Lessons from failure
Ask any great entrepreneur and they will tell you that their success was born out of hard work, perseverance and undeniably- failure. If any of these now successful people, stopped on their mission to greatness after they experienced failure then they wouldn’t be where they are today.
This year I faced the lowest point in my career. I walked away from an executive career in Sydney to make it on my own as a freelancer and live the dream of running my life- on my own terms. The pursuit of this dream cost me everything- almost, and I was left completely split open with every opportunity at my feet, yet none in my hands.
I had hit rock bottom. I was stuck overseas, unable to speak the local language, with finished contracts and no new work because it was Christmas. My savings account was becoming anorexic and the worst part of all of this-
I work in Digital Marketing and I had no steady access to WiFi.
After pursuing old leads and trying to get local work for 2 months, I conceded defeat and returned to Australia with a ticket purchased on my credit card and $1000 to my name (thanks to Mum and Dad).
Things were bad. Really bad.
I had no self confidence, no work and I had gained 9kgs. So not only was I jobless I was fat too.
Then came the shame.
I had failed.
I had left Australia as though I was one of the first passengers on the Titanic, waving furiously from the top deck, happy to be escaping everyday life- happy to be special and now I’ve returned as broken and shameful as the 105 year-old wreck lying at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.
I spent the first week at home in bed and at the gym. Being at home with my parents allowed me to fall back into a somewhat childlike state. If I cried and my Mum hugged me. If I was hungry my Dad cooked for me and if I was lonely my sisters were there to keep me company.
I was able to vacate my life and just be. I didn’t have to ‘adult’ I could just sit and think, really think.
My introspection over this time showed me two things.
- I was determined to do what I said I was going to do
- I had to start talking
I had a clear choice at this moment. I could give up trying to make it on my own and return to a full time desk job, where I get up every morning hating my life and kiss my travelling dreams goodbye or I could hustle, make the absolute most of the WiFi and get my ass to the gym. I chose the latter- obviously.
Now that I knew that I wasn’t ready to give up just yet, I knew that I had to step outside of myself and start talking and networking. I needed to find people who were like me, who understood me and who would take a chance on me.
I needed to prove to myself and to them that I was not only worth of having the life I wanted, but that I was going to kick ass (with abs) while doing it.
What I learnt from being at the bottom
In one word- creativity.
Hitting your lowest point forces you to be creative. You are forced to smash down the walls of whatever box you’ve been living in and dive deep within yourself to find- it.
The Shiny Thing that has been waiting patiently within you, waiting for you to crack open and set it free. Waiting for the moment when you would be ready to see it for how special it really is.
The pressure of being at my rock bottom busted me wide open and there in the centre of my chest was a spark. Flickering in innocence, waiting to be ignited.
It really is amazing what can happen when you are put under pressure.
I started to look at myself and my skills in a completely different way. In every job I’ve ever had I’ve been forced to fit a certain role and be what they wanted me to be. Some things were part of my job description and some things were not. I had a role and I had to fulfill it.
Carrying this view of myself into my freelance work was mistake number one. I squished myself into what my client’s wanted me to be. I molded myself like a clump of PlayDough. Writer, blog planner, copywriter, ghost writer, photographer, social media researcher- all things I could do well, but things that were not a true reflection of me. I got the jobs done, but without the true passion that is seen when you are doing your soul’s work, when you become transcendent in what you are doing.
I realised I had to create an identity for myself that would attract the right people, rather than chasing all the wrong people, begging and praying for them to like me.
Sounds so simple now, but two months ago this information was life changing.
You need to work like you have $5.00 to your name
Rachel Zoe, famous celebrity stylist always tells her young proteges to
“work every day like you have $5.00 in your bank account”
What would you do to succeed if you only had $5.00 in your bank account? How would you rally to get yourself back in the black? I say this to myself every day. While I don’t sit there and imagine my account with a balance like that (that’s terrifying), I do embody someone who would pursue every opportunity with relentless execution.
Now that I knew who I was, I needed to start connecting and hustling. I spent hours and hours online- LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, travel blogs, writers blogs, web design blogs, YouTube- I stalked every possible avenue looking for leads and direction. I sent out email after email after email and reignited old friendships.
I reconnected with my past to connect me with my future, and boy did it work!
Risk it. Again.
One of my favourite quotes is
“You gotta risk it for the biscuit”
I’m not sure who said it, whenever I say it I imagine Cookie Monster from Sesame Street chomping down chocolate-chip cookies at an alarming rate.
Whoever said it is absolutely right.
If you want to taste the sweet, crunchy reward of chocolate drizzled success then you need to risk it.
Risk the failure, risk the heartache, risk the financial unravel.
If you’re chasing something, then give it your all. Don’t go, big toe first, dipping in for a lukewarm reward, because you won’t get it.
I’m risking it all again. I’m getting back on that plane- this time with a better plan and a better version of myself, because I really want to taste the sweetness of that biscuit and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss out on it because I’m afraid of what people think of me.
The best decision I made was to go home. This means that the best decision I made was to accept failure and start again. All good things take work. The squeeze for the juice, the peel for the flesh, the climb for the view. Your failure only lies in your own reflection. If you believe you’re a failure then others will too. If you carry on, smiling, learning and pushing past the momentary defeat not only will you succeed but you will inspire others in the process.