“It is hard to fail,
but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
It was late Spring, 1981. Having returned to Colorado in 1980 with a brand new Engineering degree, I found myself now sitting beside a crackling campfire under the star-filled night skies of the Rocky Mountains contemplating my life.
It was one of those moments Hollywood can base an entire movie around. Complete with panoramic views and an inspiring symphonic overture to highlight the significance of the occasion.
It was here, the Colorado Rockies, removed from the aspects of modern civilization, that I was fortunate enough to have lived the formative years of my youth. And it was here I returned to make a decision that would, ultimately, effect my journey in life in ways I could never have imagined at the time.
And it was that night, as I sat leaning against a tree, that I set forth on the path of what would become one of the epic failures in business that would eventually allow me to succeed on my journey – provided I learned the lessons to effect future change along the way.
“A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step”
– Chinese philosopher Laozi (c 604 bc – c 531 bc)
Yes, I took that first step . . . then rushed headlong into a disaster worthy of reflection in the journals of business!
What the business was is immaterial. I would have failed no matter what it may have been given how I approached it. The importance of the experience is what lessons it taught.
In less than a single year, at the age of 25, I had maxed my credit limits, was almost $100K in debt, and facing a future of unknown ramifications. Basically, a single decision taken without proper consideration had led me to a crucial fork in the path along this journey. Do I write this off as somehow being the end of my business life, return to what I had, or evaluate what went wrong and correct it? I chose the latter.
“Failure is success if we learn from it.”
One of the hardest things for us to do is identify our mistakes in life and then honestly evaluate the outcome. We, as mere mortals, tend to look for reasons to justify what we have done rather than how we may have been wrong. Everybody does it to some degree.
I could go into the volumes of clinical evaluations as to what can be learned through self-introspection, but this is long enough without that aspect! Suffice it to say that there are benefits of learning how to look towards our past to determine the future.
Once the -life sucks- aspect had passed, I delved into the reasons behind the failure. How did this happen? What did I either do wrong or fail to do in the first place? Were there external influences that affected the outcome? What did I actually do right?
I could have blamed my own failure on some magical -outside- influence. How it wasn’t fair. That I should have been given more opportunity, etc.. But that is not the reality of the situation.
The answers I found with regard to what caused this were many, with most pointing to my own lack of proper preparation. There was no one to lay blame on but myself for allowing what had happened.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again,
only this time more wisely.”
You may be asking, did I do anything right?
Yes, I TRIED!
Had I never stared at the stars and envisioned a different future, taken action to realize it, and failed . . . I would never have begun to learn the lessons to succeed.
It wasn’t until 1990 that I tried my hand at building a business again. It took that long to resolve the financial burden I was under, to evaluate/overcome my limitations, and prepare for the next path on the journey.
Fortunately, because of what I once did wrong, when presented with the next challenge I knew that I was better prepared to meet it. And meet it I did!
So why have I presented some of the (boring) details of my past here today?
Becuase it is important to know that no one is perfect. That we all experience the same excitement, and reservations, at what the future may hold for us. And to realize that the potential for failure is not an excuse to never try!
I can not think of a single person who has never experienced failure at some level in life.
What sets aside those whom ultimately succeed over those that don’t is simple. They learned from their mistakes, and those of others, as they moved forward on their journey.
Once I determined what I lacked, finding the resources to overcome those limitations were of utmost importance. I was fortunate in having access to a wide array of people (pre-internet) that were willing to share the knowledge their mistakes had given them. The power of listening to, and learning from, others can never be underestimated.
And no, this was not the only time that I have made bad decisions in business. But through each, I gained a better understanding of how to progress on the journey and overcome obstacles, while never making the same mistake(s) twice!
One of the most important lessons learned for me was that we do not have all the answers, nor can we achieve what we seek alone. That we must humble ourselves to the knowledge that we lack, and never stop seeking that which we do not know or those that can provide it. It is only by admitting our faults that we begin to better ourselves.
Reach out to others. Listen to what they have to say. Prepare yourself today for what tomorrow has to offer.
Perhaps in some small way, through my mistakes you too may learn. It is by helping others that we find our true worth.
With Sincere Thanks
“The only limits we have are those you impose upon yourself. Remove the limits!”