Failure is the first prerequisite of successful entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur is preoccupied with success. But to succeed, we must first understand failure.

This is not to suggest that failure is something to strive for. On the contrary, we want to understand why failures happen so that we can better avoid them. Japan: To Fix your Economy, Honor Your Failed Entrepreneurs says that the reason Silicon Valley is a haven for entrepreneurship is because they have learned to accept failure and view it as progress.

As human beings, we actually learn a lot more from our failures than our successes. This is because our failures are more memorable to us. As painful as they are, lost opportunities are constant reminders of our mistakes. When we succeed, we may become cocky and sloppy. When we realize we have screwed up, we vow not to do it again.

While all failures can be great learning initiatives, it is always important to try to learn from the failures of others whenever possible. There is no sense repeating their mistakes, so following other companies both inside and outside your industry is always a great idea.

Studying your own mistakes and the mistakes of other entrepreneurs is a great stepping stone to achieving success. You must also come to accept the fact that you are inevitably going to continue making your own mistakes as well. The process is inevitable and no amount of wisdom will ever change that.

However, you can also have a plan in place to minimize the impact of your mistakes. If you can try to forecast the possibility (or rather the certainty) that you will make a mistake, you can be better prepared to deal with the consequences. Learning how to forecast and address these issues ahead of time is a learned skill. Every mistake is unique so you cannot possibly address every possible failure you encounter, but being prepared is always the best approach.

Practical Intelligence

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Success is the most flaunted word in this ever so mean, competitive world and every individual strives to achieve it, but only a handful have been able to savor the sweet taste of success. Every individual has the potential to succeed, yet it escapes our imagination as to why it eludes most of them. There are instances of people who work hard and excel in academics, yet struggle to find success in their careers. On the contrary, there are legendary instances of people who are high school dropouts reaching iconic status.

Innate abilities differ from person to person; some are highly talented and some not so. Success is derived from developing these abilities through everyday learning and putting them to effective use. This can be termed as “Street Smartness” or “Practical Intelligence”.

Practical Intelligence

Professor Robert J. Sternberg, an eminent psychologist at Yale University in the US defines Practical Intelligence as —

It is the ability to adapt to, shape, and select everyday environments.

When described in a set of lucid words – it is our common sense. Practical Intelligence is the knowledge acquired by doing everyday activities through various means. This knowledge cannot be imparted. It is the art of doing the right thing and the right time, or saying the right thing ant the right time to the right person, or applying the right knowledge at the right time. No, I did not intend to play a tongue twister!

It is true that academic and analytical intelligence claim monopoly in today’s technology bound industries. There is a need to be technically sound and develop good analytical skills and adhere to vibrant problem-solving techniques. To reach the peak or to go that extra mile it is equally important that we develop creativity. Even technology today is reaching new heights because people involved behind these advances have realized the need of the hour, that is, the subtle blend of analytical, creative, and practical intelligence.

Developing expertise

It is not just enough to develop our practical intelligence and never put it to practice. It is as good as learning a musical instrument and never playing practicing it. It is absolutely vital that we practice in order to play better and probably become an expert. Similarly, our innate abilities and intelligence need to be put to practice in order to develop expertise. Revisiting the fact that abilities differ across people, it is this practical intelligence that helps us fill the void that is required to excel or succeed, achieved by making the aptest decisions.

The world has understood the importance of practical intelligence and its role in the day to day problem-solving. This is evident by the fact that employers today based their recruitment on the basic skills required to excel and not only on the grades obtained in the analytical tests conducted by the institutions. The days are far gone when a mere degree would decide the fate of a candidate, ensuring thrifty business.

Studies conducted by Professor Robert J. Sternberg and his team suggests that people who are academically good often fail to cope up with the problems in life whereas the opposite is true with people who are comparatively weak in academics. This would probably explain why many top icons have scaled such heights which others can only dream of.

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