How to confront failure as an entrepreneur

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As humans, we are wired to push against all odds. But if we are a resilient people, why are so many in our society scared of failing? Have we become so enamored with winning that we have forgotten what it is like to fail and suffer the repercussions of loss?

We see children praised for their intelligence but not for their hard work and effort. They learn to opt for what is easier and convenient instead of facing new adventures and challenges. As parents, we work hard so our children can have better lives and suffer less than we did. But have we reached a tipping point? What challenges do we still allow our children? Have we sheltered them so much that they don’t know how to deal with setbacks or adversity? I believe that praising a child is important. But it is also important what your praise focuses on. And it is vital to allow your child to face challenges yet be there as support.

Being an entrepreneur means being told no, many times. With so much rejection, most people would retreat. However, for entrepreneurs, the word “no” doesn’t resonate. It actually is something they look forward to. Entrepreneurs have gamified the process. They know that to get to a yes they need to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of nos.

Success as an entrepreneur means learning how to accept rejection and become resilient. So how do we nurture more people like this? How do we help more people brave the struggle? Can we make our next generation of entrepreneurs fall in love with failing?

I believe the answer is yes. Let’s break down the word “fail.” I learned this from my co-founder and partner Koy McDermott. The letters that make up the word “fail” stand for:





We ask each of our students and people we coach this question: Did you know how to walk the moment you came out of the womb? Some think it’s a trick question. We all know it’s impossible for newborns to walk. And we all know the process is first crawling, walking and then running.

Along the way, we fall a couple of times, trip even more and maybe even get made fun of. But we keep getting up, determined to get where we want to be.


It’s the same with entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs know failure is part of the process. Without it, they cannot get to what they want. And the pain of that is bigger than the discomfort of trying.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, don’t wait until you feel like you have that skills and courage to take the leap and pursue your dream. That day will never come. You acquire those skills and courage over time. It takes getting up each day and saying, “I am going to do all that I can today to grow and stretch myself in ways that I have never experienced.” Not all days are wins, but there is a silver lining in each loss. Each failure comes with a lesson. And the lesson is actually more valuable that whatever you lost to gain it. With each lesson, you become wiser, quicker and better able to adapt to new conditions. You’ve built “entrepreneurial muscle memory.”

At the LevelUp Institute, we incorporate this philosophy early on. Each cohort must comes to terms with it and face their demons. We talk to them about how the biggest obstacle is not the people who have rejected them but they themselves. They will determine whether they succeed, not some person or company who didn’t buy into their idea. If we carry this principle out to a macro level, we could create a world where innovation accelerates — and where marginalized communities leverage this ideology to catch up and participate in the bounty that our country and world have to offer.

Thank you to for supporting these young entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their own community and showing that collaboration among private, public and community stakeholders can spur positive change. If you fear failing, the cost of failing is so low now that it’s easier to get started and rebound again. Companies like make this possible. Thank you again for the continued support.


The LevelUp Institute focuses on creating the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs. The intensive and experiential 24-week program works with low income college students who are first in their family to attend higher education, and helps them create high tech social enterprises. For more information check out

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