Lessons In Failure From Steve Jobs


We all sure can learn a lot from Steve Jobs. In today's post we'll concentrate not on what success-lessons his story teaches but rather the failures.

Some years back, before Apple had come into its second being, Steve Jobs sat down with the Silicon Valley Historical Society to talk about failure and why it is that it’s okay to crash and burn. More than a decade after that interview the advice still rings true. So, what did Steve say and what was his advice for all burgeoning entrepreneurs? Take a look:

“I’ve actually always found something to be very true which is that most people don’t get those experiences cause they’ve never asked. I’ve never found anybody that didn’t want to help me if I asked them for help."

“I always call em up, I called up Bill Hewlett when I was 12 years old and he lived in Palo Alto, his phone number was still in the phone book and answered the phone himself and said “yes” and I said “Hi I’m Steve Jobs I’m 12 years old, I’m a student in high school and I want to build a frequency counter and I was wondering if you had any spare parts I could have and he laughed and he gave me these spare parts to build this frequency counter and he gave me a jib that summer in Hewlett Packard working on the assembly line putting nuts and bolts together on frequency counters he got me a job in the place that built them and I was in heaven.”

“I’ve never found anyone who said no or hung up the phone when I called, I just asked, and when people ask me I just try and be as responsive to try and pay that debt of gratitude back.”

“Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask and that’s what separate’s sometimes the people who do things from the people that just dream about them.”

“You gotta act and you’ve gotta be willing to fail, you’ve got be willing to crash and burn. You now with people on the phone, with starting a company, whatever, if you’re afraid of failing you won’t get very far.”

As an entrepreneur now involved in my fifth direct start-up business the lessons Steve talks about in that interview validate my own experiences. These are the seven lessons I think we should all learn from failure:

1. Planning is essential

I say it a lot these days but I won’t get out of bed for anything unless there is a business plan in place. It doesn’t need to be a complicated plan and it doesn’t have to be perfect but the one element that needs to be locked in from the start is the “Purpose” – why am I (or are we) doing this?

2. Cash flow is king.

It’s not just about paying the bills the business incurs its ensuring you have enough money to live on. You need to ensure you have enough money to keep the doors of our business open and the roof of your house remaining

tightly fixed above your head.

3. You don’t know everything.

I always look for people who fill gaps in my own skill set as opposed to getting into business with just other sales people – why? Because all sales people do is sell to each other, other people and themselves so when it comes time to accept you have a problem you spend more time convincing yourself you don’t. Having someone who knows about administration and operations is so important and a skill worth investing in. People see this as a cost at the beginning of a start-up – I see it as an investment in our future success.

4. Playing to your strengths.

By investing in people with different skill sets it frees you up to do what you do best

5. Passion and purpose are brothers.

Always be passionate about what you are selling and why because that passion will be ultimately be linked to the purpose of the business. There is no point starting something unless you are fundamentally passionate about the why. The how comes through the planning process and partnering with people to help you meet the end-game.

6. Learn to fail.

I will see this a hundred times a week – I fail in order to learn a lot. IT IS OKAY TO FAIL! Ignore the motivational and inspirational speakers who just talk endlessly about the road to success and success is success and how wonderful it is. Seriously, you become successful because you learn from what didn’t work the last time. When you read books about Steve Jobs or Henry Ford, Sir Richard Branson and others don’t read them specifically to be inspired by their success – read them because you want to know what the struggles were at the beginning and how they worked around them in the end.

7. Remain determined and keep perspective.

Whatever you do remain determined that you will succeed. It may not be today and that’s fine – but by remaining determined there is nothing that won’t ultimately come through hard work. Keeping perspective means challenging yourself and, therefore, try not to be single minded and take criticism. I hated when people thought my ideas were not great all those years ago – today, I wish I had have listened! I keep perspective on what is happening around me and don’t any longer get locked into my sole way of thinking – in other words I am less stubborn today than I was twenty year ago! (ironic given I have just read a book that tells me as I get older I will become more stubborn and grumpy!).

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