Adversity: The Entrepreneur’s Best Friend
In an interview last year, Gordon Taylor (CEO of Cannon founding member company Croozen) spoke about his company finding fuel and functionality through their lack of funding. “I think we couldn’t get to a fine tuned process without having little money. If we would’ve had (let’s say) $100 million, we would’ve blown it all because we wouldn’t know the levers to push or the things to do to get there. Having a refined process, that’s the biggest obstacle we faced. Having little capital made us creative.“
Taylor embraces the stoic mentality critical to entrepreneurial success. Nietzsche first coined the popular phrase, Amor Fati. It describes not only accepting what happens in life, but embracing it and loving it, good or bad. That means loving our failures as we do our successes, and understanding those failures are part of the building blocks to future successes.
Edison the Entrepreneur
Thomas Edison knew something about failure. He spoke of it famously, stating, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” and “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison understood the power of persistence and the fuel that failure can be if simply harnessed correctly. That may be why his is quite possibly the greatest example of Amor Fati.
The legendary inventor was in his 60s and enjoying the fruits of his labor when, one evening, his factory campus caught fire. Even when eight different nearby towns sent fire engines in support, the fire raged on. As Edison watched his life’s work engulfed in a rainbow of chemically enhanced flames, he turned to his grief stricken son and instructed him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”
When his shocked progeny protested, Edison maintained, “It’s alright. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.” In the face of a lifetime of research and toil burning to rubble, Edison remained as poised and focused as ever. Thanks to his unshakeable spirit, and a hefty loan from compatriot and fellow world-shaping innovator Henry Ford, Edison’s campus was functional within three weeks. Ford didn’t invest in the company; he invested in Edison and his exceptional drive and perseverance.
Rising from the Ashes
Edison proved Ford’s faith and investment were well placed. Despite taking today’s equivalent of a $23 million loss, the scientist shocked the world by producing the modern equivalent of $200 million in revenue that year. His phoenix-esque effort perfectly underlines the concept of Amor Fati, and proves that failure is the ultimate friend of a truly committed, visionary entrepreneur.
The power Edison displayed, the power of Amor Fati, boils down to efficiency. Instead of wasting time and energy on blame or grief, follow the example of one of the greatest entrepreneurs the world has ever known. Embrace failure, use it, and rise from the ashes steeled, victorious, and ready for whatever may come.