Learning to Fail

I am still thinking about the talk I gave yesterday at Brown, about which I wrote here.

A student from Brazil, Gabrielle Bufrem, asked me a question about decision-making after college. I told her that the most important thing to learn for making better choices was this: learning to fail.

You see, if you get into a known school, it is a byproduct of many years of getting great grades, rocking test scores, and numerous accolades. You are always the star. You’ve probably become a perfectionist. You probably beat up yourself when you don’t get the A grade.

In other words, students at Brown probably have never failed at anything. Ever.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is about something different. It is about taking on and managing risk. It is about developing grit and understanding that other people’s approval is often a bad sign.

When I started Kepha, most people seemed to snicker. A new VC firm? The belief then was that new entrants weren’t possible.

Fast forward. Newish VC firms now are the norm. Many of my peers have branched off from their mega firms. Many are contemplating it. And, honestly, if I had to start Kepha today, it would be challenging to differentiate among a sea of newish VC firms seeking inaugural funding.

So, the irony is that when conventional wisdom thinks something is a good idea, it may be too late.

So, my student friends at Brown: learn to fail. Learn to just flat out get it completely wrong. Learn to royally screw up and have everyone think you’re a loser.

Learn how to suffer. Then, learn to recover from it.

You’ll find that the world doesn’t change when you’ve failed. But, you will have. You will have evolved to a newer and more resilient person. You will have acquired not just knowledge, but wisdom.

I am currently going through a very difficult challenge in my personal life. But, I know I will emerge stronger. And, it too shall pass. I think self evolution is a wonderful gift.

I choose to embrace change. It will bring wisdom.


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