Failure, The Launchpad for Success
My name is Thomas Clawson and I started my first company with my co-founder Max Metcalf in February, and rode all the highs and lows of founding and running a business until earlier this week on a Tuesday in late July, when we had to shut it down. For years I’ve heard two things about starting a company. I always heard that 9 in 10 businesses fail in the first 5 years, and I always heard that it takes a lot of “hard work” to be successful. While I believed these two statements, I never really understood them. I thought, “Yeah most businesses fail because they are a bad idea or the people in charge just don’t care that much”, and I always thought “Of course it takes hard work to be successful”, but I never really knew how hard you can work at something. I am beginning to understand both of those things. The lessons I’ve learned on this journey are lessons I will use for the rest of my life.
“If you want to be a visionary, go out and have some accidents!”
— Tim Draper
I learned that hard work can take you so far. People say you need an inside edge and tons of experience to create something special. While all of that does help, you can simply be interested in something, and if you are willing to work harder than your competitor you will go places, and it will start to grow. That is exactly what we did. So, don’t be afraid that you don’t know enough, or if you are inexperienced, if you think you have a good idea, then work as hard as you can to make it come to life. Spend time on it, think about it, study it and create it. If you are willing to put in the time you will see amazing things happen.
I learned that the relationships you have with the people you love are the most important thing in the world. The movie It’s a Wonderful Life has it right, “Remember, No man is a failure who has friends”. At the end of the day I always had people who stood by me and they are the people that make life something special for all of us. Do all you can to surround yourself with talented, fun, and kind friends.
I learned to TAKE RISKS! Sometimes they don’t pay off, but that is ok, you never have to wonder “what if?”, you never have to look back and say, “that could have been me”. Instead you can say, “Well that was fun”, or “I’m never doing that again”, or “That was the best decision of my life”. I took a risk starting Goosenecks, and some will say it failed, I will always say it was a risk worth taking.
Mark Zuckerberg says it best “The biggest risk is not taking any risk”.
From taking risks comes the potential for success, and if I have learned anything it is what it means to be successful. I’ve always thought about success, and how I would achieve it. I always thought that it was reflected by income, title, or how much someone has. Not the case. I will say that success is working hard, doing what you love everyday, and going to bed anxious for tomorrow to come.
I learned to never give up, and always keep fighting. For the past week, we were running between banks, meeting with anyone we could, and we were willing to give up anything to keep it alive. It was just too late, but we did everything we could. Early in the process people were telling us why we were too young to start the Festival, and why it would never work. Months later they were hoping to be a part of it. And while this venture didn’t succeed, I am not giving up. The moment it ended, the wheels started spinning with new ideas, and the momentum from this first venture has kept moving forward. I can tell you now, the past six months are only the beginning of great things.
I’m beyond disappointed that Goosenecks couldn’t happen, but I’m even more excited to have set myself on a path for success. I am surrounded by amazing people with great ideas, my family loves me, and I am still going to bed anxious for the next day. Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn said ”We don’t celebrate Failure in Silicon Valley. We celebrate learning”. All this has done was teach me so many things to help me succeed in the future, and connected me with people who can help me accelerate growth in the future. I believe failure is the launchpad for success, it is the best way to learn and to grow. When you fail you feel the consequences of it, and you know you can do or make something better. The scratches and bruises of failure make you more excited to move forward, they validate you, they remind you of what matters most.
So long story short, my first company failed, I spent 6 months of my life, and a lot of money into something that didn’t pan out, and I can’t be more excited about the future.