I still remember results day. It seemed to come round faster every year, didn't it?
Remember the feel of the brown envelope you got at school? A little heavier than normal paper, not quite as thick as card. The faint scent of whatever adhesive they used to hold it together and clutch your future tight.
Then again at university. Not wanting to blink in case the computer clock clicked over and you were a millisecond behind everyone else. Frantically hitting the "refresh" button to see if your marks had found their way into somewhere you had access to yet. The departmental phone almost definitely ringing off the hook when there was a five minute lag in them uploading.
I don't think many people would say they enjoyed the experience. We've all been there – struggling to get to sleep the night before because we're scared of "the F word".
And why wouldn't we be? We're conditioned to think of failure as a negative. Throughout our lives school, university and work it's something to be swerved, avoided and (if it does happen) even denied.
So you'd be forgiven for being as confused as I was when an American colleague looked me in the eye and told me that I "need to fail more".
I thought I'd misheard him at first. Then he repeated it.
"You need to fail more".
It took me a while to understand what he meant, longer to put it into practice and even longer for my entire team to think this way. Here are some of the reasons why he was right:
1) Fear of failure holds you back.
We meet people every day with the skills and knowledge to make a go of their business idea but something holds them back. What if it doesn't work? What if…what if…what if? The truth is you'll never know until you try, and trying means risking failure. Once you overcome that fear the field is open. New opportunities appear, things go in exciting directions you might not anticipate, and you really do pick up speed! You know the cliché about missing 100% of the shots you don't take? It's become a cliché because it gets repeated. It gets repeated because it's true.
2) Not being open about failure holds your startup back.
Let's be honest – startups don't always go according to plan. At times it can feel like more things are wrong than right. That's all part of the process. If we collectively bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything's perfect we miss out. Who knows what help, guidance, advice and support might be on offer if we were open about the fact things weren't going perfectly in the first place?
3) Not failing holds your own learning back.
If everything goes well then we learn how to cope when things go well. That's fine, as long as it goes equally well, in the same way, next time. What if it doesn't? Things can go wrong in all kinds of different ways, and you definitely learn more from experiencing them (and working out how to manage your way through!) than when things go to plan.
Now don't get me wrong – I'm not saying you should aim to be featured here. But there's no reason to make the startup journey any more difficult than it already is! Be honest, open and accepting of failure. See what a difference it makes.
If I could return to that conversation with my colleague now I'd have the perfect response.
"You need to fail more".
"No, we all need to fail more."
Blog post by Will Pritchard, founder of Uncaged Ventures