Failure Is Not an Option

You hear it in every professional, college and high school locker room in America.

You hear it in every professional, college and high school locker room in America. Failure is no sin—the only sin is not getting up after youve been knocked down.

Expect this mantra to become just as ubiquitous in the New Economy, as more and more young entrepreneurs crash and burn amid the dot-com rubble.

Nicholas Hall, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Software Entrepreneurs and founder of, is among those bringing the message home in the high-technology marketplace. Indeed, the tagline for is "The Place for Bouncing Back."

Hall himself has become a reluctant expert in the art of surviving failures. He has already lived through three ill-starred ventures in the financial services, Internet and beverage industries.

"It is our own self-doubt that keeps most of us from bouncing back quickly," he says. Hall adds that given his own history, he had doubts about what people around him would think when he launched But once he got past his own fear, he continues, his perspective changed.

"For me, if the community site helped one person bounce back, I considered it a success. Needless to say, it was and still is my biggest success, helping thousands of entrepreneurs around the world bounce back quickly."

However, bouncing back is not quite as simple as logging on to a Web site. Before you can fully recover from a career catastrophe, you must sort out the root of your failure, advises Harvard Business School professor Michael Beer.

"People attribute success to themselves and failure to externalities," notes Beer. The trick, he explains, is to determine to what extent the failure was due to factors beyond your control (the Nasdaq decline, for example), and how much was a function of job performance and a failure to understand the risks and seize the opportunities provided by your business model.

As a first step in uncovering the truth, Beer advises asking your former boss and colleagues—and even your family—what they believe caused you to fail in your last job. And to ensure honest feedback, you should emit clear signals that youre hearing what theyre saying by paraphrasing their comments and asking additional questions.

What you hear from these people may cause you pain, concludes Beer, but the exercise will help you succeed in the long run.