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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Understanding Ignorance and Humility

Comments (2)

I’ve made a large number of mistakes in my life.  My goal when I make a mistake is to understand what I did wrong, learn from it, pick myself up, and move forward.  When I’ve made the same mistake for the third time, I usually finally figure out what I’m doing wrong.

While I’ve also had plenty of success, I never get confused about where most of my lessons come from.  In case this is ever ambiguous from my writing, I learn the vast majority of my lessons from my failures.  I also have learned what I don’t know, and have figured out that I shouldn’t venture into areas where I’m clueless unless I am willing to spend a lot of time up front researching them – at least to the point where I’m no longer completely clueless.

Matt McCall points us to a great essay by James Montier from Societe General titled Mind Matters: An admission of ignorance; a humble approach to investingI thought it was right on and was nicely reinforced by Matt’s very personal post titled Ignorance and Humility.

  • Jay Levitt

    Hear, hear!

    I get annoyed by certain very bright entrepreneurs, because all they talk about is what worked for them. Who cares? “This worked for me” doesn't mean “the true path to success”; it doesn't even mean “important”. (In “Founders at Work”, half the founders swore that Aeron chairs were critical; half swore that plywood desks were critical. Talk about a distinction without a difference…

    Success is nice, but I'd much rather hear about what didn't work, and why. Only then can you start comparing successes to failures, and find out what's important.

    Richard Satava gave a great talk at BIF-4. He said that DARPA had a rule: If more than 10% of their projects succeeded, they considered it a problem; clearly, they weren't taking enough risks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/smurchie smurchie

    Truly successful people appreciate the value of luck in their careers. Take two equally smart, driven, capable people; put them in the same start-ups or corporate environments at the same time; set the timer and say "go". After an arbitrary period, it's very unlikely they will be in the same places, respectively. Does that make the more successful one smarter, more driven and more capable?

    So timing and other exogenous factors play a huge role for the entrepreneur, and the same is true for investors. A single success as an investor or entrepreneur doesn't make one an expert. Even a "string" of three or four doesn't. I like to see a few failures mixed in: makes for that all-important self-awareness and humility.

  • http://www.angelsandpinheads.com Steve Murchie

    Truly successful people appreciate the value of luck in their careers. Take two equally smart, driven, capable people; put them in the same start-ups or corporate environments at the same time; set the timer and say “go”. After an arbitrary period, it's very unlikely they will be in the same places, respectively. Does that make the more successful one smarter, more driven and more capable?

    So timing and other exogenous factors play a huge role for the entrepreneur, and the same is true for investors. A single success as an investor or entrepreneur doesn't make one an expert. Even a “string” of three or four doesn't. I like to see a few failures mixed in: makes for that all-important self-awareness and humility.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Jay_Levitt Jay_Levitt

    Hear, hear!

    I get annoyed by certain very bright entrepreneurs, because all they talk about is what worked for them. Who cares? "This worked for me" doesn't mean "the true path to success"; it doesn't even mean "important". (In "Founders at Work", half the founders swore that Aeron chairs were critical; half swore that plywood desks were critical. Talk about a distinction without a difference…

    Success is nice, but I'd much rather hear about what didn't work, and why. Only then can you start comparing successes to failures, and find out what's important.

    Richard Satava gave a great talk at BIF-4. He said that DARPA had a rule: If more than 10% of their projects succeeded, they considered it a problem; clearly, they weren't taking enough risks.

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