If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner, you’ll know that you often have to wear many hats — branding, product development, fund-raising, networking, business development, marketing, public relations, event organising…and the list goes on.
You’ll also understand that failure happens. A lot.
This is why being an entrepreneur is also an exercise in philosophy, because as Costica Bradatan writes in The New York Times:
Philosophy is in the best position to address failure because it knows it intimately.
Here are some reasons why you should turn to philosophy as a guiding light.
1. Philosophy helps you live with uncertainty
Philosophy has a bad rap of being an “airy fairy” subject that doesn’t have much use at all. So when asked what practical purpose philosophy had for man, philosopher Bertrand Russel replied:
“I think nobody should be certain of anything. If you’re certain, you’re certainly wrong because nothing deserves certainty. So one ought to hold all one’s beliefs with a certain element of doubt, and one ought to be able to act vigorously in spite of the doubt…. One has in practical life to act upon probabilities, and what I should look to philosophy to do is to encourage people to act with vigour without complete certainty.”
As an entrepreneur, you live, breathe and sleep with uncertainty.
It’s the nagging ache at the base of your neck and the constriction in your chest when you think about the future.
You see potential in your idea but there are so many doubts.
Bertrand Russel’s response to you would be: You can never be certain that something will turn out the way you want, so go with your gut feel and make intelligent decisions even if you’re not 100% sure.
2. Philosophy puts failure into perspective
I’m sure many of us have heard, or even uttered the phrase “I’m so embarrassed/upset/[insert negative adjective] that I want to die.”
In his article, Bradatan writes that while “it may not be always fatal, failure always carries with it a certain degree of existential threat.”
What he means is that every time we fail, whether it’s a big or small event, it always evokes the notion of death.
But philosophy can put our failures into perspective, because failure is an essential part of the human condition that should be embraced.
We can understand that no matter how much we’ve achieved in our lives, the same end awaits us all.
And this should be empowering.
To experience failure is to start seeing the cracks in the fabric of being, and that’s precisely the moment when, properly digested, failure turns out to be a blessing in disguise. For it is this lurking, constant threat that should make us aware of the extraordinariness of our being: the miracle that we exist at all when there is no reason that we should. Knowing that gives us some dignity.
It is because of failure that great creations and successes can be born.
What really matters is not the fact that we failed, but how we fail and what we gain in the process.
3. Philosophy trains you to question everything, including your emotions
Being an entrepreneur is emotional.
When things go wrong or go right, when you’re making a big decision, launching your new campaign or product, emotions will always run high.
So how do you know if you’re making good choices?
Philosophy teaches people to think logically, which helps them better understand and manage emotions.
For example, is resistance towards a certain direction rooted in fear of failure, or based on logical reasoning?
This habit of questioning everything, including the things we take for granted, will take you to unexpected journeys in life. Some great, some not so great.
But hey, that’s what life’s all about, isn’t it?
If you’re an entrepreneur who has taken the leap, we’ll be happy to share our perspectives and knowledge.