Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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34 www.canadianlawyermag.com FEATURE FAILURE "EVER TRIED. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett's famous words have a nice ring to them. And for a long time, they've permeated the wider circles of entrepreneurship as a kind of mantra. Failure is necessary. Failure is humbling. Failure is … almost trendy? At least on the outside. Backstage, we scramble hyster- ically to avoid it at all costs. After all, busi- nesses rely on consistency, predictability, and success — the opposite of failure. And let's be clear. Taking a glib, cava- lier attitude toward failure is dangerous. Entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Mark Suster argues that the "fail fast" mantra is "wrong, irresponsible, unethical and heart- less. Tell that to the person who [gave] you $50,000 of their hard-earned money and entrusted you to try your best." Failure certainly isn't something to seek out. But it is inevitable. And with the right perspective, it can be transformed into some- thing altogether more positive. Manage your reaction When we hear billionaire moguls like Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos wax Changing your perspective is the key to making failure a stepping stone rather than a breaking point. Aytekin Tank offers six suggestions for how to do it lyrical about the benefits of failure, what they really mean is this: You need to be prepared to experiment, to take risks that don't always pay off. What matters isn't whether you manage to avoid failure altogether but how you react to it when it does. We can let failure drag us down. Or we can let it shape us. Here's the thing: Growth and comfort cannot coexist. When we fail, something inside us inevitably changes. And by embracing that feeling of change instead of fearing it, we can use it to our advantage. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, discusses this sensation in his book, Principles: "I call the pain that comes from looking at yourself and others objec- tively 'growing pains,' because it is the pain that accompanies personal growth. No pain, no gain." It's no coincidence that the most successful people have also failed the most: Richard Branson saw Virgin cola, cars and wedding dresses crash and burn. James Dyson made 5,127 unsuccessful prototypes. Thomas Edison tried more than 1,000 patents. Even Jeff Bezos endured the spectacular flops of Amazon Auctions and Amazon Z. Did they seek out failure? No. But they Six ways to 'fail better' took an experimental approach that ulti- mately led to incredible achievement among the failures. Start with a light touch Some ideas look fantastic on paper and then nosedive. Others seem like flash-in-the-pan madness and then go on to make millions. Basically, it's impossible to predict how your market, circumstances and customers will change. As entrepreneur Paul Graham once remarked, "You haven't really started working on [your idea] until you've launched." When you devote a ton of energy, time and money to something, you develop a strong sense of ownership toward it. It becomes your baby, a little seedling of hope. Naturally, it's hard to let go of it. But attachment clouds judgment. It causes smart people to cling to 1 2

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