A late family friend was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. The doctors told him he only had a few months left, and that he should make the most of his time with his family and get his affairs in order. How did he spend the last few months of life? Certainly not dwelling or crying over it.
He left the doctors with a positive attitude and went ahead to do all the things he had planned to do through the year. He invested in some assets, travelled around, threw some parties, and visited old friends and families. He went to his office and helped his clients.
Even during his last few days, when he was too weak to walk without someone’s assistance, he was determined to go about his day and didn’t cancel any plans he had for visiting relatives and seeing friends.
We eventually lost him, but I’m always inspired when I look back and remember his attitude, positivity, and determination about life. Even when he was assured he only had a few months, he chose to live and make the most of the time he had.
When I speak with friends and colleagues about starting a business, many respond by stating why should they bother when the odds of failing are higher than winning, that it’s better they hold on to their money and opt for a low-risk option.
I don’t fault them for their attitude about the challenges of starting and running a business. Nobody likes failure, even when there’s a silver lining to failure. Research by Harvard Business School senior lecturer Shikhar Ghosh reveals that 75 per cent of all start-ups eventually fail, with many of them not making it past the first year.
With those facts in mind why do people still venture into entrepreneurship?
I’ve invested in a couple of ventures. Lost money and time along the way. But I’m still an advocate of entrepreneurship. I still want to do more. I know that with the prospect of failure of any business that I may start, comes valuable experience that I could never be exposed to in another way.
Through entrepreneurship I learn more about myself as a person. Especially when put under pressure. I learned that I was resilient, that I don’t take no for an answer. Through experience, one comes to learn more about their limitations as a person, and what their areas of strength are.
I learned that failure is part of every process. As we yearn for success, we should also be accepting of failure. I learned that entrepreneurship is more of a mosaic, and failure is what adds beauty to that mosaic. You may not ultimately fail, but you will come across some sort of failure whether it is failure in a product launch, a marketing campaign, assembling a team, or setting a strategy. But that’s okay. The important thing is to fail fast. Don’t drag dead weight. If you realise your failure, find a quick way to come around it, and move on with your life. Don’t dwell on the process.
You eventually learn how to find your own form of success. For instance, you could launch a restaurant, and then find that you are actually amazing at marketing it more than you are at managing it, which would lead you to establish a restaurant marketing firm. For instance, I learned that I am very passionate about the professional and media industry, and so I’ve narrowed my business focus. I’m more content that way and more passionate now about what I do.
Finally, the most important lesson I learned is that even though many businesses fail, you can still make it, but only if you put in 100 per cent of yourself into the venture. Whenever I didn’t give it my all, I didn’t really go anywhere. Once I realised that, the equation changed. How else would you know unless you try?
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications firm in Abu Dhabi