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Nancy Marmolejo : Entrepreneurial Lessons

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Day of the Dead

By Nancy Marmolejo

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an ancient Mexican tradition kept alive now by people around the world. Taking place on the first days of November, a typical Mexican Day of the Dead celebration involves altars to honor beloved ancestors, music, food, brightly colored decorations, and flowers everywhere. It's a healthy way of acknowledging that death is a part of life and that try as we might, we can't outrun it. However, we can have some fun with la muerte (Death) while we play cat and mouse, and that is the essence of Dia de los Muertos.

If you're an entrepreneur, chances are the cycles of birth, life, and death have touched your business. Think back on a great idea you had to either start or improve a venture. You nurtured it, fed it, did all that you could to give it a good life. Maybe you had a great logo designed, launched what you thought was a killer website, perhaps even got the media involved. But the idea went thud — no one bought it, no one liked it, or something in you just couldn't embrace it.

At some point you had to let this concept go and turn it over to la muerte. I'm sure it wasn't fun or easy, but deep down inside you knew it had to happen. You kicked yourself for money spent, time wasted, and resources expended. Yet like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, a newer, better idea emerged later on that couldn't have happened without the wisdom gained from the idea that didn't make it.

You can dwell negatively on past failures, public embarrassments, and costly mistakes — or you can honor them as the "ancestors" of your current and future success. It may require a big shift in your thinking to digest this, especially if you've trained your mind to cringe at mistakes of the past.

Now put this in a cultural context and you can see a new paradigm come forth: a few years ago, not many Americans were aware of Day of the Dead. They shrugged off what appeared as simply a Mexican fascination with dancing skeletons. Today, more and more people around the world understand the healing aspect of this holiday and are adopting it as a tradition for their families. People's attitudes towards death and loss are changing with each day.

Put your business flops on your Day of the Dead altar this year. Honor them, acknowledge them, thank them for what they taught you. You can even laugh at them (and yourself!) while you reminisce.

And remember this quote from Thomas Edison: "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed." If Edison had a Day of the Dead altar for his scrapped ideas, it would probably fill a football field. •

© Copyright 2006 Nancy Marmolejo

Award winning entrepreneur Nancy Marmolejo, "The Latinapreneur Coach", is dedicated to helping Latina leaders and entrepreneurs achieve maximum success in business and in life. More »