In Entrepreneurship, There Are No Erasers


I graduated high school a few years before computers in high schools were commonplace. So, like most students at the time, I learned to type using a typewriter.

The two things I remember most about the typewriter were how hard you had to hit the keys, and what a pain it was to correct a mistake.

Specifically, I remember that each time I struck an incorrect key, I would have to hit the backspace, insert a piece of white correction paper, hit the wrong key again (to "white out" the wrong character), then hit the backspace again, and then hit the correct key.

I don't know how journalists and authors survived through this arduous process...

Now, while the modern day keyboard and word processing software has made this process much more efficient, it does come with a price.

The price, as I see it, is that it has conditioned us to act a bit haphazardly, knowing that we can easily go back and correct ourselves later. There are countless times that I write non-stop, and then go back and make edits.

The key point to remember is this -- most other times in life, we can't go back and make edits.

Consider this great quote by American writer and former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John W. Gardner. Gardner said "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."

This is a pretty scary concept when you think about it. Having to draw without the luxury erasing your errors. But it's very true. We've all made mistakes that couldn't be undone.

The concept that you only get one chance, and that there is no ability to "erase," is particularly true with human relationships. As an entrepreneur, I'm referring to your interactions with your current and potential employees, investors, partners, and vendors.

With each of these constituents, a wrong move can often have devastating effects. Sure, sometimes you can go back and right a wrong, but in many circumstances a misstep (e.g., approaching an investor incorrectly) results in complete failure.

Because entrepreneurship is clearly the art of drawing without an eraser, I recommend two actions to improve your success: planning and education.

With regards to planning, even a small amount of planning will nearly always improve both efficiency and performance.

For example, spending 5 minutes planning your day's activities will make you more productive and efficient. Planning out an investor meeting will maximize your chances of raising funds. And creating plans with your employees that ensure their tasks and actions and in complete sync with your company goals will help ensure their (and your) success.

Similarly, when you invest in education, you are better able to do things right the first time, and not have to learn through painful trial and error. You need to educate yourself on how to raise money, how to best hire and retain employees, how to better market your products and services, etc.

As an entrepreneur, you WILL make lots of mistakes. And that's fine. Particularly since you can recover from most mistakes. But, importantly, spend the time planning and educating yourself. This will save you time and money, help you avoid critical mistakes, and help you recover when needed.

Key things to consider:


* Do you create a plan every day, week and month? If not, start creating them as they will make you much more efficient.

* When you have an important meeting, do you plan it out? Do you create an agenda and really think through your desired outcome? If not, start doing it.

* Who are you counting on for your success (e.g., partners, employees, investors, etc.)? Do you have plans in place to ensure that each of these constituents will perform as you need them to? If not, get these plans in place.


* What are the key tasks and accomplishments you need to achieve in the next year? Have you achieved success with similar projects in the past? If not, in which areas do you need education to ensure you succeed?

* What new skills would make you a more effective entrepreneur? How will you go about learning these skills?

* What skills do your constituents (e.g., employees, vendors, etc.) need to perform better? How will you ensure they get this education?

Share this article:

mark says

please sign me up
Posted at 10:59 am
Yomi Kukoyi says

Nice to know! Amazed at the things we thought we knew and the ones we take for granted. It always comes back to haunt you.
Posted at 11:02 am
Phyllis says

This is a wonderful quote...and an interesting interpretation of it. While it may not apply to business and entrepreneurship, I think what Gardner was getting at is that we should not go through life believing we have to get everything down perfectly. The key word in this phrase is "art". It implies ease, confidence, a certain carefree spirit - not a constant fear of getting it wrong and not being able to do anything about it. I've always interpreted this as "Life is the art of drawing, and to hell with the eraser." Take the chance, do the deed, go with your gut...and, yes, plan your brains out. But more than planning, life requires action - fearless action. Well...I changed my mind. This DOES apply to business and entrepreneurship!
Posted at 8:47 pm
Howard Brown says

Thanks for sharing. Very informative. Entrepreneurship is the process of discovering, evaluating, and exploiting opportunities to come up with a new business venture. Here are more entrepreneurship tips i found at
Posted at 4:42 am

Get a Free Consultation
with a Growthink Expert

Click Here