Spoiler Alert: You’re Going to Fail
My virtual summit failed, but at least I learned what to do after a blunder
I know this isn’t something we talk about very often online. We kind of push it into the corner. But it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room:
We are all going to fail. You, me, we’re going to fail.
It’s inevitable. Whether you’re running a business, writing a novel, or working a day job, failure is going to happen at some point. So what do you do next?
“Recognize that you will spend much of your life making mistakes. If you can take action and keep making mistakes, you gain experience.” — John Maxwell
No matter what the situation, you can use it as an opportunity to learn something.
Last summer, I took on a major project — probably the largest project I’ve ever done in my life. And I failed.
The project was called the Finish Your Book Summit. I interviewed 16 authors from all over the world about different parts of the book writing process.
It took months of work. I had a blast talking with all of the writers. I was doing the interviews, creating webpages, editing, creating funnels, emails, landing pages, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, you name it.
I tried my best — but I still failed. When it was all said and done, I had zero sales. Nada.
By the way, I also lost two of my long-term clients last summer. 90% of my income went the way of the dodo bird. The struggle was real. And, whether you’re an artist, entrepreneur, business owner, or employee — if you’re breathing, you’re going to have some really hard times.
How do you respond to the challenges? I did the only thing I knew I could do. I kept working on the project I started and did my best.
But I still failed.
One Year Later
It’s been a year now, and it feels like it has been even longer. But when I look at what I’m doing right now, I see:
- I’ve created over 115 episodes of the Finish Your Book Podcast.
- I’m creating more content than ever before right here on Medium.
- I’m getting closer and closer to finishing my novel.
- I’m working with more writers than ever before.
Perhaps my failure last summer propelled me forward.
I never thought I’d be able to say that I have experience working with multiple New York Times bestsellers and writers from all over the world.
I have to wonder… would I be where I am today without the failure?
I don’t think so. My failure was great practice. It made me better. It stretched me and forced me to grow in many, many ways.
Reasons Why I Failed
As I look back, I think a key problem was that my email list was not large enough for a project of this scope. I was only sitting on around 1,500 subscribers. And these were not even very engaged subscribers; you can do really well if you have 1,500 true fans. But 300–400 people who occasionally open your emails and don’t buy anything — not so much.
I was somewhat reliant on the “if you build it, they will come approach”, also called hope marketing. It simply doesn’t work.
While I did have some help from a really great copywriter and email expert, you can have the greatest emails in the world, but if you’re targeting the wrong people, it doesn’t really matter. Let me explain.
I’ve written two books with Erik Fisher, host of the Beyond The To-Do List Podcast. I’ve worked with Mike Vardy of Productivityist for over three years. Most of my email list was built up while working with them. Just because you like productivity, doesn’t mean you want to write a book.
Lastly, if you try to do too much on your own, you’ll end up minimizing your strengths. Your weaknesses will be very present. This problem could have been remedied by getting additional help, specifically with funnels and Facebook ads.
I didn’t have the cash at the time to do this, so I tried to do it all on my own. It would have been better to postpone the project than to stick to the original plan.
What To Do After You Fail
Failure sucks. But as you keep working, as you keep moving forward, you’ll likely be able to connect the dots.
The results might not be immediate.
When I failed last summer, I wanted to figure out immediately what went wrong. I wanted to fix things and make things work out. But I couldn’t yet. It was all too fresh, too raw. I had to give it time. (How much time will vary from one project to another.)
Here are some things you can do after you fail:
- Step 1. Take inventory of what happened. Brainstorm some of the main points on paper. Don’t try to figure it all out, though.
- Step 2. Look at the data. Examine the cold hard facts, not just the emotion. Look at the emails you used, the landing pages, the ads, and anything else you have. What worked best? What didn’t?
- Step 3. Don’t hesitate to take a good hard look at any assumptions you’ve made or biases you’ve had. When in doubt, do more tests.
Finally, time will help you piece things together. Don’t give up. Keep learning and you’ll keep growing.
Remember, growth and change often hurt. They are painful and awkward by nature. That’s how it goes.
You might need some extra outside perspective to figure out more of what happened and what is going on. That’s why coaching is very helpful.
It’s completely normal to want to just move past failure and act like it never happened. But when you do that, you will likely miss out on more growth.
Take some time today to reflect back on a time you failed and what you have learned from the experience.