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How to Become an Entrepreneur: The #1 Secret for Success

by Keith Norris
Home/Blog/Protect Your Mental Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

fail forward fast
Wondering how to become an entrepreneur? Then “fail fast forward” is a secret you’re going to want to take lots of notes on.

Here’s what the phrase means and how to use it to your advantage for growing your business…

If you’re looking for answers “how to become an entrepreneur,” then get familiar with the phrase “fail fast forward.”

“Fail fast forward” is a popular phrase in business that basically means, failure may be part of the process, but learn from it (fast), pick up the pieces and move on.

Fail fast forward is what helped people like the Wright brothers create the first airplane, Thomas Edison invent the lightbulb and Steve Jobs create the amazing iPhone.

As great of a theory as it is, however, curious new “fail fast forward” martyrdom has evolved, that may be shooting entrepreneurs in the foot if they aren’t careful. Let us all step back then, take a big breath, and think about how the fail fast forward concept should be and SHOULDN’T be utilized for both those considering how to become an entrepreneur and those working in the field.

“Fail Fast Forward”: Gone Wrong

If we look at the fail fast forward concept from, let’s say, a baseball analogy, would we ever coach a batter to hurry up and strike out? 

Even if the act of striking out could somehow make him a better batter in the end? Of course not!

We have to win today to even make it to tomorrow!

But that’s exactly what the concept of  fail fast forward has become: go in marginally prepared and take scant probability cuts against low and outside pitches. 

This, my friends, is NOT what fail fast forward is about. Nor is it about amassing battle wounds and bragging right scars.  Get this through your head early if you’re wondering how to become an entrepreneur.

How to Become an Entrepreneur: A Sporting Analogy

Again, another sporting analogy: training programs are undertaken to make an athlete or trainee better.

What good can come from beating an athlete into the ground or repeated forced failure?

As a trainer and coach, myself,  I can make a trainee puke in two minutes flat…but what’s the point in that?

Have I made that trainee better in doing so? Again, failure for failure’s sake is not the point.

And believe me: stay in the entrepreneurial game long enough and those battle scars will come without your having to seek them out.  In fact, they’ll come despite your best efforts at avoiding them.  It’s just the nature of the game.

Courting failure is not the intent in the answer to “how to become an entrepreneur.”

We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and the prize here is success. It’s winning at whatever game we choose in which to leverage the fail fast forward idea.

Back to the Roots: Where did Fail Fast Forward come from?

The idea can’t be tied to one single person.

It’s more a collective, imagined mythos of how the battle-hardened (and now successful) mogul got to be that way, and it’s nothing less than propaganda sold to the hungry, burgeoning entrepreneur in search of answers (and motivation).

Think about this for just a moment: selling failure is a pretty damn smart thing to do! 

We can argue the ethics of this, but not the savvy. Edison failed a bazillion times before inventing the lightbulb, you’re told. Now get going and fail your way to success! Are you failing? Perfect! See? My program is working!

The problem with this analogy is that Edison, in the case of the lightbulb, was acting as an inventor.

An inventor, by the way, whose endeavors where funded by other profitable (i.e., not failing) channels. And although there is some overlap between the acts of inventing and entrepreneurship, their systems, processes, and expected outcomes are totally different.

Much the same as with shortstops and catchers. That they are both baseball players who have to have a good bat is where the similarities end.

Look, I’m all for motivation and rah-rah. But somewhere within the motivational marketing hype, a thread of common sense was lost.

Again, let’s step back, take a breath, and remember: if you accept failure as an outcome, you’ll get just that. Repeatedly. And with no win in sight.

So if failing toward success isn’t the goal, what is?

Colonel David Hackworth once quipped, “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.” This should be the mantra by which entrepreneurs live. Failure to plan is planning to fail.  

Life isn’t so simple though. Because as Mike Tyson is famous for pointing out:

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

So, how do we reconcile these two realities?  

By diligent planning, first and foremost. But also by adaptingAnd learning!

2 Entrepreneur Essentials: Adapt & Learn

It’s not that the person looking how to become an entrepreneur should endeavor to “fail fast” and “fail forward,” but iterate fast and iterate forward.

It’s in fast evolution in relation to circumstance and surroundings that we’ll succeed. 

We don’t strive for failure – and, in fact, do everything in our planning power to circumvent it – but we’re not put off by our best efforts ending up in a “punch to the face”.  

There is no failure, only feedback. 

Learn from Feedback

We learn from that feedback and evolve.

We’re malleable. But only our best efforts part the ropes and enter the ring. We’re only taking cuts at high percentage pitches and at favorable counts. We feel the sting of our best efforts going awry, yet persevere anyway.

Yes, if in spite of our best planning and effort we come up short, we have to dust ourselves off, pivot (a term we’ll explore next time), and get back in the tumble. This might be described as the “square jaw, taciturn” mindset.

The goal, as always, is to come out with the best game plan possible; gunning for a first round knockout. 

There is no honor in poor preparation, stumbling and bumbling into a multitude of pivots and corner work. I mean, at the end of the day, this idea of ours has to show a return on investment! (Unless you’re a trust fund baby, you’re eventually going to have to pony-up for a roof over your head and a bite to eat).  

Learn from Failure

There is also a time and place to learn from failure.

For instance, at Paleo f(x)™, financial success translates into a bigger megaphone. Our intent is to progress the Paleo movement, and profit is the required energy to make that happen. Failure, even momentary failure, retards that process and stalls the movement as a whole.

So don’t think for a minute that failure is a necessity for successful entrepreneurship.  Or life for that matter.

But we do have to be malleable (coachable), eager to learn and be immune to the sting of whatever failure/feedback does come our way.

That to know success, we will have to persevere in spite of those repeated punches in the face in no way means that those punches should find an easy target.  

The Bottom Line:

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world. That is how you will become an entrepreneur. 

– Keith



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Keith Norris

Keith is one of those few lucky souls who has been able to completely transition out of corporate America and dive headlong into his passion for bettering lives by teaching the art and science of physical culture.  He not only “walks the walk” on a day-to-day basis, but his economic well-being hinges on his precepts […]