Failing is an expensive way to learn

Reading Josh Infiesto’s post got me thinking about failure:

Learning how to reflexively avoid stupidity is a key ingredient to attaining great heights with any skill. It's amazing how many hours you can piss away trying add new and interesting techniques to your repertoire before you've really mopped up the basics.
I commented that perhaps a paraphrase of his "Stop doing stupid shit" principle was "avoid failure" but avoiding failure doesn't necessarily bring success.

The European startup scene is often contrasted with Silicon Valley in terms of tolerance to failure. On the west coast investors are comfortable with previous failures recognising that they are great opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn and are evidence of appetite for risk.

But aren’t business failures hugely expensive lessons to take? Perhaps a typical entrepreneur has 2 or 3 failed ideas behind them before stumbling on even moderate success let alone getting to superstar level. Maybe that’s 2-3 million dollars of burned investment, 20-30 employees lives turned over, a few thousand consumers left without a product. Maybe an angel investor lawsuit for good measure.

That’s an expensive way to learn those lessons and you don’t know how many you ’re going to need before you get successful.

The west coast startup mindset is to focus on finding the great idea and accept failures along the way.

Maybe a cheaper and more efficient way would be to prioritise avoiding failure to give yourself a the stability to iterate like crazy on ideas and find the one that’s going to have the impact you crave?


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