The idea of failing can be scary for a lot of people. Failing in business can be extra scary and carry extra consequences. It can be scary when you’ve invested your money in something and can potentially lose it. It can be scary when you think about the amount of time you’re not spending with family and friends, that you’ll lose. It’s reasons like this that it took me over three years to start my own business. Not being sure if I’m going to be broke in 6 months or if I’m going to flush any money I’ve saved right down the toilet makes it even worse. I’ve seen businesses take out second mortgages on their house just to keep their business open…and still fail!
That’s a big risk. But plenty of people take the risk to open their business but are still controlled by their fear and let that fear run their business. While failing can have bad consequences, being paralyzed by fear can have far worse consequences. Fear can make us not take the chances we should be taking…those ‘chances’ we’re not taking can make us fail just as easily. I’d be like if you had a hole in a boat and you didn’t want to try to fix it because you were afraid you were going to make the hole bigger. Guess what? Your boat is still going to sink!
Failure Is Strength
What does any failure ultimately do for you? It helps you grow…so long as you’re willing to learn from it. If you’re going to be bitter and discouraged about it then you’re letting failure defeat you. That’s no bueno. You’ve just learned one way to not do something. Do you know how useful that information really is? What the hell do you think the scientific method is based on?! It’s up to you to see failure as a strength.
You can look at failure as a choice to know how not to do things when it really matters. It wasn’t too long ago that I was doing some radio ads and realized that I overpriced the product. I left the ad’s on the air for 13 weeks and got no calls. Why? Because I had priced my product too high. So, while I did still get my name out there, I could have spent my advertisement more wisely. Was it the end of the world? Not really. We always want to get the best return on our investments, but it doesn’t always happen. I’ve quoted him before but the great John Wannamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” John Wannamaker understood the value of failure, or in his case ineffective advertising.
99u actually agrees with me in an article titled “Why You Should Give Yourself Permission To Screw Up” which focus’ on ‘continuously striving to go beyond our comfort zones if we want to be successful.’ They go on:
So how can you motivate yourself to approach new challenges with confidence and energy, without fear of making mistakes? The answer is simple, though perhaps a little counterintuitive: Give yourself permission to screw-up.
Failure Is Inevitable – It’s How You Deal With It
Sorry, but it is. Failing is a part of life and many times you have to look at it as a strength not a weakness. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Gorilla Biscuits song’s called ‘First Failure‘. Here’s some of it:
When you’re sick of trying, how can you expect to succeed? I can’t recall my first failure, and I’ll forget this one too, overtime. And if you’ve been let down and if it’s not the first time, cheer up, it will hurt much less tomorrow. We’re all tired of [ cuss word ] up and that’s not just being sorry. It means brush the dirt off, get up and try again.
Read more: GORILLA BISCUITS – FIRST FAILURE LYRICS
Take the negatives and turn them into positives. Whenever you fail all you’re really doing is taking a step in the right direction. When you were a kid and you learned how to ride a bike or tried skateboarding for the first time. Did you give up and stop after you fell off for the first time? Hell no! You just learned not to make that stupid mistake again. See the parallels? Do you see why life isn’t about being afraid of failing. You’d live it fruitlessly, never learning how to do a cut-jump or bunny-hop. And if you don’t believe me, I’ve got some other examples of people who failed a lot and still came out on top. This time I’ll quote Henry Ford who said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
The Company Failures
Now while most of these companies have waaaaayyyyy more money than you or I, it is important to remember that you have scaled (or parallel) risks and opportunities for failure. You making a decision not to carry a new product, open a new location or something simpler can be compared to some of these companies launching an international product that’s a complete disaster. We’ll go over some companies that pushed through and one that is gasping for their last breath.
McDonald’s has come out with some pretty outrageous products over the years. I found one article from Business Insider that highlighted 12 McDonald’s products that have failed miserably. The list includes:
- McGratin Croquette
- Hula Burger
- Pizza & McPizza
- Arch Deluxe
- McLean Deluxe
- Big N’ Tasty
McDonald’s probably spent a lot of money pushing out these products. While there probably should have been someone to stop them on the McAfrika, I think failure is something that McDonald’s understands. 12 failed products over the span of about 15 years (unless I don’t know how to do math.) That’s almost a failure a year! To think about the money they must have spent. Damn. McDonald’s still remains to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) hamburger joint in the country.
But think about if one of those products ‘hit it big.’ How much potential revenue could that make for the company? Maybe enough to support (at least) 12 failures?
Any Television Network
We were just talking about McDonald’s and the potential of a ‘big hit.’ I immediately thought of every major television network and their pilots. I did a little recon so I wouldn’t be completely talking out of my butt and found that major networks order about 20 pilots each. About 6 make it to air. To me, everyone’s looking for the next Seinfeld, Scrubs or Friends. They want that one show that can last 8+ seasons and be a cash cow…and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. You might never get to see a show that turns into one of your favorites if the major networks didn’t have that cash cow so they could take chances on other shows.
Now I’m sure there’s corruption and greed with major networks, but I like the philosophy of the idea. You cannot find/create the perfect product (or service) unless you fail along the way. Sometimes a lot. Which brings us to our next business.
For some people (read: Fanboys) Apple can do no wrong. Everything is perfect and their products all just ‘work together.’ I hate to admit it, but that’s the result of Apple’s great advertising (I believe it was the colored iMacs.) Apple has failed. A lot. Some could argue that earlier products were a result of bad management right before Steve got booted out of Apple, but I would beg to differ, because Steve continued to do it after his return in 1997. This certainly isn’t to take away from Jobs’ genius or work ethic. In fact, that’s the whole reason that Apple is on this list. Through all failures, they were just trying to get it right! I could probably go off for an hour about Apple (good and bad.) So let’s get to this list. While doing a quick internet search I found four sites that featured failed Apple products:
- Rotten Apples: 10 Apple Products That Failed
- 12 Failed Apple Products
- 7 Steve Jobs Products That Failed
While I believe some of these products were just a head of their time, there’s a bunch that Apple just should not have gotten into. Here’s a list of some of Apple’s failed products:
- Apple Lisa (1983 – 1986) – A computer that in some respects was ahead of its time, but mostly it was an expensive machine that was over designed and the hardware inside couldn’t keep up
- Macintosh Portable (1989) – Laptop
- Pippin (1996) – Video game system
- 20th Anniversary Mac (1997) – pretty self explanatory
- Hockey Puck Mouse (1998 – 2000) – A bad design of Apple’s Mouse
- Newton (1993) – People seem to forget that PDA’s have existed for years. This was Apple’s attempt, but Palm produced a better product and beat them out.
- QuickTake (1994 – 1997) – Apple’s Camera
- Eworld (1994 – 1996) – Apple’s attempt at an AOL type service
- G4 Cube (200 – 2001) – I actually liked this product, but it was too expensive for the power.
- ROKR (2005) – Apple’s first attempt at a phone. They teamed up with Motorola and put iTunes on a cell phone. Look where that failure led them
- iPod Hi-Fi (2006 – 2007) – Apple’s attempt at a speaker dock. It was big…and expensive.
- Cards App (2011 – ???) – Apple’s card app. Send cards to people…from your small phone?
- iPod Socks (2004 – 2012) – Weird socks for your iPod
- Bluetooth Headset (2007 – 2009) – The short-lived, expensive and a bad product.
- Ping (2010 – 2012) – I’m still not sure what Ping did.
Okay…that’s enough for now. Remember, this isn’t a knock on Apple or any of these brands. The point in showing you their failures is to make you confident to fail yourself. That these products had a slew of problems. Some of them might have been good products if they were developed a little more but in the end you have to keep trying or you’ll be working like a slave for the rest of your life. While it’s important to try and fail. Sometimes doing nothing can be deadly…and by deadly I mean Chapter 11….
Most of us can still remember a time when you’d get in a car to go pick up a blue and yellow DVD (or even VHS) from the Blockbuster. When Netflix, Redbox and other online services started out Blockbuster should have been hot on their heels (if not progressive with inventing it first.) God knows they had probably one of the biggest supplies of movies. They were stubborn to think mailing DVD’s to people’s houses would never work. I would imagine (at least with Netflix) that it was the idea of waiting a day for a DVD. Blockbuster sorely got into the game, but it was already too late. When home internet speeds caught up to what they were today and Netflix started offering streaming, it was the beginning of the end for Blockbuster.
You may say that the age of brick n’ mortar retail stores was on its way out but I think if Blockbuster would have invested more into their mailing service earlier they could have squashed out (or bought out) with a smaller risk of them filing for Chapter 11.
I actually had some fun looking up product failures. I find them fascinating and I think you can learn a lot from other people’s failures. If you’d like to read some articles that I found that weren’t used for this article you can find them here:
Other then that…please, please take some chances and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s what is going to make you stronger.