If you want to make anything happen in life, you have to start an entrepreneurial journey. But be aware, “Entrepreneurship often happens when people are on their way to something else…” .
The famous quote by Aldrich and Kenworthy (The Accidental Entrepreneur 1999, p. 18 *) is true – especially in these times of immense speed and connectivity.
Like the hitchhiker, the entrepreneur is often starting new things. But what marks them out is their openness to fresh ideas, their perseverance and understanding of what opportunity means. To demonstrate the point, watch this mindblowing presentation by the sublimely talented entrepreneurial artist Janet Echelman.
Start now and value the journey
The very act of starting over or hitching a lift exposes us to the possibility of the new. We meet different people and the opportunity to see life through an alternate lens presents itself. But if you don’t start or are only prepared to repeat previous experience then countless opportunities are denied.
Of course, creating difference and discovering new perspectives naturally involves risk and uncertainty. As this entrepreneurial story from Quora demonstrates, doubt is always present at the moment of choice. However, it is important to remember the value and motive of doing new things for no other reason than keeping our minds fresh, alert and curious. But unfortunately as humans we are creatures of habit.
As we age, so routines and patterns are created in our lives which become norms and harbours of safety. And before we know it, it is almost impossible to break free from these feel-good, security chains even though they actually bind us and restrict our ability to find happiness. We become incapacitated because of our fear of uncertainty, difference and failure. Ultimately, it is not just our actions that become imprisoned; habits incarcerate thinking and ideas. And once this happens, our capacity to do anything meaningful with our lives is reduced to little or nothing at all.
So how is such a cul-de-sac of thinking avoided?
The value of failure
Economist and author Tim Harford wrote the ground-breaking book ‘Adapt: Why Success always starts with Failure’. This Blog can’t explain the tome in detail (for more, www.timharford.com), but essentially this ‘must read’ book is about the importance of trial and error in solving problems (from local to global) and accepting that mistakes and failure are not only a necessary part of the journey, but an essential one.
But there’s a problem. In chapter 8 of his book, Tim Harford illustrates clearly and brilliantly how humans are programmed to respond to mistakes and failure. If you hadn’t guessed it, we respond badly. We deny it; we choose to forget it; and/or we reshape our history in a different, more favourable light. Unfortunately, none of these self-preservation mechanisms help us to learn from mistakes, move forward, evolve and thus have the ability to create something better.
Courses that teach the value of making mistakes and failure are evolving all the time. For example, brainchild of Ashley Good, the organisation ‘Fail Forward‘ was established in 2011 and focuses on helping organisations use failure as a catalyst for learning and innovation. The organisation even produces the wonderfully titled ‘Failure reports‘ as How-To Guides for supporting organizations who are interested in documenting and learning from their errors.
So, next time you are on your way to somewhere, whether it’s hitchhiking, a new course/job or even venture, look out for things you wouldn’t normally encounter. And if you try something new and it fails, don’t simply chastise yourself or take criticism from others. Carefully examine the value of what’s been learnt along the journey and then make good use of the experience. Janet Echelman did and look where it got her.
Key Learning Points. Always be open to ideas and activities and use your initiative and style of thinking to start now and value the journey. Be aware of the crippling effect of habitual behaviour and also be honest with yourself and embrace the learning value of failure.
* (1999) Howard E. Aldrich and Amy L. Kenworthy. The accidental entrepreneur: Campbellian antinomies and organizational foundings