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.