Forest Key | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Forest Key

Background:  

Based in Seattle, Pixvana is an SaaS startup with an integrated platform transforming the way customers create, edit and show VR video experiences across any device.  The company is backed by Vulcan Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Microsoft, Cisco, Raine and Hearst Ventures.

The Mistake:

Not looking at mistakes as an opportunity for growth.

More than 20 years ago, I was a young, 27-year-old CEO of a company that was having some struggles one quarter. I remember going to the board in a somewhat humbled posture, saying, 'These are the things that went wrong,' and so on. I was so humiliated and sad, and felt like I wasn’t doing my job well.

One member of our board directors – who was a very accomplished guy who had been in the technology space for more than 30 years – told me, 'You make every mistake in the book.'  And then he paused for a long time, before adding, 'But you only make the mistake once.'

It took me a while to figure it out, but this board director – my mentor – was essentially telling me that I was being too hard on myself, and that I wasn’t appreciating the fact that making mistakes was actually an important part of the process because I was learning something from them.

And he was right. Rather than beating myself up about not doing things right the first time, I should have been embracing these moments.

You have to be ready for growth and learning every day, whether you’re 20 or 60.

The Lesson:

Sometimes, falling and making mistakes is the goal, because you are learning and perfecting your ideas and your approach to the problem. In some ways, not being open to making mistakes means that you are not growing, which probably makes it harder for you to arrive at the right decision.

The perpetual nature of learning as a skill – of being open to learning and seeing the world as being filled with new lessons and opportunities for growth – is something that I think startups generally tend to develop and embrace in their cultures, and for a good reason. As a founder and a CEO, that’s something I try to personally practice and constantly repeat, sometimes to the frustration of the team.

You have to be ready for growth and learning every day, whether you’re 20 or 60. None of us should ever feel like we’re done learning.

A friend of mine who worked at Microsoft told me something that truly exemplifies this theory: She had taken up skiing pretty late in life, and was terrified of falling. But her coach told her that, not only should she fall, but she should make it a goal to fall. She had to promise to him that she would fall three times every time she went out. It was her way of committing to getting better, because if she wasn’t falling, it meant she wasn’t pushing herself.

Pixvana is on Twitter at: @pixvana

Photo courtesy of Pixvana

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