Learning From Online Business Failures


I remember reading a book on Judo a long time ago. It advised that to be a good martial arts practitioner one must learn how to fall. It made a lot of sense since if a person is trying to learn Judo and doesn’t learn to minimize one’s fall, great injury is probably bound to happen. As a small online entrepreneur, I wasn’t aware at the time that this same wise advice can also apply to running your own online business. In order to be a good businessperson, you have to learn how to fail.

Failure is endemic in everything we do. The world is uncertain and many of the best laid plans don’t always bear fruit. At best, many of them do not bear the kind of fruit we expected. People should expect disappointments and obstacles since they are part of life. However, expecting obstacles and being ready to learn from them are very different from expecting to fail and giving up. The ability to fail “the right way” goes a long way in helping us avoid the number one enemy of success
in the real world–quitting. Quitting is the sure fire way to lose at anything. You have effectively stopped the clock. Game over. By learning to fail “the right way” we try to plant the seeds of success borne by learning from our failures.

I don’t claim to be a super success in what I do but I have learned a couple of things along the way. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful. The best way to illustrate failing “the right way” is to analyze ways to fail “the wrong way.”

Wrong Way Number One: Take things personally

Many things happen to webmasters that are out of their control. Servers crash. Traffic fails to appear. Old ways of making income/generating traffic change. Content delivery/quality gets botched up. Subcontractors flake out. The list is endless. One of the worst things a webmaster can do is to take things personally and say to themselves “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.” Another variant is “Maybe I’m too dumb” or “I don’t have ‘touch’ for this.” Or “I don’t have the connections.” Or “I started too late in the game.” By focusing on the “I” in these silent statements and assessments of what has gone wrong, webmasters let their disappointments OWN them. Your disappointment does not OWN you–you are more than just a website that was laid out or promoted wrong. You are more than an income statement. However, by saying the negative statements above, you make your identity indistinguishable from your failure.

A better way to state failure is to take ownership and control of them. “I designed my site wrong.” Or “I chose to pursue my niche the wrong way.” Notice the difference? The “I” in these statements are in control. If you decided to do something, then you can decide to do something else or fine tune that action. The “I” in this situation is in a position of control. This is similar in operation to the old saying that “losers” ask ‘what happened?’ and “winners” MAKE it happen. Your perception of whether you are in control goes a long way in determining your success.

Wrong Way Number Two: Blame someone else

Failure and disappointment are everywhere. That’s the way it has been, the way it is, and the way it will continue to be. Many of the successful people in this world didn’t hit it big with their first try. Many of the most successful businesspeople in the world only became a success with their second, third, even thirtieth venture. However, they still became successful because they realized that ultimately–THEY were in control of their own success. Many people choose to fail because they blame other people for their failures. This may take the form of hosting deals gone bad or designs that failed to produce the desired effect. The problem with blaming others for failures that beset us is that it takes US out of the equation. By being out of the picture, it absolves us of having to take action. This is a huge problem because it breeds personal complacency and just gives us an excuse.

Don’t get me wrong–there are many instances when, rightly, others are to blame. However, when we are feeling so cheated and so defeated by others’ mess ups, it is really only up to us to get up and try again. Partners will steal. People will lie. Government agencies will make adverse rules. That’s just part of life. However, by giving up and just sulking and pointing the finger at the responsible party does not absolve you of taking action to correct your personal situation.

Wrong Way Number Three: Habit vs. Evolution

There’s a reason people laughed at Columbus because he thought the world was round. Or at Copernicus because he argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun. People have a mental habit of how the world and the things in it should be and how they should operate. We all have mental habits. However, by failing to break past these mental barriers, we are only limiting ourselves to what is possible with what we currently have. If conditions change (and they always do), we are left only with our assumptions and disappointment. Break your habits. Question why you do the things you do. Question whether you are settling for the results you get. Obviously, someone out there is generating more results than you. Learn from them. Challenge your personal limits and attitude to accommodate what they do.

There are two main types of people. On the one hand, there are people that naturally gravitate towards a higher level because they are curious and have a strong sense of possibility/wonder. On the other, there are people that go to the next level, because they are FORCED to. There’s no right answer here–you are either one type, the other, or a mix of both. However, it’s up to you to realize what motivates you and to break your mental habits so you can evolve to the next level of your personal journey to greater success.

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