If you ever read anything about starting or running a business in the press; or if you go to hear people speak about the topic, in all likelihood you’ll find they’re probably not telling you the unvarnished truth.
Why don’t they tell you the truth? I call it the Close Encounters Syndrome. Some of my readers may be old enough to remember the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It’s from 1977.
Richard Dreyfus plays a guy who sees a UFO one day and it scars him for life. He can’t get this sound out of his head, and has a vision of a mountain he has to build – right in the middle of his living room. As you can imagine it doesn’t sit well with his wife. In the process of following his bliss obsession, he looses his job then his wife leaves him and takes the kids. And throughout it all he keeps at it, undeterred. Then finally the aliens really exist and they come back to earth to and take him away in a blaze of glory proving that his vision was right all along.
By the way, the ending is where they got the idea for the last 5 seconds of this ad:
Well you see they don’t make movies about people who hear things, have visions, loose their jobs and their families and end up in the loony bin, instead of in outer space. It just isn’t a story people want to pay to see – despite how wonderful and inexpensive the pop corn is at those places.
Likewise you don’t read much about how hard it is to get a business going, or the specific mistakes people made that caused their company to crash and burn. Or the ones who went bust trying to do exactly what Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or [fill in the blank] did.
Instead we read about how people got great ideas and never gave up and became rich, famous, beautiful and skinny. We’re left to figure the other stuff out on our own.
On top of that, Inc Magazine had a series of short articles where they specifically profiled business failures. Check out the October 2010 issue starting on page 67. I can’t find them online but if you search Inc.com for 2010: Learning the Hard Way, you’ll find them.
The funny thing is, there’s more learning in failure than in success. Why? Because when things go right, you don’t really know how much was luck, how much was timing, how much is able to be replicated. But when things go wrong it’s often easier to figure out what not to do next time.