based on learning through failure.
While in Silicon Valley, where Peter Thiel succeeded, this way of thinking is part of people’s DNA, in Spain and many other European countries failure is too often seen as something bad. It is a minus on your CV, not a plus. It seems that we struggle to understand the huge opportunity of learning that is inherent in each failure. As a result we tend to risk less, learn less and innovate less. To build something new and disruptive, you have to be brave and persistent, and dare to fail without falling into pessimism. If you “fall seven times, stand up eight” (Japanese proverb). In line with this idea of persistence I would like to recommend you a wonderful story, I discovered this year together with my five year-old son through my little book box: La maceta vacía (Empty pot).
fall seven times, stand up eight
If we want to foster in our society this entrepreneurial spirit we should start with our environment and ourselves. Are you ready to allow your team to fail for the sake of learning? Do you give your kids sufficient opportunities to fail (and learn)? Actually, our education at home in combination with how our children learn at school, is the main driver to change our society for good in that sense. Our world is becoming increasingly complex and fast changing and our children have to learn to live with much more uncertainty and change than previous generations. For them, it is crucial to accept failure and to be able to extract learning from it.
As Michael Jordan put it, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.”
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