Commit to the Work, Not a Product

Commit to the Work

Like a quarterback, an entrepreneur works in a cycle of success-failures-success. In business, this cycle parallels the innovate-fail-innovate rhythm found throughout much of today’s business environment, especially among enterprises introducing new products and services or new approaches to established products and services. The upside of our new Networked Information Economy is tremendous opportunity. That’s why we have hundreds of thousands of startups in the U.S. each month.

The downside? The stats quo no longer offers a safe place to hide. Innovation is now the Golden Ticket, and this means that the demand for any given product or service doesn’t last for long. Today’s iPhone is tomorrow’s 8-track. A commitment to innovation means a commitment to trying, failing, learning, and trying again. Your commitment should not be to the product, it should be to the work—work is the permanent feature of successful entrepreneurship; it is how you innovate, navigate, or adapt to inevitable change.

I’ve had my share of ideas that failed to meet my hopes and expectations, but they still made some money in the process, and their ultimate failure did not make me a failure. On the contrary, getting out of that product or service is a successful business decision, helping me to move on to other, bigger and better things. “Failures” like this are a fact of business life—but knowing when to shut something down—a project, a product, a business—is not a failure, it is what successful enterprises and their leaders do.

Adapted from Fran Tarkenton’s book, The Power of Failure: Succeeding in the Age of Innovation.

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Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as,, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.