7 lessons from my biggest entrepreneurial fails (and the danger of survivor bias)

I launched my first business in 2008, while I was still a student, I clearly lacked maturity in the game of entrepreneurship!

I made all the worst possible decisions, all the possible mistakes, and one of the biggest:

We always take the greatest successes as our model, thinking that by modeling them, we’ll succeed too… The problem is that there are also thousands, maybe millions of people who have modeled without succeeding… This is the survivor bias I’ll develop below…

So, with more than a decade’s experience behind me, I thought I’d take the opposite approach, and instead of giving the keys to “success”, share the keys to avoiding big mistakes, especially the worst possible decisions…

🛶 Survivor bias

What is survivor bias?

It’s selecting and/or showing as examples the people, ideas, companies… that have succeeded by turning their cases into global principles of success.

A very common example is to show successful entrepreneurs who didn’t study, without showing all those who didn’t succeed in entrepreneurship without studying, or to turn a strategy into a model of success by highlighting a few people, when it doesn’t work for thousands of others.

It feels good, it reassures, it inspires, but…

Nobody would play the lottery if there was no winner 😉

It’s nothing new, the real danger lies in the decisions it brings!

I’ve also come across a lot of fathers and mothers with dependent children who wanted to take ill-considered risks, taking as an example 3 case studies of people who have succeeded with nothing and, above all, no talent.

These are extreme examples, but the problem is that instead of taking the full spectrum, we prefer to focus on the exception that makes people dream. This has two effects:

It can encourage and inspire, showing that it’s possible, and so much the better, as long as you keep your feet on the ground.

It can destroy your self-esteem by telling you that it’s not normal to “struggle” so much for things that are so important to you, when it seems so easy to others (spoiler: things that are really worthwhile require a lot of perseverance, especially at the beginning).

We always have the impression that it’s easier for others… The worry is that everyone thinks it is when it’s not easy for anyone 🙂

What makes it fail and flop 99% of the time? How can it be avoided?

Here are some lessons, in fact, I’m not content with my successes and survivals, but with the patterns that recur and with which to deal in order to make better-informed decisions thanks to the experience of others (mine in this case).

I may be one of those “survivors” who started early and succeeded in their field, but I’ve always been transparent, since my first videos, about the price to pay, the challenges and what I do to overcome them. I’ve had a very difficult 2022, the result of decisions I made beforehand, and 2023 has been much better thanks to certain decisions… If I zoom out even further, I can see what can cause these flops for me and my fellow entrepreneurs with whom I’m in “mastermind”.

While I don’t have all the answers, I can help you avoid wasting time, money, energy and self-esteem… Time, energy and money are precious resources 😉

Here are the lessons from this experience, but your own experience is still the best:

✔️ The 7 worst decisions in 15 years of entrepreneurship (lessons from my biggest flops) :

In 15 years of entrepreneurship, here are the patterns, principles, dynamics and strategies I’ve experienced and observed in failure and success:

1/ When you think you’re alone with a problem or that it’s easy for others, you destroy your self-esteem and make bad decisions…

During the last mastermind I ran with customers, I noticed that everyone thought that others were better at it and that it was easier, whereas the reality was that everyone had their own difficulties…

In the same way, the advantage of a mastermind is that you meet people who have already experienced the problems you’re going through, and may even have solved them several times already. How many times have I gained years just by getting an outside view/advice! I’ve also unblocked problems I’d been carrying around for too long!

That’s clearly a waste of time!

Whatever the problem, challenge or dilemma you’re facing, there’s bound to be someone who’s been there and can help!

Don’t stay alone in your corner, going round in circles.

Think about that the next time you think you’ve got a “problem” and feel alone in dealing with it, or when you need to make a decision for the well-being of yourself and your business…

2/ Lack attracts lack!

Any decision based on an energy of lack leads to problems that create more lack. Joining forces out of necessity, selling out, betting on short-term gain that can ruin the long term (relationships of trust, loss of resources, reputation…).

The worst decisions are made in an energy of lack. It’s okay to be afraid, but lack begets lack.

Always stay in a dynamic of expansion and make do with what you’ve got. It’s better to play to win than to play not to lose. In both cases, you can lose, but the latter drastically increases the chances of losing!

Lack is a state of mind; I’ve felt lack with a lot of material and with nothing… It’s a question of perception!

My worst flops have come after making decisions based on a fear of lack… Strangely enough, the best ones have come from a dynamic of expansion, audacity and a real desire to create.

3/ Don’t listen, observe!

The people who want you the most will never be the first ones present.

A common example:

Are you launching an event? You’ll be surprised to find that the people who couldn’t wait for you to come to their town will have Aqua-poney that day, others will find it too far from home because it’s a 40-minute drive, while you’ll have some who simply show up… Don’t listen, do, the right people come!

Don’t listen, observe!

I say it all the time, but don’t listen to people.

Every time I’ve made a bad decision, it’s been after asking people what they want or expect… Worse move!

Observe instead!

In entrepreneurship, observe the behavior of your prospects and customers; in life, observe the actions of those around you.

“Talk is cheap!

Act, observe, base your conclusions and decisions on facts, not words…

4/ Don’t spend too much time “outside” yourself and your business

The times when I feel the worst is when I spend too much time looking at what the market and/or the competition is doing, which tends to exasperate me or make me wonder about its value…

And that’s when you don’t feel like you suck or have missed a trick because everyone else is bragging and looking like they’re “rolling effortlessly” (mentioned in point 1).

It’s better to put that energy into your own initiatives.

I’ve also sometimes made bad decisions by following a trend or a strategy that seemed to work for my competitors… And not for me!

You, and you alone, know your business best, and above all: yourself! The best advice is tailored to your vision, your personality, your operating mode, your business model…

Don’t compare yourself, don’t make decisions based on what others are doing!

5/ The most dangerous times are those when things are going well

Times when everything’s going well are risky!

We rest on what works, we stay in our comfort zone, we tend to spend more than usual…

How many times have I rested on my laurels, only to have to “react” with my back against the wall… Bad attitude! I learned this early on…

Constraint allows innovation, but don’t wait for it to explore and innovate! Take advantage of the good times to get ahead, test things out, do a bit of R&D!

I’m not telling you to live in hyper-action and hyper-anticipation, just to use the highs to avoid/prepare for the lows!

Friction will always be there, but…

Friction is always an opportunity: new competition, market changes, crises, crashes, failures…

These are the best opportunities to reinvent yourself!

The world is changing!

Do you often change your equipment to keep up to date?

Keep your mindset and strategies up to date too!

6/ Don’t act to be liked, accept to exclude and displease

One of the most difficult prizes of success in professions requiring personal branding (linked to your image as a leader) is to displease!

I’ve always seen a growing correlation between the performance of my business, the quality of customer feedback AND the number of “haters” and “unhappy” people.

More delighted customers = more excluded prospects.

For a long time, I was afraid of this phenomenon, afraid of not being liked, and it held me back to death…

You can’t please everyone, and you have to accept that to really serve a clientele, you have to exclude a large number of people.

Not being liked is one of the strongest human fears, yet in business especially, as in life, it’s impossible to have leadership while being liked by everyone!

7/ Don’t end up in “prison

In the beginning, you start out to be free! The first profits feel good, you’re enthusiastic and aim for expansion.

Then you end up increasing your lifestyle, your teams, your equipment, your expenses… and your standard of living! The worry is that many freelancers and entrepreneurs do it too early.

This creates the phenomenon of starting each month at zero and having to make at least a high amount to cover expenses… You then end up doing business to reach a break-even point (this can become obsessive) and not to really blossom, contribute, create, embody your mission and vision…

Don’t fall into this trap! Be financially intelligent, reinvest your earnings, secure your treasury, pay yourself to ensure your personal security, leverage to create assets… When you don’t understand, you can quickly end up in a glass prison far worse than the rat race, because in business, there’s no guaranteed salary at the end of the month…

It’s a balance that requires a thorough understanding of the system and the actions to be taken.

Never forget why you started and what model you want to create 🙂

So much for the 7 lessons. If you don’t understand them all right away, you will, but think about them in your next decisions 😉

Would you like to put my experience to work for your business?

I help managers, leaders, entrepreneurs and freelancers to rise with meaning, while respecting their standards and values…

I can help you and give you a real perspective on your business and your strategy, taking into account your model, how you operate and the main focuses for successful expansion.

You can find me here!