by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
I know an amazingly successful business person who says she failed at a lot of things before finding success. I thought of my friend as I read this piece on failure from Fast Company.
Throughout my years as a journalist, failure is probably the most frequent subject I’ve talked about with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and tech industry CEOs. It’s a subject virtually all of them have admitted to being personally familiar with. In fact, most of the VCs and CEOs I’ve spoken with say they would be loath to invest in someone, either through funding or offering them a job, if that person hasn’t personally experienced failure before.
Failure is fundamental to our growth. If we can learn from what went wrong and why we know what to avoid or alter in the future to avoid a repeat. Or as Bill Gates once put it: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
A great example is Walt Disney.
In his early twenties, Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.” Then in 1921 Disney founded his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, in Kansas City, Missouri. It went bankrupt within two years. It’s only after this failure that Disney decided to move west to pursue his dreams in Hollywood. The rest, as they say, is history. After picking up the pieces from his past failures, Disney would found the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, which would later become the Walt Disney Studio, in 1923. Over the course of his life, Disney would receive 59 nominations for the Academy Awards, winning 22 of them.
Read the entire piece to learn about other examples of huge successes that suffered big failures.