Over fifty percent of all new businesses fail within the first year. After almost three semesters of studying business in college, I’m still not really sure whether professors share the statistic with intentions of intimidation or inspiration. It seems to me that many students are actually comforted by this percentage, it reassures them of the stability they’ll see in their futures of investment banking or accounting. For the rest of us though, the small minority who are the dreamers, the innovators, the “ideas people”, this number does nothing but push our passions even further, giving the future entrepreneurs of the world an even greater motive to deliver the newest great idea.
As someone who has notebooks full of hardly-legible, sometimes unfeasible, gigantic business ideas, I convince myself nearly every day that I’m on to something. I go through my serious plans tediously, checking for any holes or deficiencies that would make me a mere percentage point in the lower spectrum of the year’s failed business statistic. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that my ideas are not only great ideas but also that they are the greatest ideas. At any given moment I’m convinced that at least one of my mid-subway ride scribbles will go on to take the world by storm. This is not to say that through observation and experience I haven’t come to learn the fine line between being proud of hard work and being proud of a great concept, but this discrepancy did get me thinking: what makes one great idea stand out from the rest?
No one wants to hear that his or her success (in business or in anything) is the product of anything except diligence, planning, creativity, and realistic expectations. While these are all necessary components to achievement, there is definitely validity in the value of having things just work out for an entrepreneur. If I’ve learned one thing so far in my career it is that failure is inevitable. If I’ve learned a second it is that sometimes failure is out of your control.
Catching a break is not something that comes easily or comes often, and it is often luck that makes or breaks the development of an idea, from conception to reality to success.
As an entrepreneurial student I have to wonder just how much luck factors (or doesn’t factor) into the success equation. Is the only difference between the great ideas that take off and the great ones that don’t whether or not the creator got lucky at some point along the way? And if this is the case, is it even worth it to persevere with an idea you believe in when it seems like the odds are stacked against you? It is curious to remember all of the proposals and failures and wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time-scenarios that really could have and should have been hits; is luck a more powerful force than professors and professionals are willing to let on?
So often are passionate people told to follow their dreams in spite of adversity and the challenges they might face. Should we as entrepreneurs then stay resilient and continue on in the face of hardships or should we rewire our brains to accept the fact that, no matter how great and thorough and supported are plans may be, we are always susceptible to the changing tides of luck and fate?
I have no black-and-white answers to questions like these, making me just as anxious as I am excited to see how far my ideas can take me in the future. I may be biased with the youthful optimism that comes with being experientially green, but I would really like to think that the best ideas are the ones that rise into success and popularity—luck or no luck.