Episode 0120

Failure is Necessary

Life Design

One of my very favorite quotes is by Henry Ford:

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Now, that all sounds nice, right? Sure, April, failure is the opportunity to begin again. That sounds lovely.

However, when the rubber hits the road, most of us enjoy failing about as much as we enjoy having dental work done.

But here’s the thing, the longer I’ve been an entrepreneur, the more I have come to truly understand how necessary and inevitable failure is in this journey.

And that’s what we’re focusing on this week with my interview with Sophia Sunwoo.

Sophia is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree in Social Entrepreneurship, a Forbes 30U30 All-Star Alumni, an ELLE Magazine Impact2 Awards Pitch finalist, and a Fred Alger Finance Award winner.

Sophia built her first company when she was 19 years old and sold it before her 23rd birthday. (Yes, you read that right.)

She also co-founded Water Collective, a non-profit founded to fix and prevent broken water projects in the developing world by building community ecosystems of water maintenance care.

Since 2012, the organization has secured clean water for over 76,000 people in West Africa and has been recognized by Forbes, DevEx, African Business Review, and ELLE Magazine.

Here are some highlights of this conversation:

  • Being naive can work in your favor. When you begin a new goal, especially if it’s a big one, being a little naive about what stands in front of you can work in your favor. So many times, if we know what the barriers are that we’ll hit, they keep us paralyzed. If we know how hard it’s going to be, we may not start. But, if you begin with a bit of naïveté, you might just be more likely to succeed…simply because you started.

  • Failure can be a necessity. In the same way that you build physical strength by working out at the gym, there are things you can do to build psychological strength. Failing repeatedly can help you become stronger and more able to handle difficulty down the line. Failure is NOT a sign that you’re not cut out for something. It’s inevitable, and it’s necessary.

  • Designing your own career. Sometimes people feel like you only have 2 options: have a 9-5 job or be an entrepreneur. There are infinite paths you can take, many of which lie in the grey area between the 2 obvious paths I called out before. I encourage you to think about the characteristics your career needs to have to make you happy, and then ask yourself “How might you” accomplish that? Check out this interview for more detail on how to do this.


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