Can we at least admit that failure is not the goal
I built a career, significant wealth and an amazing lifestyle off the back of telling my failure story. In 2012 after 6 years of entrepreneurship I was broke. I’d lost $80,000 in the previous year, 100% of my net worth (if you exclude super, which was almost non-existent anyway) and I was back looking for jobs. I’d been forced to sell my house having not been able to afford it and I’d sold my previous business having not being able to make anything of it.
I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and on medication for ADHD. I was a new parent and in a 13 year relationship that would ultimately end in divorce not long after.
I’d started sharing income reports online because I liked the idea. I like to joke now that in 2012 my posts were just ‘reports’ because there was no income (this is the first report it’s still online, literally making $0).
I can still remember the feeling. I worried that my kids who were getting to the age where they were asking “what does Dad do for work” were going to think of me. I didn’t know who I was. I’d spent 6 years telling my friends and family I was an entrepreneur, why the fuck was I looking for jobs?
Sorry for the feels but when you tell a story about failure you have to talk about how you feel. You can’t just give facts. It really gets people in.
That’s the problem with failure. It’s compelling. And despite being a person who’s built their current existence off the back of a failure story, I worry that it’s become far too cool.
Failure is seen as a right of passage. It’s a must have in every success story. There has to be a rock bottom.
Because it helps people relate. Anyone who is currently at that rock bottom can relate to being at rock bottom.
It’s cool for people like J.K. Rowling to be at rock bottom and come back to become the world’s richest and most successful and well known author. It’s a great story. So we celebrate it.
But what of the people who stay at rock bottom? What about the people who enjoy being at rock bottom? What if all of these failure stories are breeding a group of entrepreneurs who are so obsessed with failure that they actually forget the point? Which of course is to succeed, not to fail.
The biggest problem I have with failure is the same problem I have with entrepreneurial advice in general. And that is that the entrepreneur actually knows the reason for the success / failure.
With failure it’s well accepted that you can learn from it and move forward. But in my experience sometimes things just don’t work. In fact, most of the time things don’t work. You can either analyze the shit out of it, or even worse actually embrace it and become it, or you can just accept it didn’t work and move on — ideally to success. If you focus too much on the failure, your attention is diverted from the real goal which is actually not to fail.
The same issue exists with success. Sometimes you have amazing and extremely fortunate timing. It doesn’t come down to a specific tactic you can emulate, it’s just a lucky sequence of events.
Luckily for me, my rock bottom failure moment led to an extremely fortunate and unexpected series of events. Instead of getting a job I started a WordPress support business inside 7 days. 2 years later it was a million dollar business. Soon after, I had a meeting with a multinational corporation, who would ultimately buy the business. That meeting was on the exact day we opened our brewery, which in the 18 months since, has become another million dollar business. My story of starting a business in 7 days led me to writing 4 books and having a virtually passive 6 figure annual income for the last 3 years just for my personal brand alone.
It’s a great story. You couldn’t make this shit up. But I always try to remind myself that the failure is not the story. Failure is fucked. I wouldn’t wish it upon any entrepreneur, and I’m not convinced we should be glorifying it.
The failure is what gets people into the story. But what we are really after is the success. It’s useful not to forget that.
Don’t get distracted by failure porn.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate success.
Failure is not the goal.
Success is the goal.