Sunday, January 28, 2007

Failure

I am about three months from graduation (and loss of freedom), and this weekend was the first in about two months when I had a chance to breath and reflect. Wharton is whizzing past and I know that soon I will be out and about, back in the professional world, eking out a living and working on the next stage of my career. Would it be exciting? That would be an unqualified and resounding "Yes". Am I apprehensive? Maybe a bit.
I am excited about finally getting out there, and trying something really big, and maybe failing, maybe succeeding. I come from India, from a pretty risk-averse middle class family, and this is one of the first times I intend to go out on a limb. I can’t even call what I am doing as "risky". Sitting out of the interview period at Wharton to look for that elusive VC/startup position is barely risky at all considering where I come from - Silicon Valley. So there is not much to be smug about.
I was having a discussion with my girlfriend recently about the fear of failure. At Wharton, failing is not rewarded; it is not necessarily considered a positive development. In fact, in the ultra-competitive environment that B-schools are, fear of failure can be the most significant obstacle to an absolutely fulfilling career (or life for that matter). People can be just a bit too concerned about what others think about them, to try anything new. And this is so different from Silicon Valley. That brings me to a few thoughts about trying and failing.
The Reward of Trying
Failure is rewarded in Silicon Valley. It is a badge of honor that an entrepreneur wears with pride. The attitude of try, and then try again, is appreciated out there. That I believe is the single biggest attribute of that place which makes it such a hotbed of innovation. Nothing is guaranteed, and that means that anything is possible.
The Risk of fearing Failure
What if we all took the "risk" of fearing failure? We might all end up as mid-level managers, technocrats working for the real innovators. Sadly, it is my opinion that most of us MBAs end up in that bucket. After all, if we did not try, how would we know what we could be?
Failing is Learning
Ever thought of a prototype, a test-bed, or a market survey? All do the same task - that of collecting information, which in turn increases the possibility of future success. Failure, I believe, in the same category. If we fail, the worst we do is actually learn from it.
Finally, it's kind of like Climbing Cotopaxi,it probably does not matter that we failed to reach the summit. What mattered is that how we tried to reach it, and that we tried.
Something to hold on to as I traverse the next few months.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bro,

If you fail, the whole world should also fail.

My mom says - Give your 100 percent and rest God will take care of you.
But if you don't give your 100 percent, No god can help you.

You are an inspiration to thousand others wannabes. After all, only 2 percent of all big B-School graduates go directly into VC.

You definitely belong in that 2 percent....your maturity in the field shows in your blogs and your thoughts...

Don't loose hope....its always being there at a right time with the right person...keep trying....

Magically it all works out WELL at the end....thats the power of "sincere hardwork" and everything happens for a reason and it is for a good reason.

When you look back afterwards, you will laugh at the fear..

Wishing you all the best.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Thanks for your kind words. I intend to succeed. Whether my path is VC or something else, I do not know. But it will be a path of satisfaction.
The fear of failure is an unnecessary obstacle that our mind creates for us. Shoot me an email sometime. We should talk.
Best

Baris said...

Great Post! It's something that I've been thinking for a while. As you mentioned, this concept is really hard to realize at Wharton as students are surrounded by banks and consulting firms with guaranteed $$$ promises. I believe that if you can follow your gut and accept failure as a potential outcome in such an environment, you will thrive in any other place in the world. I never forget the part below from Steve Jobs' speech at Stanford:

"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 others' 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."

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Awesome insight Baris. I agree. So you of all the people that I know, needs to pull through this. Whether it is through starting your own venture or getting that VC opportunity. More power to you.

Anonymous said...

You should do a post on the how to land that summer internship at a VC firm or the venture arm of a F500 company.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

I actually did a post on searching for a VC position in one of initial writeups. Searching for an internship is not different from searching full time. But maybe I can create something customized to internships based on my experiences...

Ehchkay said...

Love the post on failure.
While success is how we are measured on our capabilities, i believe we learn alot from failures. But that is not to undermine the importance of success.

I think success brings about credibility to execute and do it right. Yes there is an element of being lucky and being blessed by a connected dad, but there are plenty of people out there who are successful on their own.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Echkay sahab, great thoughts. And to add to that, success is how you define it. One man's failure could be another man's success.

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