Failure? What Failure?

What do successful business owners, entrepreneurial millionaires, have to say about failure?

Here are some of the thoughts they shared, taken from my book, “21 Questions for 21 Millionaires.”

Millionaire 18 Shawn Kane

Q: What have you learned from some of your failures?

A: “There’s always another way to do something, there’s different perspective. A failure to me is not a failure. It’s a challenge to learn a better way to do something.”

Millionaire 2 Jeffrey Luftig

Q: What did you learn from some of your failures?

A: Speed bumps. Every one had a different lesson.

Millionaire 5 Heidi Ganahl

Q: “How would you say you got where you are, if you had to distill it?”

A: “I’d say my lack of fear, my vision and my sheer, stubborn tenacity. I’m not going to fail. Failure is not an option for me.

Yeah, I piddled around with these other companies doing these other things, but this is what I’m supposed to do and I’m going to be a big success. You just have to believe that in your head.”

Millionaire 13 Bill Begal

“I look at all my grandfather’s siblings who literally had nothing and worked hard and helped each other out in a typical old country or European way of life. They busted their [tails] and they did something with it; they made it work. There was a lot of failure, it wasn’t easy, but they worked.”

Millionaire 14 Doug Krug

Q: “What did you learn from your failures?”

A: “That it’s no big deal. I’ve done it. Last count I’ve started from nothing five times, so it’s no big deal.”

Millionaire 19 Judith Briggs

“My mantra has always been–and this stems back to when I was divorced in 1993–‘Failure is not an option for me. I am a survivor.’”

Q: “What have you learned from your failures?”

A: “I’m glad you asked that question because sometimes people will ask, ‘What have you failed at?’

I don’t look at failures as failures. I look at failures as learning experiences. I guess you [could] say that my two marriages failed; I don’t look at them as failures. I look at them as they each offered me an opportunity. If I hadn’t gotten married the second time, I wouldn’t be in the business that I’m in today.

In both of them I learned to be a lot more independent. I’ve learned how to do things around the house myself. I’ve learned that I can run the business by myself. I don’t need that business partner. I just work a little bit harder. I don’t necessarily have somebody to spring ideas on, but that’s where my forum comes in.

So you learn from failures. You can’t look at it as, ‘I’ve failed.’ You can’t dwell on it. You always have to make lemonade out of lemons. I know that’s so cliché, but it’s so true.”

Millionaire 21 Richard Zuschlag

Q: “What have you learned from your failures?”

A: “No matter how good you are at what you do, you’re always going to fail and I come back to my persistence. When I fail, it’s like the mouse in the maze; I turn around and go back the other way until I find my way out. Sometimes I’ll fail two or three times, but when I am determined I will stay after it.

Over the last couple years I’ve developed ‘Z’s Ps.’ My Z’s [‘Z’ for Zuschlag] Ps are Persistence, Positive Attitude, Passion, Politeness, Practice, Patience, Pride, and Prayer, which all lead to Prosperity.

I love when I speak to talk about Z’s Ps because I can expound on each characteristic and how I learned it. While some of that came to me naturally, when I put it in writing I was able to practice some of the ones I was weak in, particularly patience.”

Millionaire 8 Barry Hamilton:

“I had failures and successes early on in life. I think it taught me to continue to pursue things that I liked and if I didn’t quite get there and failed, it didn’t mean I was a failure. It just meant that it wasn’t meant to be and I needed to go to the next one.

I’ve had real estate deals where I didn’t make any money; it doesn’t mean we’re a failure. Sometimes you have to get out of stuff and learn your lessons and go on.

I think it’s a belief in yourself that you can bounce back from adversity. Your last failure was just the last one before you could be successful. It’s how we learn as humans. I definitely think that my parents have a lot to do with instilling confidence in me and in my abilities to do what I wanted to do.

I keep re-learning from my failures that I need to keep my communication skills and my communication actions at a high level, both in personal relationships and business relationships so that there aren’t any misunderstandings of who is supposed to do what.

It’s about doing what you say and saying what you do and making sure that you’re aligned with the people in your life, whether it’s personal or business. You need to communicate it on a repeated basis so there’s not a misunderstanding of what’s supposed to be delivered when. Failures usually are a result of miscommunication.”

Millionaire 7 Vance Andrus

Q: “What did you learn from your failures?”

A: “There is a speech I give to young lawyers I call ‘Andrus’ Aphorisms.’ It summarizes a lot of my philosophies.

The question is, ‘What did you learn from your failures?’ Here it is [reading from Andrus’ Aphorisms]:

‘You’re momma doesn’t live here, clean up your own mess. You have to be honest with yourself with respect to failures and honestly appraise to what extent were outside influences responsible versus some failure on your part. If it was outside influences, to what extent did you fail to anticipate and react or act proactively to reduce or stop those outside influences from affecting your performance?’

Beyond that, you just pick up and move on.

Don’t pass judgment on yourself such as, ‘I’m a bad person.’ Instead say, ‘I made a mistake. I didn’t see that coming. I need to get a little better because I need to go back in.’

You know you’re not going to quit, so why not just learn something?

Clean it up, that’s number one. Number two, try to learn something from it.

That’s it. It’s not great philosophy there.

I was talking to a woman who was a homemaker. Her husband died suddenly of a heart attack; he had owned a heavy equipment construction firm. She took over and grew it beyond what he had ever had. She became the first woman appointed to the Fed [Federal Reserve System].

She was talking to my university class one day and somebody asked her that question about success: ‘Can everybody be successful? Why are there failures?’

She said in her experience she believed that everyone in their lifetime has the same number of successes and the same number of failures. Yet there are people who we point to and say, ‘They’re really successful, but here’s this other group and they’re failures in life.’

She said, ‘The successes and the failures have the same number of success incidents and failure incidents in their lives. What’s the difference? People who are successful learn from their failures but build on their successes. People who are failures learn nothing from their successes but build on their failures.’

I’ll bet you know somebody who has struggled all their life in their work and has not done well. If you talk to them what you’ll eventually get to is something like, ‘Yeah, I had this job and I got cheated out of this.’ And they talk about it like it happened to them yesterday. They’ve built on that failure. Everything that comes after that, it’s because of that.

I didn’t get every contract I ever went after. I made mistakes in contracts I had. I offended a person here, I offended a person there, and lost business. I made mistakes, but I didn’t dwell on them. I figured out how to learn from them. It’s what you do with them and how you react to them that makes the difference.”

learn from failure, what failure