Embrace Failure And You May Find Unprecedented Success
This article originally appeared in Inc. Magazine.
My most significant learning experiences have come from my role as co-founder and CEO of Hologenix, LLC, the inventors of CELLIANT® technology.
CELLIANT is a matrix of natural, thermo-reactive minerals that converts the body’s heat into infrared energy, boosting local circulation-resulting in stronger performance, faster recovery, and better sleep. The formula may be embedded into fibers or yarns or printed onto fabric and used in sportswear, sleepwear, bedding, mattresses, furniture, pet beds, gloves, blankets, and anything else that you can make out of textiles, including chairs.
We have achieved a lot during the past 20 years in terms of development and success. CELLIANT has been determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be a medical device and general wellness product. It is also designated as a Class 1 Medical Device in Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, with more regions to follow. Our company, Hologenix, was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 5000 fastest-growing companies in America. We’ve forged partnerships with some of the world’s top brands and retailers and have innovated in the areas of responsive textiles and health technology.
Of course, nothing happens overnight. I started with naive optimism and excitement about how quickly we could bring this idea to market. I had no idea how complicated it would be -setting up the supply chain, managing research and development (R&D), and conducting clinical studies, all while navigating our recognition with the FDA. But here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way, which I hope will benefit others in their entrepreneurial explorations.
1. Embrace failure
After the flash of brilliant insight that inspires your journey comes the hard work of reaching your destination. It takes a fierce, singular determination and focus as well as a passionate commitment to an idea or cause, to succeed.
There is a Thomas Edison quote, related to his pursuit to engineer the electric light, that goes: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
When things don’t go the way you expected or hoped, don’t despair. Pick yourself up. Learn from what happened and use it as an opportunity to get better. It is only through adversity that we grow stronger.
Failure is a learning opportunity. It opens the door to new potentials, new possibilities, and it adds to your understanding of how to and, just as importantly, how not to do things.
Sometimes, failure is an emotional response. And that’s okay, because when you have a deeply personal stake in what you’re doing, you will go to greater lengths to succeed. You will endure the bad feeling you might get from it not working out this time because you know that it will work eventually. It makes you much more willing to endure those “10,000 ways that don’t work” because you know, in your bones, that you will find the way that does.
2. Do your research and never stop learning
If you want to find that one way, like Edison did, it takes exploration, experimentation, and teamwork. In addition, you need to be driven by passion-not to mention the perseverance, imagination and the fortitude to meet the many obstacles and challenges you will face and to weather all the disappointments and failures.
Put another way, it takes years to create an overnight success.
Of course, the road to success depends on the nature of your business. If, like us, you are producing something that makes claims to affect the physical wellness of both humans and animals, then you’d better make sure the science around your claims is sound.
Passion, good ideas, and a product that provides meaningful value are important, but so is the ability to back up any claims you make about the value of those ideas and products.
One of the essential ingredients in our success has been the establishment of our science advisory board in 2011, which helped confirm the research behind the power of our infrared technology. The appointments include established and recognized leaders in the areas of photobiology, nanotechnology, diabetes, wound care, and sleep medicine. The Science Advisory Board works to identify, design, and execute rigorous clinical trials that validate and substantiate our significant claims and to publish those studies in recognized, peer-reviewed journals.
Our recent studies in the effectiveness of our technology have clinically proven it can improve local circulation for healthy individuals. Infusing CELLIANT into the fiber core gives products the ability to absorb energy emitted by the body in the form of heat, either by radiation, conduction, or convection. These minerals then convert this energy into infrared (IR) wavelengths and re-emit it, even through multiple layers of fabrics, making it possible for the tissue to absorb it. This process triggers vasodilation in the capillary bed and makes more oxygen available to your cells, thus allowing for increased energy production in the body-including tissue and muscle.
With more than 10 clinical trials and counting and seven published papers, CELLIANT is, at the moment, the most established and clinically tested infrared textile in the industry.
But it’s the possibilities that lay before us that excite me most. The prospect of improving people’s lives while contributing to real science is a great thrill and invigorating. And there has never been a better time to challenge habits that stand in the way of progress and to experiment with unconventional approaches to exponentially change and reshape our understanding of how our bodies work.
3. Innovation is making something new - again and again
Innovation is a creative process that requires an open mind, a willingness to look at things from a different angle, and a conviction that however good the idea might seem, it can always be better. Just think of Thomas Edison’s initial lightbulb and the advancements that have happened in the lighting industry through constant experimentation.
You should treat your idea like a person-as an idea that is living, growing, and evolving. And, if you approach your idea, your project, as something that isn’t finished, as something there’s more to learn about-its capacity, its potential and its value-then your idea will be more alive to you. You will be more able to keep discovering, keep developing, and keep improving. This, of course, goes for both you and your business. The best ideas are always those that have value for both the entrepreneur and the public.
Innovation is about making something new and making something new again. And for that to work, you need to embrace the unknown. Innovation depends as much on what you don’t know as what you do know.
Twenty years ago, when I met my co-founder (and the inventor of CELLIANT technology), David Horinek, he was developing a product that would empower his grandmother to manage her diabetes and arthritis naturally. I was excited by the implications of the idea he described to me, and I could see that it would have multiple applications, but I didn’t comprehend the full breadth of it. The process included immersing ourselves in research, consulting with experts, establishing the Science Advisory Board, doing clinical trials, and forging business partnerships. Those were all critical steps to take because that’s what allowed us to see the possibilities of CELLIANT to amplify the power of human potential.
We’re proud to work with some great partners and iconic brands and we will continue to innovate, to invest in research and development, and to substantiate our claims through rigorous clinical trials. We are still learning new ways to test the limits of infusing minerals into bioceramic textiles to provide the benefits of infrared. Working with mills and manufacturers on new constructions, even beyond textiles, our work continues to imagine applications that will further improve the health and wellness of people and animals. It is a process of discovery.
Embrace the unknown-that is where the surprises are. You can’t build something new if you’re trying to build something you already know everything about. You can’t learn when you’re talking; you learn when you’re listening and observing. So, don’t be afraid to take steps into unexplored worlds. We started off thinking about applications in one area, and then found ourselves in other areas what would have appeared to be incompatible on paper.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan. But you need to value spontaneity and embrace uncertainty. A lot of innovation happens unpredictably and inadvertently. You need to give yourself the space to allow for the unexpected to happen.
4. Pursue your passion and purpose
My passion and purpose are amplifying human potential. That’s not just in the form of advancements in health and wellness and sports performance, but in the larger sense of expanding our knowledge of the universe, being the best that we can be in all respects, while leaving a light footprint on mother earth.
By being willing to stumble, pick yourself up, and try again until you get it right, in addition to having intellectual curiosity and embracing a perennial “test and learn” mindset, you can achieve remarkable breakthroughs. It’s important to realize that getting your product or service right means it’s never done and can always be better-we must continually pursue ways to improve and expand on our ideas.