“I’m a failure.”
“I screw everything up.”
“I don’t do anything right.”
“How can I possibly do this?”
“I don’t have what it takes.”
“I’m not moving fast enough.”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I don’t know the right people.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
Let’s talk about why failure is good and shatter these harmful beliefs that get in our way.
No one likes to fail. Failure is painful—emotionally and sometimes financially. Yet throughout history it’s been failure that has taught people how to ultimately find success—and plenty of it.
One of my favorite examples of this is Milton Hershey. His first two candy making businesses were failures, but he didn’t give up. In 1893 he was making millions from his caramels and he then decided to focus on making his own chocolates. The rest is sweet history.
Failure can be an incredible catalyst to reach for new goals. What’s more, it can impart enduring and life-changing wisdom.
Learning From Failure
There are any number of articles I could reference on the value of failure and how it teaches you in a way that success never can. Instead, and because I love quotes, I wanted to share a few that I turn to.
- “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” — J.K. Rowling
- “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”— Thomas Edison
- “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce
- “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”— Sumner Redstone
- “I think you have to try and fail, because failure gets you closer to what you’re good at. — Louis C.K.
My Personal Story
Once upon a time, I started a company to heal what was broken in my life. I sacrificed everything for the company I co-founded: my heart, my home, my time, my money, even my pride.
I labored days, nights, and weekends, took no salary for four years, and with each fund raise I watched my equity dwindle, all at the sacrifice of growing the company into the award-winning national treasure that is famed to this day. When I did begin to take a salary, it was not enough to make ends meet.
After five years of laboring so hard to grow this company, I realized that the amount of sacrifice had become too much and had gone on too long. My identity and worth were wrapped up in this business and I allowed all my boundaries to be crossed. In the last nine months I existed with an impossible schedule: I would wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and work until 11:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m. every day, including most weekends.
It stripped me of my joy and lightheartedness. Even with every effort to sustain it all, I knew that if I continued the company would suffer. And in many ways that last year, it did. I finally arrived at a painful decision, planned an exit, and went to the board and told them that we needed to hire a new CEO.
The day of my exit was intense and painful and immediately after talking with the board, I sat down and made a list of all the things I had learned and the things I would do better. I sat with the discomfort and dug into the root of what I needed to own and change on my side of the street. I got clear about setting boundaries with partners, investors, and in my life with family and friends.
While my partnership with my fellow co-founder bombed, I had to exit the business to make my life work, and the months following were very dark. I chose and continue to choose to see those 5+ years of my life as one of my all-time greatest learning opportunities.
My takeaway: If you don’t set boundaries, no one else will.
Wisdom From The Ashes
What failure do you need to reframe and learn from in your life?
Coming back after failure is not always easy. It takes courage and determination.
I hold the belief that we have the ability to positively impact the world through the power of our businesses. Despite betrayal, heartbreak, disappointment or failure – get up, learn from your mistakes, believe in yourself, be real, and go make a difference. In the end, it’s just a blip in the radar that you turned into a win because of what you learned.
I’ll leave with this final thought from Gandhi: “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”