Your Failure is Your Fault

27 July 2020

Last week, I announced the shut down of Graphite Docs, a company I had spent the last three-plus years working on. It was a hard decision, but it was one that was a long-time coming. While deciding to shut the company down was hard, what may have been even harder was coming to terms with the reason Graphite failed.

When I first recognized Graphite's chances at success were waning, I wrote the problems off as something that would pass. It wasn't that I wasn't trying to correct the course, it was that I wasn't looking at the problems in the right light. And when you are trying to solve the wrong problems, you are only digging yourself deeper into a hole. As I grew closer and closer to what would be the end, I blamed external forces. I told my wife and my close friends that market conditions had hurt me, that cutting-edge tech was the problem, that blah blah blah.

I was the problem, and that's ok. Every founder is the main problem their company faces. Those problems, though, can be turned into successes by accepting responsibility, changing course, and making sound decisions. Not many companies do this, not many founders do this. And that's why so many companies fail. Graphite's failure was not the result of any external forces beyond my control. It was squarely within my control, but I failed to execute.

I won't enumerate the decisions I would revisit if given the opportunity—that's for another post. Instead, I will use this post to illustrate to other founders that while it is easy to blame something else, someone else, the success and failure of your company is fully under your control. Are there times where a founder literally can't do anything to fix things? Sure, but those are rare. Much rarer than founder interviews would have you believe.

There is nothing wrong with making bad decisions, even if those bad decisions lead to the end of your company. Nothing wrong, unless of course, you don't learn from those bad decisions. Your failure is your fault, but it is also your opportunity. The opportunity to learn from failure is huge, and not recognizing it, not grasping it, squeezing every bit of knowledge you can out of it, is the true failure.

Just remember, don't strive for failure. Strive to learn, knowing that failure is always a possibility. Don't hide from failure, don't find shame in it. Learn, adapt, move on. But acknowledge it.