So many startup teachers say, “Don’t be afraid of failure.” There are inspirational blogs with quotes by important people. We’re constantly reminded of the “Two (graduates from Institution XYZ) Who Are Disrupting the (blank) Industry.”
By reading it all, you’d think you’d be a failure just for fearing failure at all. So here’s my question, “Is it really that irrational to have some fear that your startup could fail?”
I mean, you hire some people — generally young ones. They work insane hours on a project that burns cash. Customers work hard to promote your product to naysayers. Eventually you raise more money — someone else’s hard earned money. With the help of these people, your company could crush it. Or it could go belly up, and tons of people lose their jobs. Is it always wise to throw caution or experience into the wind here?
Aristotle created the concept of the Golden Mean. Wikipedia summarizes this well:
The desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.
Aristotle would agree — you shouldn’t beat yourself up for failing. But you know what? A line of participation trophies suck. They especially suck when you spend millions or even billions of other people’s money building something nobody needs. It’s not the end of the world, but do we really have to glorify it? In the words of my friend PJ Christie, “When did we start fetishizing failure?”