Most entrepreneurs I know are much better acquainted with crisis and catastrophe than they are with success – even those business chameleons who seem to thrive from one unrelated field of business to another.
This is not all that startling when you think about it – the majority spend their waking hours in an almost constant state of agitation, which leads to snap decisions: they are deeply perturbed by the passing of time, and the possibility that they may be wasting it; they look about and see other people engaged in different activities to them and they wonder if they might be missing out – in fact, when they think about it, they realize that of bloody course they are missing out and this makes them even more twitchy.
The upshot is that they usually can be relied on to grab at the flicking tail of opportunity and tug without thinking about the consequences.
This is an equally good way to pull a rabbit from a hat or find that you are waving a rattlesnake about.
On the upside, they have a tendency to view success or failure as equals, or as stepping stones, whereas the rest of the world thinks and speaks of success as a forward thing – a progression, and failure as a setback – a regression. For the entrepreneur it’s just another event in a sequence of events that his natural optimism tells him will lead to something nice turning up in the end.
Generally this is quite a healthy attitude and, I have come to realise, quite practical: it stops you moping when things don’t go well and stops you resting on your laurels when you get a break.
“Success can be inspiring, but it is best consumed in small quantities”
A little while ago I wrote a book called How to Make a Good Living Running Your Own Business – on how to go about starting businesses with little or no debt, based on my own experiences as a penniless would-be entrepreneur at the start of the 1990s.
As part of the process of marketing it, I found myself standing in front of rooms of people to explain how I became so successful and generally marvelous. Quite apart from sounding unbearably smug, I also realized very early on that the most interesting part of the evening for the audience, by far, was when I went into the detail of all the terrible mistakes I had made over the last 21 years.
Success can be inspiring, but it is best consumed in small quantities. Failure is potent because it is so compelling: it nearly always comes with a good story, a warning and (let’s face it) schadenfreude all in one neat, very human envelope.
Failure is also largely how we are programmed to learn; from the moment you take your first nose-dive from a high chair or decide the dog’s food looks appetising.
So, before I got any more conceited, I really should write down all the things I have truly cocked-up over the years – mainly so that others can derive some solid cautionary advice from my darkest hours or perhaps simply some amusement in hearing from someone clearly more daft than them.
It would also serve as a small monument (more of a figurine, really) to the blind optimism of human endeavour that tells us to strive when our good sense says get a steady job in a call centre.
 And, for better or for worse, I count myself in their ranks.