#SVtommies - A Land of Failure, Learning and Hope

The past two weeks have been “magical,” if we use definition of value over time that Dan Rummel shared with us when we visited his company, Shyp. That magic has resulted from an immense amount of value in the form of business visits, learning and networking with numerous entrepreneurs and businesspeople, independently practicing the design thinking process, presenting to a venture capital firm and immersing ourselves in Silicon Valley’s culture, all in 13 days.

San Francisco has fostered a culture unlike anywhere else in the United States. It has been, and continues to be, a land of failure, learning and hope. Many people may balk hearing that it is a “Land of Failure,” however, the word takes on a very different meaning in Silicon Valley. It’s a more fluid definition; instead of being a resolute conclusion, it merely signals proof of action. Failure acts as an indicator, a celebration even, that there are different, better solutions out there. Even though failure is celebrated, success is more rewarding, so entrepreneurs find a way to avoid replicating costly mistakes by rapidly learning and pivoting.

Fires and earthquakes wrecked parts of San Francisco multiple times dating back to the city’s inception in 1849. Instead of setting itself up for more failure and damage by merely rebuilding, the city put more stringent codes in place to avoid future mishaps and build the city better for the future. In a land of failure and learning, hope also rapidly breeds from the knowledge that one can start anew, and create greater things with the help from lessons learned. Hope remains an active part of the culture today, evident through the failures and continued trials on the way to success. Businesses like Shyp, Job Portraits and LinkedIn, would not be around today if their founders gave up hope after a failure.

My understanding of the “magic” of Silicon Valley was enhanced reading the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (a recommendation from Rummel). The concept that fragile things need to be protected from shocks and chaos in order to survive, whereas antifragility is the antithesis of that concept— things that are antifragile thrive and grow stronger when exposed to shocks and chaos. This concept plays in perfectly with the San Franciscan culture, and I believe, each entrepreneur’s own experiences. Steve Jobs failed innumerable times on his way to building Apple into the company it is today, including being fired from the company and facing own personal failures like divorce and cancer. Many would argue that “despite” these challenges, he succeeded. I, however, propose that he was antifragile and it was because of his success in imbibing strength through these challenges that he was able to create one of the world’s most prolific companies.

Full immersion into such a successful and fast-paced culture is one of the most magical things that has happened to me as a student and businesswoman. I believe that one of the easiest ways to bring a little bit of that Silicon Valley culture and mindset to Minnesota is the combined application of antifragility and rapid learning in response to failure in order to become better and stronger in both professional and personal settings.