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Posts Tagged ‘success

When a mistake can be an opportunity

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herbie20hancock

Herbie Hancock, a famous jazz pianist.

I watched recently a video of an interview of Herbie Hancock, a great jazz pianist, who plaid with the most beautiful musicians. In this video, he explains that one day, during a concert with Miles Davis, he plaid a wrong accord during Miles solo. He was terrified and disappointed by the wrong note he did, but surprisingly, Miles pursues with a note that was in accordance with his wrong note and took another direction in his solo. It was totally improvised. Such anecdote makes thinking about serendipity, the fact that you get something different than expected.

In the industry, there are many examples of discoveries made by accident. For instance, the company 3M was experimenting glue that should be very resistant. The experience failed and it was the opposite results that the R&D team obtained. The glue was weakly adherent. Somebody saw an opportunity to use that glue, and this is how the post It was born, this small paper peace you can stick on your screen or other support.  What was considered as a failure has been transformed into an opportunity.

Talking about that wrong note and the improvised situation that followed, Herbie Hancock speaks about something that made growth each other. By playing another note to stay in tune, Miles showed he was keeping the dialog with Herbie and created another musical sentence. He was probably aware too that they can only succeed together, or fail together. The first option only was the good one. Such situation teaches about personality of each other and contributes to empower a relationship, and it is the contribution of a strong team spirit, from people who want to build something together.  Complementary skills and the desire to build an original project are the key ingredients of entrepreneurship. Like improvisation in a jazz jam session, a lot of things can happen in an entrepreneurial project, and the capacity of the team to pivot to another plan in function of the circumstances and to catch opportunities, will lead to success.

This nice story has to make think that failure is not definitive as success too. To fail doesn’t mean that you have to restart from zero. Experimenting, trying new things and make mistakes are a necessity to move things forward, to reach new level of knowledge.  Thomas Edison who filed more than one thousand patents, was used to say “I have not failed. I’ve just found then thousand ways that won’t work”. Experimenting and trying many times can only foster the emergence of serendipity, to create opportunities to expand your skills, to meet people and share skills and ideas, to develop your network. It reminds us that success does not come always when alone, that personal success does not exist without collective success.

Last but not least, making mistakes and learning from it contributes to empower your skills but also your self-confidence.  Step by step, you will be used to face new challenges, to push your limits and to face the future with confidence. Don’t forget that mistakes can be opportunities.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 4, 2016 at 19:05

The way to success…failure?

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Failure-foundation-of-success-1024x723Success is something most of us we are looking for. If to be successful is something different for each of us, the definition of the success is to reach the goals we have defined.  Success is seen positively, and appeared as something that intelligent people reach without any constraints. Does it mean that other people cannot be successful?  The question is what we name success.

To succeed is first a question of power and courage. The courage to make that our dreams become true. But often, some people never realize their dreams because they are scared to fail, and that failure is considered as a tabou. Commonly, failure is considered like something you are guilty for. This feeling of guilt comes probably from our education system based on rewarding and sanction. When a student answers wrongly to a question, he will be penalized. The education system is based on a competition system where students are scared to do not reach the arrival line. It is obvious that the integration of knowledge needs to be evaluated to be sure that students have the necessary tools to face life, but the learning process is an ongoing and iterative process. Each of us, we need more or less time to learn something, to understand the complexity linked to something, and finally to succeed. We probably remember something we struggled with at school, and that we find now very easy, wondering how it was possible to struggle with such thing. For instance, with mathematics, by doing exercises and repeating a logical process linked to a theorem, we understand it and finally integrate it. Before to succeed in a process, we probably failed a lot of times, but failure is an opportunity to know what goes wrong, to analyze the reason of the failure, and to take an appropriate action to move to the success. Henry Ford was saying that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Such statement should be integrated in the education programs. In companies like Google, people are encouraged to fail. If you remember, some great inventions are the result of another project that failed. For example, the Post-It was invented accidentally. The company 3M was developing a new king of strong glue. The obtained result was the opposite of the one wanted, but this accident was used as an opportunity.

Failure or more precisely the reason of failure is important to develop and to keep our critical mind. When we are succeeding, we are just enjoying our success, and attributing this success to a range of factors. There are no absolute certitudes about these success factors, but there is nothing that put the opposite in evidence. For instance, scientists describe processes based on experimentations and observations, write a theory that is valid until there is an event that makes that this theory is not valid, or need to be updated and include some exception cases.  Success is not definitive. But what appears as a failure is something that brings you matter to learn, or to discover new things, bringing information, a useful raw material to move forward in the knowledge.

Successes or failures are not final destination, but different steps of a process, of our life.  By paying attention to this, by using failure as a raw material to build our knowledge, we are empowering our self confidence and are able to face new challenges.  By considering failure in a positive way, as an opportunity to learn, we take our belief off that creates psychological obstacles, preventing us to reach our goals. Remember that the real failure is to do not try. Some people never failed because they never try something.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 15, 2013 at 18:17

What if I fail?

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In my previous article, I was talking about an entrepreneur I met recently who was building her first project as entrepreneur. We talked about the fact that the entrepreneurship is always a risk, and that the chances to succeed and to fail exist. The possibility to fail is probably a important reason making that some people don’t want to take the risk of entrepreneurship.

As Peter Drucker said, to become an entrepreneur, you don’t need an entrepreneur character, but character only. A character able to face risk, looking for change, and seeing change as an opportunity. But the ability to face risk is not enough, you have to manage it too. When you start a project presenting risks, have always an alternative plan, and measure the level of risk you will not go over. These two conditions will make that you will take more easily risks and be able to take appropriate actions if you don’t succeed.

The character is not only a condition making that people are scared to become entrepreneur. Failure is ofter considered as negative by people around you, and failing people have a guilty feeling. Failure has to be seen as a fact and something you can learn from. Such experience is not useless for many reasons:

  • By launching your own activity, you will have to do a lot of things and to manage things you were not used to manage. You will develop skills and maybe discover hidden talents. This talents and skills are open doors to new opportunities,
  • In an entrepreneurship project, you meet people to take advices, to contract specific expertise. You will meet new environments, you build a network, with people who bring you advice, and maybe new ideas. These new ideas or advice you acquired are feeding your knowledge and experience. You will can use them for other projects, or in other contexts.
  • By analyzing the reason of your failure, you will identify your mistakes, and to develop alternative solutions or scenarios. Such analyze make that you will be ready to restart other projects on a more appropriate way, without repeating the same mistakes,
  • Your experience of failure can make that you could be a valuable partner for future projects, build with other partners. Expertise is most of the time acquired by experience,and failure is a part of experience and contributes to bring added value,

By having this in mind, failure doesn’t mean that you are back to the start point. You are just on an new start point, with more skills, more experience, making that failure is probably not an absolute necessity, but an experience you can use as a raw material to build new and stronger projects. By do not deciding to take the risk to launch your own project, you will not fail but you will not succeed too. Remember this quote I don’t remember the author: “There is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur. You are a failed entrepreneur only when you quit. Until then, you’re simply not successful yet.”

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

January 11, 2012 at 21:35

An entrepreneur, an optimistic person?

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Philippe Gabilliet, professor in a MBA school and auteur of "L'éloge de l'optimisme"

The year 2011 is over, and traditionally, the new year is the time to build new projects, new resolutions. Nevertheless, if you red of heard to the news, it is not a secret that 2012 will probably be a difficult year (one more you will say), particularly in the euro zone. Some countries are already in economical recession. Such times are concerns for people, who are wondering if they will keep their job and will be able to pay the bills at month end. The entrepreneurs are concerned also by the crisis and the negative impact on their business, are facing lack of visibility, making the decision-making difficult. What can they do to face such difficulties? The entrepreneurs who have long term views know that they will face difficult times in their life, and are prepared to such situation. The only thing they have to do also is to stay optimistic. Really? You probably think that it sounds like a joke. What the fact to be optimistic can solve in such situation? Let us talk about this.

Few weeks ago, I was reading a book about the optimism, written by Philippe Gabilliet, a professor in a French MBA school. I can only recommend to everybody and not only entrepreneur , or people having a entrepreneur mind, to read this book. Here, I would like to talk more specifically about entrepreneurs, who seem to be by definition optimistic persons. Indeed, to become entrepreneur is always a risk. The success an entrepreneur can meet is proportional to the risk of failure he can meet too. Does it mean that he is not aware about the risk he can meet, by deciding to start a risky business? Let us consider that most of the time, he is aware of the risk, if he prepared seriously his project, and was well advised by mentors. By being aware about the risk, for which reason is he still motivated to build a project of business? This is a good point, and to explain this, we have to mention a distinction that professor Galilliet makes in his book.

We have to consider two kind of optimism, or pessimism. The is the optimism or pessimism of way, and the optimism and pessimism of goal. Each person can present these two characteristics.

  • The one who is an optimistic of way and an optimistic of goal is probably the one who is not conscious about the reality. His thoughts are “We will succeed and it will be easy.”
  • The one who is a pessimistic of way and pessimistic of goal, is the most negative person of the four we can define here. He thinks that “It will be difficult, and finally, we will not succeed”. Such person has not to become an entrepreneur. He has the certitude to fail.
  • The one who is a optimistic of way and a pessimistic of goal. For professor Gabilliet, this is the most strange attitude we can find. Such person thinks that “We will probably not succeed , but he will have learned something”. Interesting, but does such person believe to the pursued goal, or does he favor his own interests?
  • The one who is a pessimistic of way and an optimistic of goal, is probably the most conscious of the difficulties. He is convinced that “We will succeed, but it will be not easy at all”.

The pessimistic of way and optimistic of goal is certainly the most prepared person to the entrepreneurs life. He is aware about the difficulties he will face. Despite the fact that he is an optimistic of goal, he is yet aware that he could fail too. The question is how can he still stay motivated, in front of a potentiality to fail? The optimistic is somebody who can use the failure as a raw material to learn something and to develop other alternatives, strategies, to reach the goal he assigned to himself. Failure is an element that will feed his knowledge base and that will give him the resources to anticipate. I was speaking recently with an entrepreneur who was building her first project. She was aware about the potentiality to fail, but she told me that such experience is an opportunity to meet people, and to learn a lot of things you can use for other future projects. An optimistic will consider the positive side of things and to use it to move forward.

In my mind, entrepreneurs are optimistic persons. There are persons who believe to that famous quote “We didn’t know it was impossible, so we did it”. To become an entrepreneur is always a risk, and if they were no optimistic persons like entrepreneurs, most of the inventions around us would not exist. If you move 30 years back, and that we told you the future inventions that would exist today, a lot of people would consider you as crazy. But optimistic entrepreneurs who probably met failures in their life, realized these inventions, like the web, the solar airplane “Solar Impulse”, etc..

As conclusion, I would say that even if times are difficult, you can always move forward with your creativity and your optimism, two key components who will gain more and more value in the future.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

January 7, 2012 at 18:21

Build your own way.

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Build your own way

I was recently asking a question on LinkedIn, about the best advice you ever received, related to your career or business. I received of course a lot of interesting answers. The only one who did not answer to that question was me, of course, but it is an opportunity to share my experience about that question.

When I finished my studies in finance and accounting, I remember my mother giving me a good advice. She was owner of a small metalworks factory, founded by my grand father after the second word war. She told me that “If I wanted to join the company, we have first to talk each other about this. A family business is not always an easy things, and I don’t want to have difficult work relationship with you as I had time to time with your grand father. First, do your experience somewhere else.” I remember, when I was still student, people saying to me that I had not worries as I had already the family business and I should never to have to look for a job. This remarks make me laugh today. I would say that the only thing which is an evidence is that I am the son of my mother and that’s all. I never join the family business and today, when I see the way I did, I learned a lot of things by having done it, and that is what I would like to share here.

By remembering my mother’s advice, I would translate it in another way: “Build your own way.” Nevertheless, is it a bad idea if you decide to join the family business and if you take it over later? Not necessarily, but I would says that it is important to let your footprint in it, to drive it following your goals. It is obvious that time are changing, we are leaving in a fast moving environment, and in these conditions, you will not do the same things than your parents did. In my case, I never joined the family business. I just became administrator of the company and assisted in some tasks related to the accounting and finance, but I was never part of the daily operations.

The way I did my career until now, and by not choosing to join the family business, made me think about interesting thoughts and statements.

  • It is first important to build your own way. What do you want to do as a job, what  are your goals in your life. You have only the answer to that question. And sometimes, it is not always easy to determine, because people are used to put labels on you. They are not necessarily seeing you as you are, but as they want to see you.
  • Motivation is a major key of success, in your personal as in your professional life. Choose a job you like to do, a job where you can find interest and motivation. You need to be convinced yourself, in order to convince the others, and to maximize your chance of success.
  • Avoid to live in the comparison. By choosing your job, by building your own career, you decide to be the own actor of your life, to be you and not another. If you want to be so successful than somebody else, you will be probably disappointed. Each person is different, and it is useless to try to copy somebody else. The original is always better than the copy. Be the original, not the copy.
  • Work with inspiring people: I had the chance to meet people who brought me a lot of significant things, contributing to improve my work. This is only possible if you develop harmonious relationships with people. I think it is probably more difficult as member of the family business. You will be more seen as a family member of the boss, and not as a normal collaborator.
  • Learn from your own experience. By building your own way, you will meet success and failures. Take successes as rewards, and failures as opportunities, and you will probably learn much more from your failures. Each experience will improve your know-how and is an asset to face new challenges. Your own experience will improve the way to do things, to face issues and challenges on a different way.
  • Develop your capabilities and curiosity. By setting your own goals, by building your own projects, you expand your capabilities. You discover each day who you are. And with curiosity, you will maybe discover new interests, hide talents.
  • We have not only one life. By taking over a family business, you realize maybe something you want, but you subscribe also to maintain a tradition, and maybe to do the same activity during all your life. You are always free to change, to sell your business if you want. But by choosing to take over the family business, you are more in a spirit of continuity.

You are the only one who knows what you want to do. You can always ask advices to other people, but don’t loose your critical mind. It is always important to confront the given advice and ideas to yours. What seems to be positive for somebody else, can not be seen as positive by you. Each of us, we have our own expectations, our own ambitions. These expectations and ambitions are the result of different components. It is related to our temper, to our education, but also to our own life experiences. Each of us, we have different tempers, we received different educations. We are unique, we are ourself and not somebody else. The decision to take a way or another has to be ours, and not the one of somebody else. This decision is the result of several experiences, of a brainstorming process, determining goals and expectations. It is the only way to be ourself, to be the actors of our own life, to learn and discover who we are, but also to enjoy life as we are expecting. Build your own way.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 18, 2011 at 21:40

Success: reality or appearance?

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Success, reality or appearance?

In a previous post, I was talking about the meaning of success and trying to define what is success. In this post, I would like to talk about another aspect related to success , and I will handle it in the business area. Success in business is something each entrepreneur want to meet, because by definition it is rewarding, it means also that we are earning enough money to life from our activity. But does a positive image reflect always a success? In other word, does the image reflect the reality?

Let us be more concrete. In business magazine, you can read articles about some entrepreneurs, presenting their project. For a lot of people, the fact to have an article about you in a magazine is an evidence of success, and starting from this article, this positive image, they are concluding very quickly that the entrepreneur or the company mentioned here is a successful one. If you have a look to the article, you will notice that in fact, you do not know a lot of things about the success ..or the non-success of this company. The fact to have an article talking about you in a business magazine is always an good point in terms of marketing, to gain in visibility. An article is only a summary of the company or entrepreneur story, and a lot of informations are not told. I would like to take the example I red few times ago in a magazine related to employment and jobs. That magazine was publishing during several times, testimonials about people who decided one day to move to another job, another career. In this case I will refer to, it was a guy working in a bank since more than 15 years, who decided to move to a creative job. As he was very handy, he decided to launch a business of creation of furniture, objects with recycled materials. He explained that he was much more happy by this new activity than by his previous job as an accountant. You will note that by mentioning this, he is showing a positive image of himself and of his project. But in the article, it was not mentioned if he was earning enough money to live. But what he mentioned in this article is that he invested in real estate, bought 2 or 3 apartments he renovated himself, this apartments ensuring rent revenues and a financial security. This last element is important to be mentioned, because it will make you conclude on another way: we do not know if he is earning enough money from his new project, but he has other source of revenues allowing him to pursue his new activity, his objective.

I will tell you another example. I am used to attend entrepreneurship sessions, organized in Brussels on a monthly basis by the BetaGroup. In these sessions, web entrepreneurs are presenting their projects. The presentation is followed by a short question & answer session, and after presentation, people can talk about the projects or to make network. I was talking with entrepreneurs, and some of them were explaining to me the difficulties they had to reach the break even with their project, and for that reason, that they still had another job as web consultant or developer for big companies. We can see here different success levels: the product they wanted to develop is a success on a technical point of view, some of these projects are presented during the session, and also in business magazines, which is a marketing success. But as we know, the last and important success is the economical success.

There are two important things needed to be reminded when you want to develop a business. First, remind that to be an entrepreneur is a difficult task. There is no easy business. Entrepreneurship is always risky, but you can and you have to create alternative plan to ensure the needed revenue to live. It will need hard work, to combine the two activities if you ensure your revenues by an activity. It is up to you to elaborate your own alternative plan. The second point is to remember that your success has to be your own, matching with your values, the way you are seeing things. What I mean is that your alternative plans will be the one you can deal with and not the plan you copied from somebody else. But don’t hesitate to talk and share ideas with other entrepreneurs, with inspiring people who will advice and help you to build your own solutions, your own success.

BetaGroup website: http://www.betagroup.be

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 14, 2011 at 21:55

What is success ?

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Success and perseverance.

Everybody wants to reach success. The question is to know what is precisely success. Have we each of us the same definition, the same view of success? This question needs to be answered in order to know what success is, but also where success is. We reach success when we are realizing a dream. We have dreams we want to realize in our personal life. There are different kind of dreams, and the ways to reach them will probably be different. We can dream to have a family, to have children succeeding in their studies, to travel around the world. We would like also to succeed in our professional life, to have an enjoyable work and to earn enough money to cover our daily needs. This is an overview of what could be success, but does it mean that these things we are dreaming are successful on themselves ?

The success is a question of values. What are the value we are sharing? In our society, most of the time, success is associated to wealth. Bill Gates, for instance, is seen as a successful man by founding one of the most large software companies, Microsoft. But does it mean that the creation of a company is a dream shared by everybody? This is a question of value, of interest. To meet the success, is to meet the goal you are dreaming. Your goal will be function of the value you are believe in and the activities leaded by your values. There is no success, there is only your success, and your success will not be necessarily the success of somebody else. I already talked in another post, about this Belgian theater founder and actor, Michel Kacenelenbogen, who was first owner and founder of a company. His initial goal was to create a theater, and he founded first a company in order to earn money, to be able to create this theater, to realize his dream. He realized his dream, by founding “Le Public”, a theater with an innovative concept, financed by his own revenue and a part of public subsidies, and where you can find a restaurant after or before the spectacle. This was his dream, and this is his success, but his dream is not probably yours and your success neither. The question of values and goals is important, because what you are considering, or what is the society considering as a success, could be only an illusion. I want to mention here an article I read recently in a magazine, about a business man who was dreaming to drive a Porsche. He made a bet that he will have a Porsche when he will be 30 years old. On way, he bought the Porsche, but he realized after that, that he put a lot of pressure on his shoulder and on the shoulders of his collaborator to maximize profits and to reach his personal goal, and that finally, the car he bought was an illusion of success. The success was more in the business he developed and in all the things he learned by building it every day.

By definition, success is something positive, and because success looks like positive, people are dreaming of success, but are often considering the positive side of success. Regarding the two case I explained before, we have not to underestimate the challenges and issues people had to face to reach their goal. To build a company, or to found a theater remains a challenge and a risk. As Peter Drucker quote says: “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” Some entrepreneurs failed in their projects, learned about that failure and restarted new projects in another way and reached the success. The failure you can meet could be part of a success, if you learn from your failure.

And let us talk about your talent. You can reach a goal or a success by expressing and developing talent. Your talent is one of the key components of success. There are some people saying that everybody can do everything if we want. Personally, I do not totally agree with this statement. We can only succeed by doing things we are motivated by. We have also to reach a level of talent which depends of our capabilities and abilities to acquire the knowledge. There is a huge difference between to be able to play piano, and to play as Mozart was playing. Let us remember also another Peter Drucker quote saying that “It is better to work on your strong points to pass from competence to excellence, than to work on your weaknesses to pass from incompetence to mediocrity.”

But finally, what is success ? Success is the realization of projects you are dreaming. It is only you who can decide and determine what will be a successful life. Maybe you will not see it immediately, maybe you will note that things you were believed as success are just illusions. But each goal we are fixing is function of our passed experiences and of an anticipation of the future, based on new values we discovered and acquired. It is only you who can see yourself as a successful person and not the others.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 2, 2011 at 21:11