Love The Hustle Blog

How Ultra-Successful Entrepreneurs Turn Failure Into Success (and you can too)

If you’re having an off day, living through a disaster, or facing something in between, take comfort in the fact that some of the greatest have had it worse, and then bounced back to become more even more successful.

Learning from your own setbacks is extremely important, but there are powerful lessons to be learned when you examine what worked (or didn’t work) for other entrepreneurs.

Without further ado, here are some of the best and the brightest, the setbacks they encountered, and the methods they used to turn lemons into entrepreneurial lemonade.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg is a business magnate, three-time mayor of New York City and a highly successful entrepreneur, but it wasn’t always that way. In his younger days, he suffered a huge setback when he was laid off from Salomon Brothers.

Instead of letting the layoff get the best of him, Bloomberg said, “In business, when you fail at something, when something doesn’t work, you say okay, we’ve learned that that’s not a path to go down.”

He turned the Salomon Brothers “failure” into a business success lesson. He used all of the financial knowledge from that job to start Market Master, which eventually became Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg became the seventh richest man in the world as a result.

You can follow a similar path. Did a project go wrong? Learn from those mistakes to make your next project a great one. Fired from your job? Use the experience to get a better one. No matter what setback you suffer, it’s not a failure if you learn something from it.

JK Rowling

Before becoming richer than the Queen of England and creating arguably the greatest book series of all time, JK Rowling went through some rough patches. Very rough.

For starters, she lived on welfare and scribbled her vague, initial ideas about Harry Potter on napkins. To say that she was barely scraping by is an understatement for her. In fact, the only things that she had in plentiful supply were the thousands of rejection letters that she got from publishers. Still, she took a very useful lesson from the adversity she encountered.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something,” she said, “unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Rowling, like countless others, realized that the smart risk of getting her story published would probably come with some difficulties along the way. But books write themselves, so she kept surging forward like a star Quidditch player, and today it’s hard to believe she ever fell on hard times.

By persisting when everything seems “impossible,” you can do the same thing. You don’t even need a magical broom.

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban’s professional life started in a small computer store. He clocked in, worked the cash register and was miserable until it was time to go home, only to wake up and do it all over again every day. Then, he got fired, and he used his pink slip as a springboard to success.

As much as his previous job had been a demoralizing slog, there was one bright spot. He had always had a knack for selling tech when he was there, so when he had a potential $15,000 sale with a client, he asked a co-worker to cover the register while he went to seal the deal. Apparently the store owner didn’t agree with him and let Cuban go the very next day. It’s not hard to imagine that Cuban’s former boss regrets his decision when he sees Shark Tank on TV.

So what did Cuban do right? He used the experience and resolved to never work where his skills weren’t appreciated ever again.

“I was thrilled to death,” he says. “My worst fear was that I would have to stay.”

Cuban realized that his only “failure” was the inability to fit the mold of one person’s extremely narrow perspective. He knew he had a unique skill set, so he took the firing in strides, and kept moving towards using his genius zone to the fullest.

You can do the same. Never be afraid to go where your skills are celebrated, not just tolerated.

Ray Crok

At the ripe old age of 52, Crok was selling paper cups and milkshake mixers for a living. Then he went on to create McDonald’s. Though he was getting on in years, he never considered his age to be a factor.

“When you’re green, you’re growing,” he said. “When you’re ripe, you rot.”

One of the biggest myths of entrepreneurship is that it’s a young person’s game. To be successful, view age for what it is — just a number. It’s not how old you are, but the progress you’re making that determines your stage in life.

Remember, it’s never too late (or too early) to start that next multi-million dollar venture.

Oprah Winfrey

Before becoming the biggest name in media, Winfrey faced extreme harassment and sexism as a Baltimore news anchor. Then she then got fired.

So what did she do when faced with bias and discrimination? Oprah turned it into a positive, and you can too.

Rather than letting her experience get the best of her, she used it to create a media company focused on empowering women–not putting them down.

Realize that the only true failure is not brushing the dirt off your shoulders and looking forward to tomorrow. Even in your darkest moments, you can use failure as an opportunity to shine.

Do you have any success tips? Share them with the LTH Tribe!

LTH Team
bstrong@lexioncapital.com