Failure is an inevitable part of most businesses, every business owner and aspirant entrepreneur will have their share of ups and downs. Despite this, failure continues to be something of a taboo.
Four Ted Talk speakers, Astro Teller, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jia Jiang, and Sarah Lewis, in each of their TED Talk, challenge this fear of failure. They explain why we should all be thinking a little differently about failure, and why sometimes the moment of our greatest defeat may actually present our greatest opportunity.
Here are their four reasons why failing doesn’t have to mean the end.
Astro Teller is the founder of Cerebellum Capital, a hedge fund management firm, and director of X, formerly known as Google X, a corporate research lab, where he oversees projects at their moonshot factory.
In his talk Teller explains how focusing on why a particular project is failing, rather than the failure itself, could be the key to driving another project’s success. To prove this, he gives examples of moonshot projects which are projects undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefits, but that have potential to drive massive breakthroughs.
Standout Quote: “We spend most of our time breaking things and proving that we’re wrong – that’s it, that’s the secret.”
Overall message: Failure doesn’t mean a business or a project is over, use the opportunity to rethink it or kill it and move on to a different project.
Elizabeth Gilbert is best known for her 2006 memoir Eat Pray Love, which was adapted into a movie in 2010. In this talk, Gilbert highlights the importance of continuing to create, invent and build, despite the fear of never matching up to your previous successes.
Standout Quote: “If I had given up writing, I would’ve lost my beloved vocation. So I knew the task was that I had to find some way to gin up the inspiration to write the next book regardless of its inevitable negative outcome, in other words, I had to find a way to make sure my creativity survived its own success.”
Overall Message: You may not be able to match previous accomplishments, however rather than operating from a place of fear, let your original passion for what you do drive you instead.
Jia Jiang is the author of the book Rejection Proof and is CEO of Wuju Learning, a rejection therapy company that helps businesses overcome this particular fear. Jiang’s message is that rejection can be your greatest tool if you use it as motivation, and you do not let the pain of getting rejected overwhelm you, something he learnt from his own experience.
Standout Quote: “This fear even persisted after I started my own company. When I was an entrepreneur I was presented with an investment opportunity, and then I was turned down. That rejection hurt me so bad that I wanted to quit right there, but then I thought hey, would Bill Gates quit after a simple investment rejection?”
Overall Message: Rejection is part of business and life, and learning to face rejection can open you up to greater opportunities.
Sarah Lewis is an assistant professor of History of Art and Architecture, and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is also the bestselling author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. Mastery is not about succeeding, nor is it about failing, says Lewis, but rather about achieving a near win, which is the concept of doing something that may have challenges or flaws, but is still succeeding in its own way.
Standout Quote: “Success is a moment, but what we’re always celebrating is creativity and mastery.”
Overall Message: While a project may have flaws, that does not mean it’s a failure. In other words, success and failure are not black and white – embrace the grey.