Dreams versus reality: why some people seem determined to fail

Dreams versus reality: why some people seem determined to fail

Delighted though we may be to read of successful entrepreneurs, inventors and overnight millionaires, there is a need to moderate these success stories with a touch of reality.

Unfortunately, too many commentators are urging people to follow their dreams and advising persistence at all costs. We are told that success is hard won but persistence always pays in the end.

I can even relate to a story of a long-time friend who took this message so seriously he actually thought that in some way it was axiomatic that if you go through really tough times then the good times would necessarily follow.

Unfortunately, this man is far from wealthy today, though I am pleased to say sanguine about his past exploits, notwithstanding continued failures.

What are the odds?

The real fact is that for each success story we read about there are 10,000 or more people who have tried and failed.

And when it comes to information technology projects, smartphone apps and the like, the numbers are even more horrifying.

Virtually every IT geek in the universe is working to find the next killer application, occasionally of course there is a success story and naturally that is trumpeted far and wide and the message inspires us to keep trying, as we should, but we must also be aware of the pitfalls.

Trying to make your fortune with the next big thing whether it is a product, service or a piece of technology probably has odds somewhat akin to a big win in the lottery.

Perhaps the only difference is that in the case of entrepreneurial endeavour we like to think we have some input into the matter and can thus influence the outcome. In an ideal world, this may be the case but the problem is, once we fall in love with our idea, as most entrepreneurs do, objectivity often disappears with decisions being emotionally driven and persistence and passion the ingredients of endeavour.

Too often costly disasters follow; disasters that we never hear of. Unsurprisingly, we are only told of the success stories and it’s these stories that fuel our efforts.

Are large corporates somewhat ‘slothful’?

An interesting comparison can be drawn between inspired entrepreneurs and executives in large companies. Too often we hear stories of entrepreneurs frustrated with what they consider to be breathtaking ideas ignored or discredited by big business executives. Oh how they pour scorn on these seemingly unmotivated ‘fat cats’.

Notwithstanding that I too have suffered at the hands of such executives, in their defence we need to realise that in most cases it is the decision-making skills of these so called fat cats that has won them their position in the first place.

These people are very close to their business and ‘know the ropes’, the risks as well as the costs and the difficulty in embracing breathtaking new ideas. Unemotional detachment may be one way to describe their decision making and it’s hard to argue with that.

What’s the message?

The message is simple. No amount of persistence will turn a dog into a star. There comes a time when it is best to discard an idea and move on to the next, there are millions of new ideas and opportunities out there and if you remain skilfully vigilant you just may find one.

Perhaps the following best sums up this thinking:

Persistence is an important element of success; persistence is an essential element of failure.


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