The other day I had breakfast with an old friend. We were in the Air Force together, back in the day, but we had another connection as well. We were also business associates in a multi-level marketing company.
I got involved in the business when a coworker approached me about an opportunity he was excited about and invited me to listen to a presentation from one of his “business partners.” At the time I was a little disillusioned with my military career, so I accepted the invitation. A few nights later, Tom rang my doorbell.
His soft-sell approach was smooth and convincing. He carried himself well, and exuded confidence. He was excited about his message. His excitement and delivery piqued my interest, and I agreed to investigate the opportunity more. In the end, my wife and I got excited as well and jumped in with both feet.
We plucked away for five long years with hope, determination, and perseverance. We went to lots of high-energy meetings, technique seminars, and long-winded presentations. We listened to lots of cassette tapes (remember those?). We spent a lot of time and energy trying to build our business. We made a lot of presentations. We met with lot of rejection. We lost sleep. We fought. We struggled.
Although we achieved a measure of success, it was a failure in the end.
Fast forward nineteen years. At breakfast I asked Tom if he ever regretted that whole experience. (He had achieved quite a bit of success in the business, but in the end he also met with failure.)
“Not at all,” he answered without hesitation.
He went on to explain how those years of struggle had changed his life. The books he read, the mentorship he received, the friends he made, had all changed his life. Yes, he regretted some of the foolish decisions he made, but overall the experience taught him so much that he didn’t consider it a negative. He reminded me that our friendship of almost twenty years had started because he rang my doorbell that night to give me a sales pitch. The opportunity itself had not succeeded financially, but it had taught him and prepared him for other opportunities that had borne fruit.
I fear one thing – failure. That overriding fear of failure has been the most powerful force in my life other than my moral/religious beliefs, and truthfully, the fear of failure in the spiritual realm has been a big motivator in my walk of faith as well.
Fear of failure can paralyze you. It can keep you huddled in a mass of nerves on the sideline of life while others play, and win, the game. It can keep you from happiness when you do achieve something because you fear losing it all. That very real fear can crush your dreams before they ever have the chance of breathing the first breath of opportunity. Fear of failure can suck you into the shallow cesspool of mediocrity and keep you drowning there even when you have the power to stand up and walk out of its filthy knee-deep waters.
Yet, failure is often the best teacher. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work. Failure teaches you perseverance and patience. Failure hones your ability to endure long, boring hours of monotonous labor. Failure teaches you about teamwork. Failure exposes hidden enemies, and helps you discover friends in the most unlikely places. Failure drives home each lesson like a sledgehammer pounding painful blows at your ego until it humbles you into submission and exposes the truth to you in a way that you can no longer deny with your arrogance or self-denial. Failure reveals your character. Failure teaches you to appreciate success.
I’m glad Tom rang my doorbell all those years ago. He shared a vision, a dream, of the possibilities that life holds. That vision motivated me (and still motivates me) to go out and fail my way to success.
Let failure teach you. Let failure motivate you. Let failure inspire you. But don’t let it stop you from dreaming. Don’t let it stop you from trying. Don’t let it sideline you in the game of life. Go on and succeed by failing.
Failure teaches us more than success, and without failure, we would never succeed.