4 reasons why you should take risks

Bill Scheessele of MBDi tells how the founders of companies appearing on Washington Technology's Fast 50 list took risks, learned from their failures and experienced great success as a result.

Risking, failing, learning, succeeding — that is a laundry list pondered many times by the founders of companies, such as many of the ones on Washington Technology’s 2010 Fast 50.

For entrepreneurs, the philosophy of risking, failing and learning the way to success is one of the most powerful concepts to embrace.

Have you ever decided to change course because you weren’t satisfied with the results your career delivered, then backed off when the psychological or physical discomfort of the unfamiliar set in? Loosening your hold on the certain or the status quo to strive for something better is risky business. It carries the risk of failure.

At one time or another, company founders had to face the decision to leave the security of a safe career and start a new business. Maybe industry conditions were much like they are now in government contracting, and the choice to leave wasn’t solely theirs because they were re-engineered out of a job. Instead of jumping to another corporate opportunity, they resolved to take business development to a new level and launch a business of their own.

Taking a risk is the act of letting go — letting go of something you are certain of and reaching for something you are not sure of but believe it is better than what you have now. Every risk situation has an unavoidable loss. Something has to be given up to move forward. Success depends more on your willingness to risk than being concerned about what happens if you fail.

When you are unhappy with where you are, you should be willing to risk — risk getting out of your comfort zone and risk failure. Only by risking failure are you likely to succeed at anything.

Too many people waste their lives thinking their objective is to succeed, when in reality all they are doing is avoiding failure. Further, in their avoidance of failure, they have blocked their deepest creative forces that can make life fulfilling, exciting and meaningful.

In reality, failure is neither good nor bad. It is simply an essential part of the human condition. Failure is universal. As business professionals, we must be willing to learn from our failures. Not all business ventures succeed; there is the concept of successfully failing.

In the act of successfully failing, there are five steps: disbelief, fear, anger, acceptance and learning. Disbelief and fear are natural reactions. Anger can be controlled, focused and transformed into perseverance, passion, conviction and desire. Acceptance is an awakening that allows us to understand that every failure is also an opportunity for a new start and fresh beginning. The learning part of failure is quite obvious. Every failure represents a lesson. Every failure adds another level of wisdom.

The most successful business professionals have failed more than anyone who is a true failure thought possible. In the act of failing successfully, there are many lessons and opportunities. There is a lesson and opportunity to:

  • Better understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Reassess your priorities, your goals and roles.
  • Refine your level of thinking.
  • Strengthen your gut system.

Success and failure are deeply intertwined. As Colin Powell once said, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure."

I contend the result of all the turmoil, leaning down, flattening out and re-engineering in the industry will result in new ways of thinking, new processes, new inventions and new technologies all brought about by newly launched companies.

Small business is the engine of economic recovery and growth. And in a few years, some of those firms will wind up on future Fast 50 lists.