Simon

Failure is just a stepping stone to success.

By Simon Woodroffe
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April 30, 2015

Learn to fail, and you’ll learn to succeed

One thing I’ve noticed about successful people is that they people don’t go around succeeding all day. In fact, on a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year basis, successful people fail. Successful people fail spectacularly. Many are billionaires because they became millionaires, lost the lot, and had the courage to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and come back again. Successful people don’t swan around being successful all day, they suffer, they are afraid, and they have been laughed at and derided just like you and I.

Sahar Hashemi, the co- founder of Coffee Republic with her brother Bobby, opened a coffee shop in the West End of London, before the coffee revolution (Republics are often formed out of revolutions – get it?). The day they opened the door no one came in – and I mean no one . And no one came in for the next week either. Why? Because no passers-by had been been exposed to the New York infection that gives you the ‘coffee bug’. Plus, next door there was an old English café selling Nescafé in polystyrene cups; the de rigeur drink of the time, and also selling at one fifth of the price she needed to charge. Disheartening, overwhelming, fear-inducing… and with thoughts of catastrophic failure in mind, she dusted herself off picked herself up.

She decided to go out on the street herself, offer people her coffee, and using her balls and personality convert customers… one person at a time.

Before I opened the first YO! Sushi back in 1997, I realised that I was imagining something I could actually execute. I’d been a stage designer for big rock shows in my previous life, and in my mind, this was still showbiz. I figured that if I could get it close to opening, then I could find the right people to operate it too. But I was missing two very fundamental things. Firstly, I didn’t have a record in the restaurant business, and that’s what you needed to get a landlord to rent you a serious site. Secondly, I didn’t have the money – well, I had about a third of it, which was everything I had in the world – but I needed the other two thirds.

I set myself a goal. I would go out and see three money people and three property people every week, and I’d fail six times every week until I got it. That’s what I did, and when it came to Friday evening, I’d come back to my little West London flat and I’d punch the air with six failures in my bag. I knew that failing enough times would be a pathway to success.

It’s not about failure on a massive scale, though many come back from that. On a daily basis we all have to find our own way to fail, get rejected, and turned down, so that we come up still bubbling. In the words of Gary Player, the classic golfer of yesteryear, “It’s a funny thing, I’ve found that the more that I practise, the luckier I get”.

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