I have not met a successful business person who has not encountered failure at some stage in their career. Failure is like a right of passage in life. It is going to happen at some point to all of us; we are not going to get a “get out of jail free” card to skip “landing” on the failure icon on the board.
It is more common amongst entrepreneurs and business people because they embrace their work life; they see opportunity around each corner and they are programmed to “go get it”; that’s why they are who they are. It’s also why they encounter failure. The latest business opportunity didn’t work, the plan wasn’t successful, the concept didn’t get traction etc etc. There are a whole multitude of viable reasons why ventures just don’t work sometimes. The best laid plans and thoughts just don’t “make it”. Heh; sh*t happens – deal with it.
That’s the point here; “deal with it.”
I wish failure was a subject taught at school and in university. It’s the flip side to success, you can’t have one without the other. The journey to success is full of bumps and pot holes of failure. We aren’t taught that it’s okay to fail. Failure doesn’t matter, it how we handle failure that really matters.
I have suffered failure in my career. The most damaging was when I returned home to live in Belfast with my young family. I had been living in London and had a successful Estate Agency practice there. I was offered a Partnership in a newly forming LLP of an Estate Agency practice. I was to be 50% Shareholder; 4 other people had a 12.5% share each. It all sounded great, so the move was made.
Less than 1 year later, I was basically told by the other 4 shareholders that the business wasn’t a success and that I didn’t fit the profile needed. Everyone was “terribly sorry” and I was paid my investment back and that was that.
That wasn’t that. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty and I felt embarrassed. I returned home to my 7 month pregnant wife and 18 month old son to tell my wife that I’d been “given the boot.”
Now this is the point here; up to that moment (I was circa 41 years old) I had never experienced failure. I had been successful at school and very successful in my career in London. I did not have the tools to deal with failure. I was in total shock when I look back at myself then. It absolutely rocked me to my core. For a number of weeks I was in a daze and felt miserable. What was I going to do? How could I have let my family down? Why did it go wrong? How do I deal with my feelings?
I am happy to share this experience again in more detail as it unveiled some very revealing and worthwhile lessons to me, about me.
For the purpose of this blog, the point is that I did rally. I recreated myself and went into another business venture. This venture was successful and provided food on the table for my family when I needed to.
We must learn to see failure in the correct light. Many times it is the beginning of our journey to success. It can be utilised as a positive force to make us more determined and stronger to succeed whatever the odds are. We can learn so much about ourselves from failure to use to our advantage. I fear that this is maybe missing from our culture to an extent.
So, if and when you experience failure, “go through it”; don’t hide from it. Feel the huge emotions that are racing through you and understand them. Remember them for future reference and then use this energy and get up, dust yourself down and go again. In the words of Barack Obama; “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
So; get back on the horse and go for it !