What’s Your Spectacular Failure?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 9, 2015

FailureAll of us in business have heard the platitudes and adages about failure time and again. Whether it’s Thomas Edison’s famous quote about not failing, but discovering 10,000 ways that don’t work or Abraham Lincoln’s failed runs for office before becoming President of the United States.

The thing is, it’s not just the giants in history who failed. People continue to fail today. And some of the most successful people in business right now had spectacular failures. Sometimes those failures were as a result of trying to do things differently. Here are a few for your consideration.

  • A Record Failure: Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin companies, wasn’t supposed to be a success. As a matter of fact his headmaster at school told him he’d probably end up in jail—or a millionaire. Sir Richard’s first endeavor was a record failure—quite literally. He started Virgin Records in an attempt to offer an alternative to the high-priced record stores in England. But he ran afoul of English laws regarding taxes and discounting practices and he almost lost everything (including his mother’s house, which she had remortgaged to pay off his debts). Most people would say that with a net worth of almost $5 billion, he survived that brush with failure—even though he’s had others since then.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: After graduating from business school, Mark Cuban began working for a retail software store in Dallas—a completely new industry. When Cuban closed a deal with a new client, he had a scheduling conflict. He was supposed to open the store at 9 am—the same time as he was scheduled to seal the deal with the new client. Cuban didn’t think it was right to stand up a new client, so he arranged to have someone else open for him. When he returned after closing the deal (carrying a check from the store’s new client with him), he was fired on the spot for not opening the store. Cuban went on to bigger and better things, including a net worth of some $3 billion. The retail store is no longer in business.
  • Gambling Las Vegas Style: You could probably argue that all entrepreneurs are gamblers to one degree or another. In the case of Charlie Ergen, co-founder of Dish Network, he was quite literally a professional Las Vegas gambler until he and his partner were forced to leave Las Vegas for allegedly counting cards. After seeing a truck with a satellite TV dish mounted on it, he and his partner rolled the dice on the TV satellite business—and hit the jackpot. Ergen’s net worth is estimated at more than $15 billion.

What’s your spectacular failure? Have you had an idea that went against the grain—and then hit the ground with a thud? If you’re thinking differently than those around you, it’s possible that you’re onto something. Your financial success may not reach the levels of the people mentioned above, but you still may be on the right track.

I’d love to hear your story of “glorious failure.” Drop me a note below and share it!