Don’t call it a failure just because it stopped

I think it’s time to stop calling things a failure just because they come to an end. This comes up because I asked a friend about a project in her town that rehabbed downtown buildings. 

“It’s not really active anymore,” she said with more than a note of failure in her voice. 

Let’s check that sense of failure against a record of half a dozen rehabbed buildings back in use today. I can’t call that a failure. 

What about your festival that doesn’t happen any more? It mattered at the time. That revitalization project that kind of fizzled out? It made a difference while it was going. 

Plenty of good projects run their course. Maybe you couldn’t get enough volunteers anymore. Maybe it just didn’t make financial sense to keep going. That doesn’t diminish what it was while it existed. 

The SBA will count your business as a failure if it ever stops. I won’t. If you served customers and you learned something while doing it, it was a success in those ways. 

When you lower the barriers to entry and encourage hundreds of new tiny businesses to sprout, you’re also inviting a lot of failure. Most of those hundreds of tiny businesses will stop at some point. Unless you want the would-be entrepreneurs to be discouraged by being labeled as a failure, you’re going to need to start redefining what you call it when you stop doing something. 

The coming and going of projects and businesses is like breathing; it’s a natural process. 

Instead of talking about how something failed, let’s start saying, “I’m really glad we had that when we did,” or “I’m glad you tried that.” 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  Deb and I were on the radio last week. Listen in here: In The Moment, South Dakota Public Radio