The difficult part about answering the right question is, perhaps, framing the question. Obvious. So is there a solution. I believe there is. We should focus on words and not phrases.

An illustration. A phrase used quite often among start ups is “Fail Fast”. There are two phrases here actually- “Start Up” and “Fail Fast.” Now I understand why an investor who is managing a portfolio of companies would want to identify the potentially successful from the potentially unsuccessful one. He does not want to throw good money after bad. But why would an entrepreneur want to fail fast. After all if they believe that they can succeed, then wouldn’t tenacity, imagination and network be their focus.

The reason I mention this is because the answer you chose drives behaviour. Is it possible that entrepreneurs who are required to fail fast in a start up fail to distinguish between the end of the road and a road block. Or the other way round as well, do they start up too quickly. Do they understand the responsibility, the sacrifice, the intensity that is required to build something from scratch. Can they imagine what it means to experience failure. And I wonder that what the equivalent phrase for “Fail Fast” is because experience and failure are single words.

Experience is a very important word. It refers to something that is personal. It usually affects us emotionally, physically and psychically. And when this has to do with failure, the experience is very negative and can create depression, a low sense of self worth and trauma for the family. Of course, there is an antidote to “Fail Fast.” It is another phrase “Serial Entrepreneur”. Now is it entirely accidental that the phrase is usually used in negative contexts like, “Serial Murderer.” I have never heard of a “Serial Value Creator”, “Serial Product Innovator” or “Serial Employment Generator.”

Why is that. Is it because we use words to describe these, imaginative product designer, successful businessman, are more organic. We follow the English language. It is a noun that is described by an adjective.

So I close by asking all my friends who have start ups or are in the process of setting up one to consider the following words. Success, failure, integrity, imagination, hard work, empathy, ambition, hubris, sacrifice, support. How many of these words describe you. And if they do are you in the top 95 percentile among your peers on this. Because that is the minimum qualifying criteria.

I end with something to think about.

“People say nothing is impossible but I do nothing every day”, Winnie the Pooh. No phrases just words that create a beautiful a profound meaning.