Trust the fail

Trust the failI’ve been a student of failure for much of my life. As far as I can remember, I’ve failed. And, indeed, I want to keep failing…if I can.

When I was but six, with parents as small town grocers and away much of the day, I held a yard sale. I gathered up a variety of household items including my mother’s jewelry. While my little enterprise was successful and I managed to “earn” a few bucks, let’s just say that I paid a price for my failure to request permission. Mom’s jewelry was recovered. Lessons learned!

In my early teens, I had the great idea to go out in the winter and “contract” for much of the lawn mowing in our little village. My idea was to then hire other kids to do the work and split the fees with them. I managed to secure about a dozen lawns without much trouble. All I had to do was manage this small enterprise and the monies would pour in! But within a week I got a call from a wealthy customer. Seems that she caught one of my “partners” having stolen $20 from her purse. Lessons learned!

In my late twenties, I sold a majority interest in my then current business to venture capitalists. Our business continued to grow but I was horrifically unhappy. After 4 years, I left the firm and much of my equity behind. Lessons learned!

While I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of success in life, and am forever grateful to those who have helped me along the way, my successes have come about only on the heels of failure. The count is incomprehensible. Failure is part of the fabric of life. It’s the resolve to overcome failure that separates the meek from the mighty. And if you study failure as I have over the past 40+ years, you’ll learn that many of the world’s most successful individuals have started out with failure. The list is long; Einstein, Edison, Jobs, Winfrey, Disney and even Lincoln. Their amazing successes were built on failure. Why is this important?

“Entrepreneurs don’t have failures, we have learning experiences.”

As I’ve witnessed over these many years working with optometry, many fail to move forward out of fear. I hear fear daily:

“We tried pre-appointment, it doesn’t work.”
“We simply can’t find good people.”
“We can’t afford to pay that much for an employee.”
“We have to take every vision plan.”
“There’s no way that we can have 100% AR sales.”
“We can’t sell nutraceuticals in our practice.”

The list is long. These real comments signal fear and the inability or unwillingness to push through the inevitable setbacks to get to the desired results. This mindset, if continued, inevitably results in the ultimate failure; the failure to be relevant. The marketplace is not static. What worked yesterday will likely not work tomorrow. It’s unfortunate that many of your colleagues don’t understand this and will likely not make it through the next decade; Out of fear.

So why this message and why now? Because competition is heating up from all corners. Whether Vision Plans, Big Box Retailers, On-Line Optical and even Cyber Exams, it’s no longer business as usual. To stay ahead, private practice optometry must become more creative; more resolute.

The Achilles heel of creativity is fear of failure. But in the simplest of terms, you can’t have one without the other. Indeed, fail faster.

Trust the fail.

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