Life on Campus, Professional Development

Entrepreneurial Series: Failure as a Road to Success

You’re going to fail. A lot. And that’s awesome.
Failure isn’t something to fear. It’s something to embrace.
Just ask Bill Gates. A Google search for “Microsoft failures” returns 28 million results. Yet according to Forbes, Gates is worth USD $79.7 billion. And as the world’s richest man, he’s also worth listening to when it comes to entrepreneurial advice. Even if you don’t think Microsoft is the coolest thing around, there’s no denying that the company changed the world of personal computing.

Here’s what Gates has to say about the value of failing:


“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
So what does he mean? The risks that don’t pan out aren’t mistakes – they’re lessons and inspiration to help you find new ways to accomplish big things. Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data, aimed to create traffic reports for traffic engineers. During their first product demo, the product didn’t work. Yeah, that’s some epic failure right there. So what did Gates do? He and co-founder Paul Allen used that as motivation and took those learnings with them when they started Microsoft. And now 1.5 billion people use Microsoft every day. Your mom is probably one of them.


Dean Paul Jarley, of UCF’s College of Business, has also been highlighting the importance failure plays in achieving success with the students in his capstone class. Recently, he shared the story of Ken Bradley, former Winter Park Mayor and current CEO of Florida Hospital Winter Park, who had to re-route his plans of attending medical school and found his future at UCF. Despite the initial fork in the road, he shaped his career into a successful one. Among his many accomplishments and successes, doctors now report to him! He earned his place as one of only 64 in the UCF Hall of Fame, out of more than 50,000 alums.

Dean Jarley has opened up this semester’s “Failure Competition” on his blog, where students submit their failure story and what they learned from the experience, to any UCF student to compete for a chance to win a coveted letter of recommendation from the Dean, among other available prizes.
The lesson here? Your first big idea likely won’t be the one that shakes the world. Along the way, you’ll fail a lot. Spectacularly. And that’s a good thing. The goal is to fail successfully. That means with each misstep, you need to discover more about where to go next. Whether you make minor iterations or blow things up to start over, keep in mind why something didn’t work.

Every project you work on at UCF, every class you take, every business venture you take – they’re all chances to embrace risk and gain insights. Each failure you learn from is a step towards success worth celebrating.

So how will you fail next? More importantly, how will you learn from it?


The Entrepreneurial Quotes series focuses on inspiring, insightful quotes from leading big thinkers. Know a quote you think we should feature? Share the inspiration and let us know about the quote in the comments.

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