Miscellaneous

You Bought the Matching T-Shirts, Then You Failed. Now Go Wear that T-Shirt with Pride

When I was a child, a hero disappeared, like he never existed in the first place.

It was 1992, and The Ultimate Warrior left the WWF (now known as the WWE).

The Ultimate Warrior was more than just a wrestler. At the time, he was my hero. I would run around with my face painted, tassels tied around my 11-year-old biceps, trying to use all 70 pounds of me (50 of which was head, and 10 of that was mullet) to intimidate my brother before we wrestled on our parents’ waterbed.

When The Ultimate Warrior left the WWE, the organization immediately acted like he had never been there at all.

That total disappearance followed by a commitment to never speak of the departed again reminds me of the way some founders treat failure. I’ve seen this happen more than once: A founder and his team invest a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money into a new venture.

Occasionally matching t-shirts are purchased.

There is much talk of disruption and changing the world.

Then, poof.

As forgotten as The Ultimate Warrior.

If the failure is ever spoken of, it’s rebranded as success–as though losing hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) was part of the plan. In those rare instances when it is spoken of, it’s never, ever a reflection of the founder.

Unfortunately, here’s the thing: When you fail, other people know it.

They remember the Facebook post where you first announced your new venture, they remember the matching t-shirts, they remember the pitch decks where you identified Facebook and LinkedIn as your primary competitors.

They remember you saying, “we are the Uber of (blank, usually something ridiculous, like toilets).”

Rebranding your failures as successes or treating those failures like a departed Ultimate Warrior doesn’t somehow magically erase the failure.

It only prevents you from learning from it.

We live in an era where we have the ability to filter and document our own lives in a way that makes everything seem spectacular. We also live in an era where we are subjected to a never-ending stream of content that tells us entrepreneurship is easy.

The reality is that success as an entrepreneur is incredibly difficult.

Failure is likely, and a failure kept bottled up inside of you means that your failure was, at best, a complete waste of your time.

At worst, failure that isn’t honestly dealt with plants a very destructive seed, and that seed will eventually bloom, regardless of future successes.

Don’t treat your failure the way the WWF treated The Ultimate Warrior in 1992.

If you’ve failed, own it. Talk about. Deal with it–and deal with it honestly.

Everyone knows wasting all that time and cash wasn’t part of the plan.

You can only learn from failure when you own it, and hopefully learning from that failure will lead to future success.

Or at least teach you to spend less money on matching t-shirts.

Published on: Jan 15, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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