Your mission this week: go screw something up

It goes against common sense, but there’s a global movement telling us it’s okay to make mistakes and talk about them, especially in the name of entrepreneurialism.

FuckUp Nights is a global phenomenon that encourages entrepreneurs of all kinds to talk openly about their mistakes and screw-ups as a way of sharing the pain as well as information about the entrepreneurial process.

It is the brainchild of a group of friends who all happened to be budding entrepreneurs in Mexico, who inadvertently started the movement when they met for an informal drink one night in 2012. They had such a great time retelling their various missteps and failed endeavours that they extended the invitation to colleagues and associates; soon enough, word spread.

By 2015, FuckUp Nights had been organised in more than 100 cities worldwide, including Sydney and Melbourne.

“Like TED Talks with more booze and less pomp”, as Esquire magazine described it, FuckUp Nights take a lighthearted approach to something that can be quite a painful thing for many people – failure.

At the heart of being an entrepreneur is the very real prospect and reality of failure. The very nature of being an entrepreneur is to take a step into uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, you’re no longer tied to the apron strings of a regular salary; you’ve set sail on your own boat, the master and captain of your own destiny. That can be daunting, frightening, paralysing even.

We tend to tiptoe around failure, as if to even mention it might bring its curse upon us. But while failure is very real, it’s not necessarily as big and bad as we are sometimes led to believe. There is room for failure as an entrepreneur, and what’s more, we can learn a lot from it.

A couple of years ago, the founder and chief executive of startup 99dresses, Nikki Durkin, wrote an essay titled “My Startup Failed and This Is What It Feels Like”. It was a warts-and-all account of Durkin’s story as a startup entrepreneur that looked unflinchingly at the good, bad and ugly of having your business idea ultimately fail.

The article went viral and tapped into a deep feeling among many entrepreneurs and business people that carrying the weight of expectations starting or running a business can be a heavy burden. The need to maintain appearances, keep smiling, and pretend everything was alright took its toll on many people.

FuckUp Nights taps into a similar feeling. It lets us know we’re not alone; other people make even bigger mistakes than we do! They survive and move on, and we will too.

When we fail, we’re given the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. The failure part can hurt – growing pains for entrepreneurs. But if we don’t fail, it’s highly likely we’re not trying to grow, we’re not taking risks. When we fail, it’s a sign we’ve either set the wrong goals or gone about getting to our goals the wrong way. Examining our failures, laughing about them even, means we’re on the path to learning from them and doing things differently the next time around.

So this week, in the spirit of fucking things up, think about the mistakes, big and small, you’ve made in your business, try to accept them, and learn from them. And remember, the biggest failing you can have as an entrepreneur is to be too afraid to fail in the first place.

Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. 


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