Vipin Thek: Changing Mindsets on Failure to Help Everyone Become a Changemaker (SocialStory)

One of my last pieces for SocialStory’s Celebrating Failure Series. 

For the next edition of our series on lessons from failure, SocialStory spoke with Vipin Thek, who works for the Global Office at Ashoka. He previously led the Youth Venture program in India and co-founded an organization in Chennai that works to prevent child sexual abuse.

Here is his excellent advice for changemakers everywhere:

1. There is no failure, only growth

“I don’t follow the concept of failure,” says Vipin. “I believe that if you really look at life, there is no failure, only growth. When we do something that doesn’t go as planned, we need to learn from those experiences and grow from there, and not view it as a failure.”

2. Don’t fear failure

Vipin believes that the high fear of failure is what prevents people from seeing the possibilities of success. In his own work with Ashoka, he would often speak to youth excited about working on their dream ventures, but they would never come to a workshop or launch a venture because they weren’t ready to go out of their comfort zone. Vipin thinks that instead of fearing failure, we should explore what is holding us back from pursuing our dreams.

3. Take the loneliness out of the journey

One way to overcome the fear of failure is to become self-aware and re-inspired through community. “You need to take away the loneliness of the journey, and the way to do that is to build a community,” explains Vipin. “When you realize you aren’t the only one going through this process—that other people are also facing these challenges—that’s inspiring and helps prevent people from giving up.”

4. Build with the stakeholders in mind

Vipin advises that entrepreneurs speak to stakeholders and let the ones they want to work with influence the creation of their idea and plan of action. “Where is the voice of stakeholder captured in your idea? Who are the people you are trying to support? What is their feedback? When you are preparing and planning your project by listening to stakeholders, the chances of being more resonant with the needs of the community is higher,” argues Vipin.

5. Having faith

“The journey of the entrepreneur is a journey of faith. From my experience, a lot of entrepreneurs have great belief in themselves. But you also need belief in something larger than yourself. A larger power. God. Destiny. Fate. Lack of funding or having trouble with co-founders—those issues come up daily at the implementation level. Finding a source of inspiration larger than yourself helps you push past those daily issues towards the long-term vision,” Vipin says.

6. Sustaining the entrepreneur

He believes one thing the social enterprise community could do better is support and sustain the entrepreneur. “There are so many business plan competitions and budget writing trainings. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to sustain the organization, but sustaining the organization should be secondary to sustaining the entrepreneur. How do you sustain the entrepreneur better through their life challenges and emotional issues?”

7. Change the societal mindset around failure

“We need to have a revolution in the thinking of mainstream society about failure.” Vipin thinks that if we are really serious about changing the mindset around failure and stopping people from holding themselves back, we need to give them experiences around failing. “Plan something that won’t work or make people do things they consider impossible. The more they do it, the more space they have to reflect on what they learned. And make it fun—make fear of failure less monstrous in heads and minds” he says.

“We need to create a world where solutions outpace the problems, so we need to improve the quality of thinking with which were approaching the issues. And we need to radically increase the number of people that believe they can be changemakers. Giving people confidence to take on things they think are impossible is what we want and need to make everyone a changemaker,” he says.

We want to thank Vipin for taking the time to share this wisdom with us. You can participate also—email us at

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