Eight failed startups in three years.
Close to 100 ambitious employees who had their dreams crushed.
My situation is not unique -- nine out of ten startups fail. It's a cold reality. As a result, I quickly learned everything not to do and slowly learned everything I should be doing. The process was painful, but the progress was there.
I had suffered financially -- no new clothes for years, a junk car, and a laptop that barely worked. I was at the point of sleeping in my car and interviewing across California.
Finally, I landed a job in San Diego at a Facebook marketing startup, 22Social, with huge potential. Several months in, I knew this company was not like the rest. We were going to make it big. In a short period, we doubled our revenue and began hiring more employees.
Looking back on how I made it, here are the eight lessons I learned from my failures that catapulted my success:
1. Put yourself in a position to create value.
It's simple: Keeping your job depends on how much value you add to the company. When put in a position where you'll create less value, you should disregard what you’re told to do and focus on something better. Once you stop listening to people who give you orders that undercut your output, you’ll become more successful and make them happier.
2. Speak your mind.
The biggest regret you’ll have is not speaking your mind when it matters. You may be hesitant to take a strong stance because you risk rejection. But the actual risk in a world with constant innovation is not taking chances. And you never know if bouncing your small nugget of wisdom on others may turn into a gold mine.
3. Do things that are unlikely to work out.
Multifaceted entrepreneur Elon Musk once said, "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor."
The chances are that your startup will fail. Since the odds are already against you, then you might as well take on projects with huge upside and a devastating downside. Even if you devote months to a project, and it fails, the next time you want to commit to a similar project, you’ll know what strategies to avoid.
4. Company culture is everything.
Startups live and die based on their quality of team communication. There’s a huge difference in production between people who wake up excited to put 100 percent into their work and those who dread seeing their coworkers.
5. It's not how much you read, it's what you read.
I've read hundreds of books to give myself the knowledge that helped perpetuate my success. It's not all gravy. What I realized is that many five-star Amazon books aren’t worth the read because it’s now effortless to self publish and regurgitate information. Remember, read books that are relevant to what you're achieving, those are the ones that will provide the most benefit.
6. Avoiding distraction is your most valuable skill.
Distractions are everywhere from Facebook to Instagram. Moreover, they're in the work you’re doing that you mistakenly think must be done by you. If you can outsource your work for a good price and get the same results, then you need to do something better.
7. Success doesn't happen overnight.
Almost always, you will have to take many more steps than you originally thought to achieve success, but the good news is that you can decide whether to walk or run.
Most people believe they deserve to be at the finish line. But until you put in the work required to conquer your dreams, you won't realize what it takes to go through the journey of ups and downs.
8. Failure is only good if it changes you.
Risk failure only if you’re willing to change what you did wrong the next time around. Many who fail can't pinpoint their mistakes. And repeatedly doing something that's not working is the definition of insanity. So figure out a new strategy before moving forward.
I encourage you to take these eight lessons and add to the list along your startup journey. Good luck!