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Startup life: What to do when you're failing

April 4, 2016

 

There is one thing entrepreneurs will universally agree on – startup life is similar to riding a never-ending roller-coaster. However, the one thing that most of us forget is that, at least on a roller-coaster, you know when you’ll start descending. 

 

And as scary as it might feel, it is predictable, known and anticipated. You even had time to mentally prepare yourself while waiting in line for hours. That’s part of the exhilaration. In startups, you don’t know when you’ll fall – and that is the scariest part.

 

In Aikido, we are taught that the number one rule is to keep your balance. It is when we are balanced that we are stronger, both physically and mentally. But what happens when you lose your balance and you fall? We are told that we must quickly rise back on our feet. Easy to say, but how do you actually do that?

We roll.

 

Every lesson incorporates practicing rolling. We do it over and over and over again. Sometimes, I feel that we spend more time on the floor or trying to get up than practicing techniques. But the reason why is simple: the more you practice falling, the more you’ll overcome the fear and turn it into the love of flying.

 

As all of you surely know, startup life brings along a series of disappointing moments. An investor that suddenly disappears after initially agreeing to collaborate, an employee that resigns at the worst possible time, running out of money right when you felt success was just around the corner. I could give you tons of examples. And most of the time, all these instances come up unexpectedly.

Unlike roller coasters, you don’t see the descent approaching. And even optimistic entrepreneurs that are driven to move their startup forward find things going sideways and feeling seriously beat down. So, what do you do when your plans get crushed? What do you do when you lose your balance?

 

1. Analyze where you got hurt and decide what needs protection & what can handle the hit

 

2. Gather the strength and energy to rise back up

 

3. When the smoke has cleared, understand what made you fall in the first place

Falling, much like failing, isn’t a big deal per say. The big deal is choosing to stay down on the ground.

 

The takeaway is that once you know exactly how falling feels, you will know how to handle it. If you’re an entrepreneur, this is a question if when, not if. Welcome to startup life. Remember that as it happens the first, second, and third time, you’ll find yourself falling more and more gracefully and rising up to meet your next challenge quicker. Just keep rolling.

 

“Failure is the key to success; 
Each mistake teaches us something.”
 
-Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido)
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