Dare to Fail: The One Trait All Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly”
– Robert Kennedy

What do people like Richard Branson, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Donald Trump, and countless of entrepreneurs out there have in common?

What about Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, visionaries of the 20th century?

They were once failures

They are all entrepreneurs, and every one of them had this common “trait”: all of them, in their own time and space have failed at least once in their life. Steve Jobs failed a few times before coming up with the Apple II PC. At one point he even lost his company, Apple.

When he built Pixar, he almost went bankrupt. He held on long enough to see the release of its 1st blockbuster – Toy Story. Pixar later IPO-ed and became a billion dollar business. He sold Pixar to Disney for USD7.4billion.

Entrepreneurship: Failure more common than success

According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months of business. Author Rob Adams says, in his book If You Build It, Will They Come, that 70% of all new products released end up in failure.

According to the World Bank, more than 45,000 new businesses are created in Malaysia each year. An estimated 36,000 of these new businesses don’t make past its first 18 months.

With so little chance of success and high probabilities for failure, why would anyone want to start a business?

Entrepreneurs dare to fail

The short answer is that entrepreneurs are built differently. They are built for failure. They dare to fail.

Some fail big time, some fail in little bits and pieces. I know a friend who had a business fail on him, lost RM 6 million in the process and owed his creditors almost a million ringgit.

That was 3 years ago.

Come this year, he is a free man (free from debts). Despite his failures, he is still very much into entrepreneurship. He embraced failure as part of his journey to be a better entrepreneur.

My personal journey with failure

I have also failed in the past. Not as much as my friend but enough to last me a lifetime. I have had 5 major business failures and countless numbers of small product and project failures.

But here I am, still standing, seemingly immune to failures.

To me setbacks are part and parcel of improvements. It depends how you want to view your failures.

The effective way to view failure

You can wallow on them or you can choose to see the bright side of things and move on. The latter is the mindset of an entrepreneur and the former one of a normal career person.

As an entrepreneur, we perceive failures as part of our lives. For a career-minded person, failure is not an option – failure means consequences that are too much to bear.

This difference in how failure is viewed is one of the reason why corporations often lose out to start ups in the area of innovation. While entrepreneurs dare to fail, career-minded people take less risks to reduce their chances of failure.

This choice to stay safe, however, is unfortunately the reason why many corporations stay stuck in an innovation rut.

Failure is normal, even in business

Our society views business failures as a taboo, despite failure being part of our everyday lives. In fact, going through failure is the only way you land a job, get a loan, or even get a life partner.

This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs face an even higher level of rejection from their family, friends and even strangers. They are called anything from “mad”, “crazy” or in some cases “lunatics” because of how they keep trying and trying in spite of having all odds against them in order to get their business going the right way.

Learning to fail

Although entrepreneurs in general have a higher ability to accept failures, they are not born with the skills to fail better. At one time, every entrepreneur feared failure. But over time they learned how to fail better.

But how do you get from being afraid to fail to eventually becoming daring enough to fail over and over again?

You must create a “Dare to Fail” mindset. The Dare to Fail mindset is a set of mental framework that will allow you to take advantage of every set back that you will face in your entrepreneurial journey.

6 Steps to Create the “Dare to Fail” Mindset

By internalising these six steps, you will be on your way to “dare to fail”.

1. Create your goals and break it down into actionable milestones

Celebrate your success as soon as you achieve your actionable milestones. Breaking them down into manageable milestones give you greater clarity of your task and journey ahead.

Celebrating the completion of these milestones give you the motivation to move forward, one step at a time. “The journey towards a 1000 miles begin with a single step”.

2. Risk no more than what you can afford to lose

By understanding your affordable loss, you will be able to put a limit to your business/project without feeling the pain of failing because you know this is what you can afford to lose. Therefore, you fail fast and fail cheap.

3. Understand that there is no sentimentality in business

You must be able to recognize and accept when a project or a business is bound to fail. Cut your losses before you grow deeper into the valley of death.

4. Understand that failure is part of success

If you can recognize a failed task faster and learn to mitigate the problem before it becomes big, you can improve the process and make it a success. Breaking down goals into actionable items helps to give you greater clarity of your success/failure path.

5. Learn perseverance

Steve Jobs used to say, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Just hang out a little longer and everything will be okay, even if the odds are against you. Steve Jobs almost lost all his wealth by bankrolling Pixar and Next but both ultimately made him a billionaire.

6. Join an incubator

A study by the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) and also another study by SME Corp Malaysia shows that 80-90% of new businesses survive the Valley of Death in the first 18 months and remain sustainable after the 4th year, when the business is incubated in an incubator.

Incubators help to reduce business cost; create social connectivity with partners and market; and facilitates financial access, creating a network effect in helping new entrepreneurs. Join an incubator if you want to ensure business success.


To embrace failure, you must understand what failure really is.

If failure is defined as the lack of success; and success is defined as the status of having achieved an aim or objective, failure essentially means that we have not met or achieved an aim or objective.

By building a Dare to Fail mindset you will become immune to breaking down or giving up on your entrepreneurial journey when you come face to face with failure.

Good luck to you all and dare to fail.

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