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How Failing at Business Can Make You a Better Employee

When you’ve been an employee at any company, you’ve probably heard people complaining about their jobs. Though the details vary, they usually boil down to the same thing: working for somebody else sucks.

You don’t have full control over your schedule, you don’t feel like you’re getting paid fairly, or maybe you’re not passionate about the work itself. All of these issues can be fixed by becoming your own boss, or so the thinking goes. It makes a lot of people want to strike out on their own path and start a business.

But new businesses fail all the time. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years. You’re a coin toss away from going back to square one.

What if you fail and decide that you’re not cut out for the high-risk world of entrepreneurship? Failure doesn’t have to define you, but you need to extract some valuable insights from your unique experience of launching a failed business venture. Here’s how they can turn you into a better employee.

Talent isn’t everything

Running a business requires expertise in a wide range of domains. As the saying goes, entrepreneurs have to wear many hats. But you quickly learn that you can’t do everything yourself, or else you get stuck with less-than-satisfactory results. So you hire people and build a team.

Yet unless you had access to considerable startup funding (in which case you’re less likely to have failed in the first place), you probably had to work with limited personnel. Instead of getting to hire a specialist in each role, you end up with a handful of people stretching themselves to plug gaps and help each other out.

And yet somehow, the work gets done. One man can’t do everything, but even if you don’t assemble a team of all-stars, people can collaborate effectively to accomplish a result more significant than the sum of its parts.

This is a takeaway you can apply in anything, even something as self-contained and procedural as taking violin lessons. Having talent is good. Practicing hard is even better. But above all, you want feedback from your mentor, engagement with your audience, maybe even exposure on social media. Harness the power of working with others, and you’ll be a more effective person.

The right attitude towards failure

Dealing with any failure can be a burden on one’s psyche. Employees might receive harsh or negative feedback from their supervisors, fail in their performance reviews, or get leapfrogged for promotion. These things aren’t trivial, but they hardly compare to the magnitude of betting on your own business and failing.

Oddly enough, entrepreneurs who fail can become stoic or philosophical about it. On some level, you come to grasp that no matter how hard you work or how many aspects of the business you get right, there are others you can’t control.

The book What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul outlines these insights on probability and luck. Just as with trading, you have to understand that losses are part of the game in business. What you can do is change your attitude towards randomness.

Doing so will help you to let go of failures as an employee. You can rebound the right way by exercising full ownership over potential downsides and doing more to participate in opportunities, such as networking or team building, that can yield unexpected upsides.

Going above and beyond

man working

When you were your own boss, was there ever a time when you allowed yourself to slack off? Perhaps the answer is yes because your business failed. But it might be no. After all, business success doesn’t come down to your efforts alone.

Rather, at times you might have wished your employees would give a hundred percent, and then some, to help your company succeed. But that probably wasn’t always happening.

Employees have a job description. Satisfied employees might be happy with their work, but don’t go above and beyond to help the company. What you were missing was that discretionary effort: spending more time and energy than what was required, to achieve more.

As you go back to being a regular employee and working for someone else, don’t forget that. You’re more than just a cog in the machine. Do your job, but do more. Think about ways you can contribute to the bottom line. Seek to innovate; it could prove highly rewarding for your employer while satisfying the creative drive that led you to pursue business in the past.

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