Going to college can teach you a lot of important things, and one of the biggest lessons in business that I learned was when I was in my third year at college. That said, it was not at school rather at home during the summer break.
At the time, my mother ran an art gallery in our hometown of Los Altos, CA. One of her biggest customers was Bill Parsons, founder of a large west coast pizza franchise called Roundtable Pizza. One day while I was visiting my mother at the gallery, Bill pulled up in his orange and white ’57 Chevrolet Corvette. It was stunning. Bill could see the look on my face and graciously offered to take me for a ride.
I was beaming during the drive and could not stop thinking that Bill must be someone who has had a charmed life. I mean, how else can someone be so successful? While we were humming down the freeway, I had to confirm this thought and asked Bill how he became so successful with Roundtable Pizza.
His response was simple – “I failed three times with startups before Roundtable. In fact, I went bankrupt three times.” He then added, “You need to be willing to fail in order to succeed.”
Those words still ring true for me today. It helped me when I started my own consulting practice 5 years ago, and it especially helps me when coaching talented and smart professionals who struggle to push their comfort zone. Whether it is trying to build a new relationship, ask a prospective client for business, or set ambitious goals, most professionals do not like to fail and would rather avoid sticking their neck out to protect their ego. The only problem with professionals who have that mindset is that they rarely reach their true potential. Their business plateaus or even dips and they blame it on outside factors that they "cannot control."
For those of you who find yourself hanging onto the “let’s play it safe” mindset, start working your way toward the “let’s go for it” mindset. This does not need to happen overnight but in small steps. Whether it is reaching out to someone you think is unreachable, asking a prospective client what it might take to work with them, or setting goals and metrics that will keep you accountable, now is a good time to do it.
It is okay if you fall short of anything you set to accomplish. Not everything works out as planned, yet the lessons learned from the shortcomings will make you stronger and more effective the next time you try.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Bill when his first venture caused him to go bankrupt. Most people would have thrown in the towel and found a 9-5 job. Bill had a bigger vision and drive to push past the temporary setback, which eventually paid off for him.
I am not suggesting all of you need to go bankrupt to be successful, but I am saying that many of you could do a better job at pushing your comfort zone and keeping your eye on the ball with regards to what you really want to accomplish in your career and life.