Learning is not the same as Failing

I hear this alot, particularly in the start-up world: "fail fast".  I’m not exactly sure who popularized it, perhaps it was my friend Brad Feld.  I’m pretty sure Brad didn’t mean that failure – and doing it quickly – was the best path to success.  I think he meant learning in the name of expert mastery was the goal.

What really seperates great entrepreneurs from everyone else is the ability to constantly move through a series of uncomfortable learning stages.  The cycle then repeats itself as they climb the learning curve and eventually master something.  Never have I seen a great entrepreneur stop wanting to know the answer.  That means that in the search for the answer, they have no problem falling down occasionally and skinning thier knee with failure.

  1. It starts with wanting to know something that you don’t already know.
  2. Next is the learning curve phase, where most failing occurs.  Scientific method rules.  Hypothesize and test – relentlessly.  Getting to an answer is the goal – as quickly as possible.
  3. Once you have an answer, test and test to make sure its "the" answer.  More testing, more failing.  Fast "no’s" are life savers.  Iteration happens here.  Learning at this phase evolves into expertise and eventually, mastery.
  4. The final phase is now to take it up a notch, which is mostly starting over at #1. Except you’ve meaningfully moved the ball and your building on a solid foundation.  Each piece builds on the next.

The Chart below I really like.  Credit: http://buytaert.net/creating-passionate-users

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