How to succeed by being Not Good Enough, Lazy and a Complete Failure

The following is based on an article written for Real Business Magazine.

How is it possible that such an absurd title can be true? To find out, let’s begin with a question: without using Google, can you name the sprinter who came fifth in the men’s 100m at the last Olympics? Unless you happen to be a relative, I’m guessing the answer’s no.

The relevance of this question will become clear as we explore the first of the three steps needed to build an inspiring and successful business: not good enough.

If you’re ‘good enough’ in business, do you know what else you are? OOB and possibly FFB: Out Of Business and possibly Filing For Bankruptcy. Because today it has never been cheaper or easier to start a business, and because today there has never been a more saturated media-space, it is harder and harder for customers to decide to pick out your business from the swarthing mass of the LinkBook-FaceTube Twittersphere that dominates our daily lives.

It was a very different story for your parents’ generation. They had babies and they boomed. As long as their businesses didn’t actively turn off customers, they could pootle along happily, without having to do too much to keep house and home together.

They could afford to be ‘good enough’. You can’t.

So the first step to an inspiring business is to make absolutely certain you are not good enough, by finding a way to be outstanding. Even though he equalled his personal best as he crossed the finish line in fifth place, Ryan Bailey knows, like the rest of us, that there is only one Usain Bolt.

Here’s the amazing thing: there’s only one You. So you could build a business that simply goes through the motions, and if you’re lucky, you’ll do as well as Ryan Bailey. Alternatively, you could tap into the thing that sets you apart from the other 6 999 999 999 people on this planet and build a business that is the synergy of your unique passions and talents.

You’ll have to bear with me a second whilst I put on my tie dye t-shirt and put my hippy hair extensions in…but I believe the reason we each have a unique finger print is because we each have a unique contribution to make to the world, and we find what that unique contribution is where the things we love doing intersect with the things we’re great at. I call this unique contribution ‘your gift’.

It could be anything. If you’d have told my dad that you could create a business helping companies to stand out from the crowd using poetry and rap, he’d have laughed at you, yet here I am, giving my gift, being of service, and loving it.

When you have the courage to do what inspires you, it is impossible to simply be ‘good enough’. You’re already well on the way to being outstanding and to creating an incredible business.

The next step is the thing that will transform your effectiveness by serious orders of magnitude. You have to learn how to be lazy.

Prevailing wisdom would suggest that laziness is the entrepreneur’s worst enemy. However, prevailing wisdom also once said that the earth was flat and that arsenic was good for you. To build an outstanding business depends on every person in the business being able to use their strengths to create results that are greater than the sum of their parts.

During the start-up phase, this may not always be possible, but know that the sooner you can stop doing those things that demotivate you and delegate them to someone who would love to do them and will do them brilliantly, the quicker you business will move toward outstanding.

In this context, laziness becomes a wise messenger, whose heralds need to be honoured. If a task needs to be done and you find your energy being drained by doing it, or even at the prospect of doing it, this is a fantastic reminder from your laziness messenger that the way you add most value to your business and to the world is by consistently giving your gift.

The final step in the journey to creating an outstanding business that you love growing is to learn to a complete failure. As I’m sure you know, Edison was a complete failure 9999 times. However, on his 10000th attempt at finding a suitable filament material for his lightbulbs, he tried tungsten. The rest is well-illuminated history.

In the UK especially, failure is far too unacceptable. If a politician fails, they are forced to resign, instead of being forced to correct their error. If a pupil fails an exam, suddenly they’re only fit to stack supermarket shelves.

No doubt there are times when failure is unacceptable (it certainly wouldn’t be ok for your parachute to fail during a skydive), but when you wish to bring a truly outstanding business to the world, one that is built upon the unique and brilliant gift you have to share, then you must be prepared to fail…for only then will you be able to learn the lessons needed to come back even stronger, even more brilliantly and even more creatively.

So there you have it, the simple formula for building an outsanding business that allows you to make your unique contribution to the world: be not good enough, be lazy and be a failure. I know you’ll do it brilliantly.

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