Good Failure & Bad Failure

In the beginning, Amazon sold books online – and totally bulldozed the landscape. But Jeff Bezos imagined something much bigger, an ecommerce goldmine. Meanwhile, Amazon lost billions over the first four years. Some wrote Bezos off as a failure. But he trusted his vision.  

Today, Amazon is worth $1.7 trillion…and Jeff has done pretty well for himself.

As every successful entrepreneur knows, success is a bumpy road. Failure lurks at every turn, but is a necessary part of the process. It forces you to make tough choices. But, to create something of value, better get comfortable with self-doubt. 

In his letter to shareholders, Bezos wrote, “If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to invent at a size that moves the needle. I always point out that there are two different kinds of failure. There’s experimental failure, the kind you should be happy with. Those big, bold bets that either take off or face plant – things like the Fire Phone and Google+.” 

Then there’s ‘operational’ failure, when you screw up something you should’ve handled. That’s nothing to celebrate. The only lesson is: Do a better job. 

For years, NASA’s motto was ‘failure is not an option.’ But it turns out that space is hard. Bad things can happen a billion miles away. It can be argued that scientists learn more from failed missions because they’re redirected toward better solutions.

Jeff Bezos is prepared to take his lumps as founder of Blue Origin, a company that intends to offer space travel. It’s wildly ambitious. And even Jeff Bezos loses sleep, worrying about failure.

He still drives a ’96 Accord…just in case.

Beau Phillips is President of Rainmaker Media. 
He’s a creative marketing consultant, strategist and speaker.
Reach him at 203-256-9347 

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