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I used to hate the ‘F' word. I cringed each time I thought of it and felt an overwhelming sense of unease every time I felt as though it might be creeping into my life.
I have since learned how essential that one tiny ‘F' word is to my personal development; because without failure I wouldn't be where I am right this very minute.
Oh. Wait. Did you…? You didn't think I meant I hated THE ‘F' word did you? Fuck no! I love that word! But today I'm talking about my other favourite ‘F' word – failure – and why it is utterly crucial to embrace it in order to become who you truly wish to become.
Get ready for a story because I have a lot to say…
My Road to Failure
Deep down inside I have always had the entrepreneurial itch. I always craved the freedom and I have always, I repeat, ALWAYS hated being told what to do.
So it was only a matter of time before I tuned into that deafening whisper within me and started baby-stepping my way towards a lifestyle where I was in charge of calling the shots.
But it wasn't easy. In fact, my path has been fraught with trials and triumphs, cringe-worthy moments and happy tears, nerve-shattering anxiety and relief.
About 7 years ago I had an idea for a TV show I desperately wanted to pitch. It wasn't anything new but there also wasn't anything like it on TV – it was called TwentySomething TV and it was essentially a mix between The View and Sex and the City.
One fateful day I met a producer at a commercial audition I was up for where he asked me to tell him one exciting thing I had going on in my life at that moment. Never having been asked this before I immediately answered “I'm writing a TV show!”. He was intrigued, we swapped numbers and met the following week where I pitched him my idea – hands shaking and sweat drenching my super-cute dress.
I remember it like it was yesterday. This was the first time I had actually taken the first step to doing something I loved, something I believed in and I had all the confidence in the world that this show would be an easy sell.
To clarify, the producer agreed to partner with me and we decided to test the show out online before approaching a TV network. Well, that was in 2006, aka the days of MySpace and wellll before online video was a viable way of getting noticed.
Throughout the years that show was online we amassed close to million views and had some key potential sponsors come and go (AOL, Johnson & Johnson and Durex to name a few) but after 24 months and nearly 10k lost on my part (and my producer's) we decided to stop production and part ways.
I felt an overwhelming sense of failure and disappointment for letting our team down. But I shook it off.
Next up was another web show I created with a girlfriend of mine (and co-host on TSTV) featuring our travels through Australia. Again, we dedicated time and money to a dream we believed in. We partnered up with the Gold Coast tourism board and had an absolute blast, but there was no money there.
And for the second time in 2 years I found myself struggling to figure out what to do with my life. I was 28 at this point and freaking the fuck out that I had no direction, no money and some pretty hefty debt.
I fell back on a job bartending – something I had done for 8 years on the side and absolutely loathed – slinging drinks for a few measely dollars and a whole lotta headaches.
Fortunately, my boss was interested in video marketing and sought me out to meet with him and his wife and discuss how they could utilize online videos for their 3 restaurants.
Finally I saw an opportunity: These two had 3 successful venues, an open mind and money to spend.
I pitched them a monthly package that included social media management, weekly videos, blog posts and a new site to feature it all on.
To my relief they accepted my pitch and just like that I catapulted myself out of bartending once and for all and signed my first client.
Not even five months later my finicky client turned on me, cut my fee in half while keeping my partner at her full rate. It was a devastating blow to my confidence, not to mention my bank account, and those familiar feelings of failure started creeping back in.
For the next 6 months I struggled…a lot. I had even less money than before, was brimming with resentment and felt flat out defeated.
So I started hustling: I spent all day learning, writing and building a name for myself as the go-to gal in hospitality social media marketing.
When I finally moved back to Toronto I was ready to hit the ground running. I took everything I had learned, contacted venues I thought I could help, set up meetings and signed my first 3 in one day.
I was thrilled!
7 months later I was burnt out and looking for a way out.
I was furious with myself.
After all, this is what I had been hoping to achieve all along: A thriving business with great (albeit a tad overwhelming) clients and enough income to hire someone to help me manage the workload and allow me to only work mornings.
So what the hell was wrong with me?
I realized I was craving freedom – freedom from client requests and contracts; freedom to go wherever I wanted, without having to clear it with my clients prior to stepping on a plane; freedom to scale my efforts past a few thousand a month and make as much as I wanted to make, without having to burn the candle at both ends.
Fortunately, Josh was already living that lifestyle.
We decided to team up and start anew.
We started at square one with a brand new site, no readers, no rankings and no sales. We decided we would stick with what Josh new best at that point and started creating thin affiliate sites – sites with maybe 3-5 posts on them, shitty backlinks and no thought or care put into them.
Within 2 months we made our first sale of $20 and figured the money would quickly start rolling in.
Not so much.
Our sites got slapped by Google, we were banished to the barren depths of page 5 and our we were burning through our savings, fast.
We stressed, we fought, we paced, we drank and we wondered if we should entertain the idea of getting jobs – an unthinkable compromise and one we resented even having to consider.
We felt depressed and lost and knew something had to change.
The Stepping Stones of Failure
Thankfully, one sunny morning we decided to get out of our apartment, go for a walk and figure shit out.
We started by recounting all the steps we had taken that hadn't worked up to this point and decided to do something drastic – we pivoted.
From that moment on we switched our focus to a new and unfamiliar path – one where “good enough” was no longer good enough. We realized that we had to stop trying to avoid failure and instead accept that it would come – as it always does when you want to transition from good to great.
We embraced our failures, forgave ourselves for our mistakes and chose to learn from them. We focused on creating a voice, a brand and a community and built a website that readers wanted to come to.
Was it easy from there on out? Hell no! It still isn't.
In fact, we fail all the time – from new niches we try to enter that fail to linking practices that have a negative effect on our rankings to hiring the wrong people for the wrong jobs.
We fail a lot. But what's crazy is we WANT to fail!
We revel in the opportunity to fail.
And we bear-hug it and appreciate it for what it is – the source of our most formative lessons, the key to becoming more confident in our business and the sign that we are on the right path.
I mean, think of it this way: if you are failing, you are following in some pretty rad footsteps…
Maybe it's just me but if there is one thing I relish in with my professional growth, it's seeing where others have come from.
For example, did you know:
- The Beatles were initially told “we don't like your sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
- Steven Spielberg dropped out of junior high school, went back and was placed in a class for those with learning disabilities only to drop out for good a month later.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because of “a lack of skill”.
- Bill Gates was a Harvard University dropout and his first business “Traf-O-Data” tanked.
- Henry Ford's first 3 businesses failed before hitting the jackpot with Ford in his 50's.
- Walt Disney was told he “lacked imagination and skill” and actually went bankrupt 4 times before succeeding
- Marilyn Monroe was fired by 20th Century Fox a year into her contract after her producer told her she was unattractive and couldn't act.
- Abraham Lincoln failed campaigning 7 times before finally becoming the US President.
- Elvis Presley was told by the Grand Ole Opry manager “You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck.”
- Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a reporter after she was told she was “unfit for TV”.
- Thomas Edison (who has 1,093 US patents under his name) was initially told he was too stupid to learn anything and it took him nearly 9,000 attempts before he finally created a working lightbulb
And those are just 11 off the top of my head!
You see, everyone who has greatness within them and wants to live a life they love is bound to fail, to have to start over and check their ego at the door if they truly want success.
They have to be willing to wade through the exhilaration and anxiety, celebrate the joyous triumphs and brush off spirit-crushing defeats, experience the elation and frustration and foster unwavering strength and vibrant resilience.
It is part of the perfectly imperfect journey.
And it is not for the faint of heart.
So, fail. Fail often. And fail fast. It is the only way you can emerge into the person you are truly meant to be, no, the person you deserve to be.