Ask the Expert - Mário Ferreira, Presidente Mystic Invest, SGPS

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What it means to fail?

Failing is hard. It’s a tough word, even one that we don’t like to utter as it seems like a bad omen. But, in essence what it means to fail? Failure is usually seen as a synonym to underperform; to not achieve the desired outcome. In our society it’s linked with the academic or sports meanings: to be the best, to be the first, to conquer all.

Thomas Edison said that all his unsuccessful attempts to create a light bulb weren’t failures, but learnings that untimely led him to the path of success. To me, failing is not to come short in business goals, or having to close a company or churn out a product because of a lack of performance. Like Edison I always saw those situations as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Failure, for me, is to not try, to give up at the first difficulty or when a higher hurdle is set on our way. This is when you fail. When you come short, not to other people standers, but on yourself and don’t pursue your goal.

Earlier in my professional life I came close to failing. My first 48 hours working on a cruise ship were a nightmare. I could barely cope with seasickness let alone with the workload I had to perform at an outstanding level. I wanted to leave, to get out of the ship and return to my job as high-end restaurant manager in London, where the floor would stand still.

When he arrived at our first port of call I was determined to do so. Fortunately for me there was no airport. So I was force to give myself 48 more hours to endure or fail. With a renewed spirit, I started my journey again and only stopped four years later.

When I look back at my career, I still pinpoint this exact moment as the decisive step to become an entrepreneur. It helped me gain resilience, a fundamental characteristic of anyone who aims to be successful, be it in business or in life. It’s important to gain this mental toughness in order to endure, succeed and be able to keep getting up no matter the times that you get knocked down.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely be wrong sometimes in your path. You won’t get to reach the quota for a specific quarter. You will lose clients or miss big opportunities. You will blunder through wrong staff decisions. There will be bad decisions, and there will be times the world seems to be determined to make your life harder.

Whether you fail or not, it will be up to you to decide if you have the mental fortitude to pick yourself up and keep going forward.

Mário Ferreira, Presidente Mystic Invest, SGPS