The Unbearable Lightness of Failure
For those of you tuning in to the newly established FFWD portal, don’t worry, this is not a mini class debating the premise of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” although the basis of the story is the actual inspiration behind the paraphrase.
Those of you who are familiar with yours truly the author of this opinion piece, have come to know 2 important facts about me. I’m competitive as hell, a true sore loser at heart AND I’m infatuated with speaking true stories of failures, the ones that really teach you something, the ones that inspire you to go at it again. And even though in the pandemic and the after-pandemic era, I have been blessed with a streak of successes, I don’t think I’ll ever let go of the pre-pandemic efforts of speaking more about the failures, having loads of those under my belt as well.
There is a lot to be said about how we perceive failure in this small country. As a small pebble in the foundation of the startup and technology ecosystem in Cyprus, I’ve witnessed grandiose stories of success that weren’t really successes, stories about startups that weren’t really startups, and entrepreneurs that should just be called “another businessman,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And not a single dedication to failure. Nothing. Nada.
Don’t get me wrong, loads of us from the early days of the ecosystem do talk about what we messed up, they make great reunion stories at an event or a meet-up now that the world is “normal” again. But there is this fear of failure that still looms over everyone as if this is the only driver for making an idea work. And it is funny I’m contemplating that, this comes from a sore loser with the motto “failure is not an option”.
So why the unbearable lightness of being/failure? For those not familiar with the Czechian famous book, the story takes place in the late 60s early 70s and depicts Prague’s society before the Soviet invasion and then after. It’s a book that debates and challenges the concept of Eternal Recurrence (a philosophical concept that states that time repeats itself in an infinite loop and that exactly the same events will continue to occur in exactly the same way, over and over again, for eternity), offering an alternative to the pain of thinking that you have no escape of what’s “written in the stars”: each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the "lightness" of being.
We were late to realize that by not removing the stigma of failure, by allowing it to dictate the quality of the entrepreneur rather than the viability and timing of the idea, we have compromised the ability of this ecosystem to grow. To grow faster, to be larger, to shine as a beacon globally.
As analysts would say, “lightness” symbolizes freedom. It’s the bare opposite of how heavy the “eternal whatever” aforementioned feels like. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to startup life. We were late to realize that by not removing the stigma of failure, by allowing it to dictate the quality of the entrepreneur rather than the viability and timing of the idea, we have compromised the ability of this ecosystem to grow. To grow faster, to be larger, to shine as a beacon globally.
So the time has come. To aim higher, to be larger, to shine brighter.
I’m counting 12 years so far. Almost 12 years. 4380 days of effort, day in and day out. Closed doors that opened, people that joined and surprised all of us, people that left and crippled us, people that passed and we miss terribly. And I’m hoping that in 12 years from now the successes will be countless, so many you wouldn’t see the same 3 stories parading over and over again in front of your screen.
But most importantly, I want to be able to also count the failures. The ones that made us wiser, the ones that uplifted us, the ones that made us stand on the shoulders of giants and push this country a little bit forward.
*dedicated to our friend Frank de Coup, an amazing startupper that wanted to change things and never got the chance.