Failure breeds success: Mike Greene's guest blog for Allia


In the second of a series of Guest Blogs for Allia Serious Impact, Mike Greene talks about a topic, and a piece of advice, that has helped define his career. Borrowing the title from his book Failure breeds success, here Mike shares advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on facing failure, and growing from the experiences.

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Speak to any successful or seasoned entrepreneur, and they will tell you that they have experienced a great deal of failure on their journey. In fact many will tell you that they have come to realise that it is a crucial part of the journey toward building resilience and refining an idea into a world class product or business.

On my own journey from poverty to success, I have had some spectacular ups and downs, but luckily (although I believe that you make your own luck!) I have had far greater Ups than Downs in number and scale. That said, I went bankrupt and lost my home in my mid-twenties after losing sight of the key law of business: “cash is king”. More businesses go bust due to lack of cash than because of a lack of sales.

But I have had some great mentors, I will never forget the day I was told:

“Failure is an event, not a destination, unless you choose to stay there…and why would you choose to stay there?”

Hindsight is easy, but I can honestly say that my greatest successes have come after some of my greatest failures and those successes far outweigh the pain or cost of those failures.

As I mentor young entrepreneurs and early stage businesses or SMEs, I am increasingly aware that we live in an X factor and lottery world where people are deluded into thinking that happiness or success can be bought or that some talent spotter is going to suddenly see you and transport you to a life of luxury and happiness within weeks…

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t happen, or at least it only happens to about one in 50 million people and I prefer the odds of working hard, working smart and working until you win.

As the quote by Vince Lombardi goes “the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary” …and whilst talking about dictionaries, I would also note that Failure comes before Success in the dictionary as well as in life.

In fact, as adults we seem to forget that since we were born we have been conditioned through experience to learn the law of ‘failure breeds success’ – from our first failures to walk as babies, where we fall down thousands of times before our first staggering steps… Or learning to ride a bike through endless bruises from the falls… Or even in playing computer games or in relationships where we often must score badly until experience and practice help us find our success… Everything we are truly successful at probably grew out of a passion to improve until we achieved success.

There are endless great quotes and success stories that embody this law and I have shared some of my favourites below:

  1. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Several more of his businesses failed before the premiere of his movie “Snow White”.

  1. Oprah Winfrey was publicly fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore for getting “too emotionally invested in her stories.”

But Winfrey rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows before amassing a media empire. Today she is worth a cool $3 billion, according to Forbes.

  1. Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”

After that, things stayed bleak for a while, as Edison went on to be fired from his first two jobs, for not being suitably productive.

Edison went on to hold more than 1,000 patents and invented some world-changing devices, like the phonograph, practical electrical lamp, and a movie camera.

  1. Sir James Dyson. While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his entire savings over 15 years.

But the 5,127th prototype worked, and the Dyson brand became the best-selling bagless vacuum brand in the United States. He is now worth an estimated $4.9 billion, according to Forbes.

  1. Michael Jordan – It might come as a shock, but the man who became what many would call the best basketball player of all time didn’t make his high school basketball team.

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

  1. “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again” – Richard Branson
  1. “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable” – Coco Chanel
  1. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
  1. “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  1. “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling.

Rowling went from being a single parent, surviving on unemployment benefits, to one of the best selling authors of all time.Twelve publishers rejected her first manuscript before it was finally picked up.


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Failure Breeds Success

Mike Greene is Entrepreneur in Residence at Allia Future Business Centre Peterborough, where he supports ventures with one to one mentoring through Serious Impact. 


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