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5 minutes of entrepreneurial inspiration

Read over the advice offered by entrepreneurial masterminds like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and they seem to say the same thing: while success is no doubt important, failure is the real lesson. It’s no good only looking at the success stories of entrepreneurs you admire, because then it seems as if they did everything completely effortlessly – that they just waved a magic wand and their business flourished. Looking at the mistakes even these great minds made makes it easier to recover from the inevitable pitfalls on the path to success. Choosing being an entrepreneur as a career comes with the successes and the failures.

Steve Jobs

While we all think of Steve Jobs as the wildly successful creator of the Apple products we know and love, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his fair share of failure – and mistakes. How about the product failures that nobody really talks about? The Apple Lisa, Macintosh TV, the Apple III and the Powermac g4 cube, for example. Don’t know about them? That’s because the genius of the iPod, iPhone and iPad have blotted them out.

In his own words:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Want to see Steve Jobs talking about failure? Watch this video now.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson may be one of the coolest entrepreneurs around, one of the richest citizens in the United Kingdom and worth an estimated $5 billion, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t screwed up a number of times. Yes, the Virgin Group is thriving – but what about the Virgin companies that didn’t work? Virgin Cola, for starters: the most widely publicised of all Branson’s failures. Virgin Vodka went the same way (down the tubes), as did Virgin Brides (a wedding dress business), Virgin Clothing and Virgin Vie, a cosmetics business. The list goes on – and on. And what’s the lesson? You just keep trying.

In his own words:

“My mother drummed into me from an early age that I should not spend much time regretting the past. I try to bring that discipline to my business career. Over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture has failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalize on another gap in the market.”

And another pithy comment from Sir Richard:

“My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had — everyday I’m learning something new.” Bill Gates

When you think Bill Gates, you probably think business magnate, inventor, philanthropist… Failure? Not so much. But as well as co-founding Microsoft, the world’s largest personal computer software company, he also made a number of mistakes along the way. The biggest one? Ignoring the power of Search and letting Google own that space. In 1998, when Google was founded, Microsoft had the most online leverage in the world, but Gates didn’t prioritise Search, and he’s been paying the price ever since.

In his own words:

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”


Have you learnt any great lessons from failure?

Shaun Currin