Failure is the defining milestone in the journey of a Wantrapreneur. The first major setback is what will really determine if the person can move on from Wantrapreneur to someday entrepreneur, or not. Will they cave under the failure and embarrassment of failure and run back to the security of the 9-5 or will they try again? Those who try again may yet fail again and again but each time they fail they only but get closer to getting it right the next time. It's a hard way to learn how to be an entrepreneur but the lessons learnt can be invaluable. For the 'born' entrepreneur, they would seem to just know what to do, and how to do it. They take to flight like a bird. The Wantrapreneur does not 'fly' naturally so he has to figure it out. And just as is the case with the invention of human flight the process may take many failures (and broken bones) to get right. And they may never fly as naturally but they can definitely reach similar heights and farther (show me a bird that's got to Mars and beyond).
In my case failure came much sooner than I would have wanted or expected. The realization that I had burnt through a good amount of money in so short a time only added insult to injury. But somehow I didn't give up all together. One thing I have learnt though is that perspective makes all the difference. To view a failure as a permanent strike-out and an indictment on you as a person as if to say you are a failure is self-defeating. It's like falling to the ground and then digging yourself a hole to bury yourself in rather than get up again. Instead, failure put into proper perspective can itself be a great motivator.
It is said that Thomas Edison once asked about how come he did not give up after numerous attempts at inventing the light bulb remarked that each failure was only a lesson in how not to do it.
On the other hand particularly in the tech startup world, the mantra 'fail fast, fail often' may be taking things to the other extreme. Renown entrepreneur and investor, Marc Anderseen tweeted this recently:
My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) September 12, 2014
I like that. That's a great, balanced, perspective on failure. it acknowledges failure will happen, but that it is not final, and centers one's focus on what's really important. To succeed eventually, and once having succeeded to sustain the success.
Now, this is not to say that failure is the only way by which one can learn how to be an entrepreneur. There are many other ways to do so, either by taking taught classes or even learning under a mentor. However, the lessons learnt through failure are special in the sense that they are deeply personal, they not only bring out the failures in the business enterprise, they also bring out aspects of the entrepreneur's character and as I've stated before, the journey of a Wantrapreneur to become an entrepreneur is really a journey of self discovery, even when that journey leads to the discovery that one is not suited to be an entrepreneur at all.