PROFESSOR TOMMY WHITE

DIRECTOR, VELORIC CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP; SENIOR PROFESSORIAL LECTURER

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
“EMBRACE – NO, CELEBRATE – YOUR FAILURES! LEARN FROM THEM. LET THEM GUIDE YOU, NOT DETER YOU.”

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PROFESSOR TOMMY WHITE, DIRECTOR, VELORIC CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP; SENIOR PROFESSORIAL LECTURER, KOGOD SCHOOL OF BUSINESS; AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (AU)AU/KSB MBA ’95, BA HISTORY & ECONOMICS, UNC-CH ‘86

I often encounter bright minds shackled by a crippling anxiety: the fear of failure. It’s a common thread woven through the fabric of the entrepreneurial journey, yet it remains one of the least addressed.

Failure, in its myriad forms, is not just an inevitable part of life; it’s a necessary step towards achieving success. As an entrepreneur and educator, I’ve seen firsthand how the fear of failure can stymie curiosity, innovation, creativity, and growth. It’s not the failure itself that is the enemy, but the fear of it.

In my experience, embracing failure is the cornerstone of any successful entrepreneurial venture. It’s a mindset shift that transforms obstacles into opportunities for learning and growth. The world’s most successful entrepreneurs aren’t those who never fail but those who fail repeatedly and keep moving forward.

Imagine if Thomas Edison had given up after his first few attempts at creating a light bulb. We often forget that it took him thousands of trials to finally succeed. Each failure brought him closer to his goal. This is the essence of entrepreneurial spirit – the relentless pursuit of a vision, regardless of the setbacks encountered along the way.

In my activities at the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship and my entrepreneurship courses, I emphasize the importance of resilience. The ability to bounce back from failure is more valuable than any single success. I encourage my students to step out of their comfort zones, take risks, and view failure not as a setback but as a stepping stone to their personal success.

We live in a society that often stigmatizes failure, yet it is through our failures that we learn our most valuable lessons. Failure teaches us humility, adaptability, and the importance of perseverance. It also fosters creativity; when one path closes, we are forced to think outside the box and find new, often better, routes to our goals.

So, I say to the aspiring entrepreneurs: Embrace – no, celebrate – your failures! Learn from them. Let them guide you, not deter you. The path to success is paved with the lessons learned from each fall. Remember, the only true failure is in never trying at all.

I advocate for a culture shift. Let’s redefine failure not as a stigma but as a badge of honor – a testament to our courage to try, learn, and ultimately succeed.

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