I just came across a great quote attributed to Sir Richard Branson. He said, “Show me an entrepreneur who says they have never failed and I will show you a liar. We all fail- that is what helps us succeed.” Attaboy, Sir Richard, tell it like it is!
A good poker player can read “tells” of other players. A tell is some tic or expression that an opponent will have that gives away what cards they have. An experienced player will work to pick up on his opponents tells and when he does he’ll own them. In the same spirit, entrepreneurs will give off their own tells. I always know who the wannabe players are and who the real street fighting players are.
Wannabe entrepreneurs will spend the lions share of a conversation talking about themselves and bragging, a lot! They tend to not be very good listeners as they spend most of a conversation looking for opportunities to talk about themselves.
A conversation with a real, battle tested entrepreneur is a bit different. I’ve found that there certainly is a heavy dose of confidence in the room, however, that tends to trend toward humble confidence. These are people who have been there, done that and made mistakes. Conversations many times will revolve around the mistakes they’ve made and how they’ve identified the root cause of them. Then the discussion moves to their solution. Or, how their strategy then was adjusted to, so that they never made the mistake again. They willingly shared their failures hoping that through the story, others wouldn’t have to endure it themselves. Keep in mind some of these mistakes involved losing some money and sometimes it was a lot of money.
Nonetheless, these conversations always seem to be shared with a sense of teaching a real-life experience. Ego aside, they expect nothing in return other than to know that somehow, or some way, their story might help someone else at the table. One additional observation; the real entrepreneur always seemed to be able to walk away and move forward, once the mistake was identified, analyzed and the lesson learned. They didn’t dwell on it or lose sleep over it. They just learned from it and moved on with this new knowledge.
As Sir Richard said, “. We all fail- that is what helps us succeed.”