Going into business

Going into business on our own account, there are two things to know, and lots of stuff to discover:

First, we are going to make mistakes – some people call these ‘learning curves’, others prefer to see them as un-necessary detours, some as par for the course, but most of us see our mistakes as somehow reprehensible, un-necessary, wasteful and even, sometimes, shameful. Mistakes are none of these things. In fact, I would characterise them as necessary, valuable, and a matter of considerable pride – we can all recall the detours we made, but what makes them useful is to regard them as a sign that we are brave enough to take chances, to go out on a limb. Unless we can take our courage in both arms and take the leap, nothing can change, and we’ll never know what might happen.

Second, in order to minimise the fall-out from mistakes, we are going to have to learn new things, do research and take a compassionate view of our business decisions: in other words, we have to learn to accept a certain amount of trial and error, and not take it personally. Personally enough to learn from it, but not so hard that we retreat full of apologies and give up on another idea.

For every thousand decisions we make, a good majority will lead no-where, most will flop, and a precious few might take seed and grow. And we aren’t going to know which ones will land where until we try, so we have no choice but to keep going, stubbing our toes occasionally, but realising that the more we know, the stronger we get. It’s not our successes that teach us lots – don’t we so often take these for granted? – but our mistakes, so perhaps it’s time to see our learning curves a bit differently.

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