This excellent quote by Aldrich and Kenworthy (The Accidental Entrepreneur 1999, p. 18 *) is absolutely true – especially in these times of immense speed and connectivity.
Like the hitchhiker, the entrepreneur is often starting new things but what marks them out is their openness to fresh ideas and ability to remain flexible in their thinking. To demonstrate the point, watch this mindblowing presentation by entrepreneurial artist Janet Echelman: http://www.ted.com/talks/janet_echelman.html
Just start something
The very act of starting a new venture or hitching a lift exposes us to the possibility of experiencing new events, meeting new people and seeing life in a different perspective. But if you don’t start or are only prepared to repeat a previous life experience (I catch the bus, I always catch the bus) then you deny yourself countless opportunities.
Creating different experiences and thus perspectives in our lives naturally involves an element of risk. However, it is important to maintain this simple attitude to always doing new things if for no other reason than keeping mind and body healthy. But unfortunately humans are creatures of habit.
As we age so we create patterns in our lives which become norms. And before we know it, it is very difficult to break the chains of safety that we have bound around ourselves for fear of squaring up to uncertainty, difference and failure. Ultimately, it is not just our actions that become imprisoned; habits incarcerate thinking and ideas. And once this happens, our capacity to do anything meaningful with our lives is reduced to almost nothing.
The value of Failure
Economist and author Tim Harford recently wrote the ground-breaking book ‘Adapt: Why Success always starts with Failure’. This Blog can’t explain the tome in detail (for more, visit www.timhardford.com), but essentially this ‘must read’ book is about the importance of trial and error in solving problems (from local to global) and accepting that mistakes and failure are not only a necessary part of the process, but an essential one.
But there’s a problem. In chapter 8 of his book, Tim Harford illustrates clearly and brilliantly how humans are programmed to respond to mistakes and failure. If you hadn’t guessed it, we respond badly. We deny it; we choose to forget it; and/or we reshape our history in a different, more favourable light. Unfortunately, none of these self-preservation mechanisms help us to learn from mistakes, move forward, evolve and thus have the ability to create something better.
So, next time you are on your way to somewhere, whether it’s hitchhiking, a new course/job or even venture, look out for things you wouldn’t normally encounter. And if you try something new and it fails, don’t simply chastise yourself or take criticism from others. Carefully examine the value of what you have learnt along the journey and then make good use of the experience. Janet Echelman did and look where it got her.
Key Learning Points. Always be open to ideas and activities and use your initiative to start new things. Be aware of the crippling effect of habitual behaviour and instead be honest with yourself and embrace the learning value of failure.
* (1999) Howard E. Aldrich and Amy L. Kenworthy. The accidental entrepreneur: Campbellian antinomies and organizational foundings