While in Olufunbi's office I saw a magazine and in it I saw a quote by the founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston, "Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once". It reminded me of this memorable saying by Warren Buffett in his 2001 University of Georgia students Q&A session, "In life you don't get 400 or 500 great opportunities, you only have to swing hard at the one or two great opportunities you get." Ok. I paraphrased that a bit. But there's another of his speech where he claimed that in his entire 60+ years of investing only about 5 investment decisions made him the bulk of all the money he has made.
The truth is that in life you don't need to win always, you shouldn't be afraid of failing, there are no A-B-C-D-E-F grades, you don't have to be always right. To be a success you just have to be right a few times. I hear that in baseball, if you get 30%, which is same as getting an F in school, you are a superstar. That you can hit the ball 30 times out of 100, that you are right just 30% of the time turns you into an international champion is against all I have spent over 20 years of my life learning. Even in the corporate world, the one thing everyone avoids and hates is when there's a record of failure engineered by you. When your idea fails. It doesn't matter if that's the only idea out of the 100 you have donated that failed, that the other 99 succeeded. Nothing makes one more furious than when another colleague refers to that idea.
I like the way Mark Cuban puts it (http://blogmaverick.com/2005/05/30/success-and-motivation-you-only-have-to-be-right-once/):
No one really asks me about my adventures working for Mellon Bank, or Tronics 2000, or trying to start a business selling powdered milk (it was cheaper by the gallon, and I thought it tasted good). They don’t ask me about working as a bartender at night at Elans when I first got to Dallas, or getting fired from my job at Your Business Software for wanting to close a sale rather than sweeping the floor and opening up the store.
No ever asked me about what it was like when I started MicroSolutions and how I used to count the months I was in business, hoping to outlast my previous endeavors and make this one a success.
With every effort, I learned a lot. With every mistake and failure, not only mine, but of those around me, I learned what not to do. I also got to study the success of those I did business with as well. I had more than a healthy dose of fear, and an unlimited amount of hope, and more importantly, no limit on time and effort.
Fortunately, things turned out well for me with MicroSolutions. I sold it after 7 years and made enough money to take time off and have a whole lot of fun.
Back then I can remember vividly people telling me how lucky I was to sell my business at the right time.
Then when I took that money and started trading technology stocks that were in the areas that MIcroSolutions focused on.I remember vividly being told how lucky I was to have expertise in such a hot area, as technology stocks started to trade up.
Of course, no one wanted to comment on how lucky I was to spend time reading software manuals, or Cisco Router manuals, or sitting in my house testing and comparing new technologies, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
The point of all this is that it doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and either should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because…
All that matters in business is that you get it right once.
Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.