We have all had a failure or two in life — those that were serious and many that, in hindsight seem less so — we botched a critically important test, we were turned down by the person of our dreams for a date to the high school prom, or we did not get what we thought would be THE ideal job.
Novelists, poets and those who write for a living have an intimate relationship with rejection or failure as have entrepreneurs.
Failing to snag that IDEAL job is one thing, but risking and losing your life’s savings or, worse, your parent’s life savings in a failed business that you so strongly believed in, is quite something else. It is a gut-wrenching, confidence-killing experience that some people never get over.
Now here is the thing, we view starting our own business, being an entrepreneur, in the most romantic and exciting of terms. Rarely does the idea, the realistic possibility of failure, cloud our thinking or deter us from trying. We hold on to the stories of those famous entrepreneurs who started a company in a small garage somewhere only to hit it big and reap the enormous financial rewards of taking the gamble.
The money, the fame are powerful distorters of the reality that most entrepreneurs fail.
For those of us who have experienced that kind of failure — thankfully mine did not involve my parents retirement plan — but when my partnership deteriorated over misaligned values and goals — it was emotionally devastating. I had to walk away from a company that I had founded after 16 years of hard work. I never thought I would be starting over when I was 60 years old. But it happened. I was one phone call away from losing a great deal more than just money. Fortunately one of my God installed signature strengths is that of resilience. I persevered and survived. I have tried not to look back except for those important and strangely wonderful lessons that I learned from the experience.
The most important lesson I learned, and those who have shared a similar experiences, all say the same thing: If you cannot take the pain, the sense of loss and get back up and go again, then perhaps entrepreneurship, and this includes buying a franchised business, is not the best strategy for your career.
In America, we value certain human qualities — honesty, determination, fairness which is to say playing by the rules, and resilience. But none more than redemption. We are drawn to those stories about people who have failed terribly only to rise again and achieve great success.
© 2020 John Gregory Self