There are plenty of articles that would unapologetically tell you that success — in business or in your professional life — is often preceded by failure. Many, many failures.
Yes, most of us have heard that we need to fail in order to succeed, because failure is one of life’s greatest teachers, but these articles often neglect to mention what kind of mindset actually enables you to push yourself to success, in spite of your human follies and “failures.”
I’ve been in the tech industry for over 15 years, having consulted with Fortune 200 companies like Apple, Barclays, and AT&T and raising money for my startup — with my own fair share of failures along the process. I’ve determined that to fail with success in mind, you need to be able to do or have these four qualities.
1. Be focused on helping others
If you look around, the world’s most long-lasting and successful companies all focus on offering a solution to our problems that we face every day. Uber created a new industry by first decentralizing traditional taxi and car-hailing services. Netflix eliminated our need to go to the video store and made content completely on-demand and convenient.
Now you don’t have to be solving world hunger, but even in your day job, it should be focused on solving your company’s problems — or at the very least: your boss’s.
It sounds painfully obvious, and yet we all tend to have “I, I, I” syndrome instead of focusing on the people we want to be helping (maybe our customers, clients, coworkers, friends, etc.). Rather your compass should move toward “How can I best be helpful for you?” Counterintuitively, when you genuinely help others, such as solving a customer’s problem like Uber and Netflix did, that’s when more opportunities for success open up.
2. Truly know the worth of what you’re doing
In the early years of my startup, I was burning through a large reserve of my savings and was given a couple of investment offers that I had ultimately turned down due to the low valuations and high stakes in the company.
These were decisions that cost me one of my co-founders and many of my initial hires because I could no longer afford to pay them. But despite these setbacks, I stuck it out. I firmly believed (and still do) that getting funding isn’t the hardest part, especially if you believe you have a game-changing product or solution. What’s more important is understanding your worth and only accepting offers that reflect your value.
This is loosely related to the idea that if you try to be everything to everyone, then you end up being nothing to no one.
3. Be willing to let go of your ego
I always say that motion trumps perfection, which is the equivalent of a well-known engineering phase “Just ship it!”
I’ve seen too many people remain paralyzed with fear of releasing something early because it’s not perfect or they fear they’re making the “wrong” decision. This fear stems from your ego — of being afraid to make a mistake and possibly looking silly — but if you spend so much of your time and energy trying to protect your ego, you would be less able to feel enough self-compassion for yourself to help you learn and recover from failures, as this article from Harvard Business Review suggests.
Understand that your ego simply gets in your way, and by letting go of your ego, you can face your flaws and mistakes head-on.
Remember, people do not care about your ego — only what will benefit them.
4. Change what you believe is possible
In my professional life, I cannot recall how many times I said to myself and others, “No, this is not possible.” Yet every time I was able to figure it out and also discover that there is a joy in figuring out how to intentionally bend the rules, break barriers, and make things do what they are not supposed to do.
This is the power of what you tell yourself. If you constantly tell yourself that something isn’t possible or that you can’t do something, you will believe it. This is a self-limiting belief, and these are beliefs that you can change.
The next time you catch yourself saying that you “can’t” do something, ask yourself: Can you really not? Try it — you may surprise yourself.
Omer Khan, CEO and co-founder ofVividTech, Inc., has over 15 years of experience in contact center engineering and digital customer service, and consulted for Fortune 200 companies, including Apple, Barclays, and AT&T. Having completed Google and Microsoft’s acceleration in London and San Francisco, Omer’s insights can also be found in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., AIBusiness.com, among others.