Bridget Thorpe of SOL VAE On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Go deeper by asking “why”. This step can be repeated to get to the root of your thoughts and feelings. Why does this purpose or fear matter more? Why? Ask yourself up to four — or even five — times. You may be surprised at what comes up.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bridget Thorpe.
Bridget Thorpe is the Founder and CEO of SOL VAE, a value-based brand known for its hybrid sports bra that supports athletic women on land and water. Prior to launching SOL VAE, Bridget advised 40+ global Fortune 500 corporations across 4 continents to strategize and communicate their sustainability initiatives. She received her MBA with honors and currently lives in Kauai with her husband Elliott and their dog Panda.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thanks for having me! I was raised in a rural town on the North Shore of Kauai. The biggest building in town was a resort about fifteen minutes away perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I had a wonderful opportunity to begin my career there, and that evolved to various collaborations with incredible resorts worldwide. My passion for sustainability soon began to surface. I worked for many years advising global corporations on their ESG goals and marketing programs. Last year, my husband and I had an opportunity to return home to Kauai. Ever since, I’ve been pursuing a lifelong entrepreneurial dream leading SOL VAE, a carbon neutral athleisure brand that supports women embracing more with less.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Whew, picking only one is tough! I’ll briefly share two that reiterate a key theme. They’re actually stories about career transitions.
The first story was in my early career. I was in my twenties and fresh out of graduate school. I had top honors and a stellar resume, yet nothing — and I mean nothing — was clicking in my job search. So, I worked at a local surf shop for awhile. It was a ton of fun, and many lessons from that experience have surfaced to support my current venture SOL VAE. But at the time, after about 6 months in, I was feeling lost. Out of the blue, a gentleman came in to buy a surfboard. Turns out, he worked across the street at a luxury hotel. Long story short, with my Hawaii hospitality experience, I was hired. Less than a year later, I landed a bigger role with a bigger resort.
Fast forward some years. I had relocated to Colorado and was on the other end of about 50 (probably more) job rejection letters. I’d seen a job post for an energy company about two months ago and ignored it — I knew nothing about renewable energy. But at that point, I was totally out of options. So, I gave the company a call. A woman answered and urged me to send my resume within the next few hours. I got hired. It turns out, that day they were about to offer the job to someone else but changed their mind. The company later got acquired by one of the largest global energy and sustainability companies, and I was able to support incredible corporations advance their ESG goals around the world.
The morale of the story is life is messy. And it may rarely make sense at the moment. But if you’re at a transition point (or looking for one), and you’re willing to embrace change, something bigger from within you finally has the opportunity to come out. Let it surface. Let it come out. And please give yourself permission to enjoy the ride. While it may seem small at the time, there’s likely a lot under the surface waiting to bloom.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Sensitivity. When I was in high school, a teacher said I was “sensitive”. I cried — not proving their point or anything ;) Over the years, I came to realize it was my greatest strength. I tune into nuance, I can read between the lines, and I feel for others. In any environment, your ability to understand and connect with people authentically is what will drive success. Your sensitivity and intuition can be some of the sharpest arrows in your quiver.
- Work Ethic. You have to put in the time. When we were searching for a USA factory for SOL VAE, I toured facilities across four states. The process took years. We almost thought we had it at a California factory, but then we discovered it had a series of lawsuits. We eventually stuck the landing, and now we have an incredible relationship with a factory in Baltimore. They’ve elevated our product beyond expectation. That success — like many others in my life — was the result of putting in the time, asking the questions, and working to be as prepared as possible.
- Creativity. One of the founders of eTrade, Bill Porter, was a major donor to a community foundation I volunteered with on Kauai. I came across his autobiography one day. It’s titled “I Did It My Way”. I initially thought it was a strange title, but it eventually inspired me to think my way may also be possible.
- It’s always made sense to me that your life and your perspective are unique. There is no one in the entire world who has seen or experienced all of the exact same things as you. At the end of the day, that’s creativity. Taking diverse experiences and creating something new. So whether it has been creating a role within a company, or creating a new company all together, understanding the power of my creativity has yielded dramatic fulfillment and opportunity.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
I think the fear of failure has deeper roots in a fear of loss. Losing your reputation, your relationships, your funds, your time, or anything really. It’s scary to step out on a limb when there is a chance you may lose something you value.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
A mentor once told me, “you can move forward or backward, but you can’t stand still”. I’ve found the truth in that.
Many times, the thought of failure comes up when you want to try something new. And if the new thing you’re trying resonates with you deep enough, you have two options. Move forward with faith (and ideally a thoughtful strategy), or back-off in fear.
Humor me for a moment with this passage from Robert McCammon’s book Boy’s Life: “We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out….We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible…And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”
I encourage you to check out the full quote. It was powerful to me when I read it for the first time. It still is every time I read it. Although I’m not sure McCammon was speaking of the fear of failure, this passage reminds me that we all have magic. And the things that resonate deeply inside of us — the ones that make you curious and pull you to try something new — are magic. That’s your magic. If you live in fear of failure or simply stand still, the downside is you risk losing that magic within yourself.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
I’m not sure you can avoid fears. They’re natural human emotions. But you can develop relationships with them and feel freedom.
I mentioned earlier, fear of failure is more often a fear of loss. It helps to reevaluate what you are most afraid of losing — and how realistic that loss is. For instance, maybe you want to start a business. Ideally, you work to secure some support for you and the business ahead of time. But at some point, you need to decide if you’re going to do the thing. The question then is, are you afraid of risking an investment and time? Or are you afraid of missing out on the experience and not living out the magic within yourself? You are the captain of your story. With thought and effort, I hope you take a thoughtful chance on the things that matter to you.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
Sure, I’m going to flip it a bit and share this story… I was walking up a hill on my way to class in college. It was my senior year, and I got a phone call. It was from the business school. It turns out, I had the highest GPA in the graduating class and I was going to get an award. I was shocked. I worked extremely hard in college, but the thought never entered my mind to be “first” at anything. Fast forward about a month, and I’m sitting on stage in a fold-up black chair with this award in my hand. Looking at a sea of thousands of people. I didn’t feel anything. There wasn’t a sense of joy or laughter bubbling from my gut. I wanted there to be. It deeply confused me how plain this grand accomplishment felt.
What I learned from that experience was not to overestimate “success”. I think our society puts a lot of emphasis and pressure on success and winning. I had this big win kind of sneak up on me at a young age, and I am proud of the work ethic that got me there. But in honesty, I’ve felt a lot more heart and purpose and fulfillment in many other things in my life. Funnily enough, many of those life-seeking feelings came from failures.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
It sounds ridiculous to have rebounded from a win, but it truthfully took me years to understand the feelings I got from that experience. What I learned is that it is not about success or failure. It sounds painfully cliche, I know. But, I truly do believe it is about purpose. Finding the things in life that matter to you — that magic within you. And going after that. We like to think that we have more control in life than we actually do. Things may work out in the quintessential definition of success, or they may not. If you move forward with purpose, the result will not matter. You’ll be too fulfilled to care.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
The fear of failure typically comes up when you’re about to try something new or different. Next time that situation presents itself:
- Ground yourself in purpose. What is the purpose of the new thing you’re trying? Why do you want it? How deeply do you feel about it?
- Evaluate the root of your fear. More often than not, it’s a fear of losing something. Time, money, face in front of others, health. What are you afraid of losing?
- Look at your purpose and your fear side-by-side. Which matters more to you? Is it answering that question in your heart? Or is safe-keeping what you’re afraid to lose?
- Go deeper by asking “why”. This step can be repeated to get to the root of your thoughts and feelings. Why does this purpose or fear matter more? Why? Ask yourself up to four — or even five — times. You may be surprised at what comes up.
- Take action and find joy in the gray area. Fear thrives in a still environment, and it’s ultimately overcome by taking action. So no matter what, do something.
It can also be tempting to think in black and white terms sometimes. For example, “I will start the business or I won’t”. But there are infinite options in between, such as “I will start the business, but I’ll keep my day job and reevaluate after three months”. It might not sound or feel as sexy, but you’ll be moving forward. You can move forward or you can move backward. But you can’t stand still.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I think the opposite has some truth, as well. You learn from any and every life experience. I think Aristotle would agree, learning is a good thing.
But Aristotle also said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. I’d like to think when he said “to succeed is possible in only one way”, he meant that success (or fulfillment) is born from efforts aligned in both head and heart.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
More with less. I grew up on a small island where there were less conveniences than a typical city or suburban town. At times, it was frustrating and I felt that I was missing out. Yet, later in life when I found myself surrounded by all the “stuff”, I realized how overwhelming all the “stuff” felt. Embracing more with less is about choosing quality and bringing things into your life with joy and purpose. In doing so, you tend to use the world’s resources at a more sustainable and respectful pace. That’s what we do at SOL VAE. We make a core set of responsibly-made hybrid sports bras, designed to last and adapt to your versatile life experiences.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I would fly anywhere to have breakfast or lunch with Sara Blakely. Talk about overcoming the fear of failure! She frequently talks about growing up with a father who encouraged her to fail. This mantra helped her move forward in the face of fear for airline flights, building the Spanx empire, and more. She is a wonderful example of how to develop a healthy relationship with fear. And I have deep respect for all of the fear she has pushed through.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Yes! Check us out at https://solvae.co and follow me at linkedin.com/in/bridget-thorpe. I’ll see you there :)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.