“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill.
Every success book, seminar, or life coach out there can tell you that failure is just a stepping stone towards success.
Anyone who claims to have built something of lasting value-be it a business, personal relationship, or a body of critical knowledge-without suffering serious pain and disappointment is either a liar or dangerously naive. At some point on your journey, you will stumble and fall. What separates the best from the rest is the strength to get back up, again and again.
Table of contents
Here are the best ways to bounce back from failures with some real-life examples which didn’t succumb in the face of early failure but rather enjoyed and appreciated it for the lessons heeded. And they aren’t afraid to admit it.
1. Clear Your Head, Then Double Down
After successfully running his father’s estate for 11 years, from 1956 to 1965, Mr. AI Weatherhead — Chairman and CEO of Weatherchem Industries, had failed to take ownership of the company after his father’s death in 1965, as the board members chose someone else to run the company. It was a huge blow to his plan, ego, and the whole being, he says.
He had escaped to California to clear his head and returned after 10 days when he received a call from a whose friend informed him about a small tool-and-die company called Akheny in Twinsburg, Ohio, which was up for sale. He quickly took a bank loan and bought the business for $750,000, which he later renamed the Weatherchem, and the company started making plastics for food and pharmaceutical packaging. Today the company generates $50 million in revenue, almost 50 years later.
2. Swallow Your Pride
Nell Merlino – Co-founder and president, Count-Me-In, believes that the entire creation of his company was a huge failure. The company believed it would raise $10 million to $25 million but only received $150,000 through online donations. He was devastated by his miscalculation and misjudgment.
A board meeting was arranged, requesting for help and advice from any individual who could be useful. A business visionary’s sense can be to attempt to settle things alone, yet when you notice and know instinctively that something is fishy, you need to begin conversing with people. Try not to hold up until the point that you’re drained out completely.
Founder and CEO of REED’S – Chris Reed was sued for $2.7 million by a company alleging that the soda made by Reed’s caused at least one personal injury. Mr. Reed had felt like his career was over when he got to know about the incident.
He spent a week in the Art of Living Foundation, a transcendental meditation center where he spent time meditating and eating light vegetarian meals; and came back with clarity. “It sounds very irresponsible, but I wiped my mind clean and clear of the problem,” he says.
4. Take Comfort in Your Convictions
Lizanne Falsetto – CEO and founder of Think Products, dove into the low-carbohydrate craze, he says. The low-carb Think Thin bars manufactured by the company were a huge hit when launched in 2003 but soon the low-carb faze fizzled, causing the company’s revenue to drop to $12 million from $42 million in one year.
He says he learned to say no to the retailers’ requests but instead, give them the product based on customer’s needs which would in-turn help the brand in the long run.
5. Cut Yourself a Break
In 2006, Marilyn Carlson Nelson – Chairman of Carlson Companies, began outsourcing the transactional services to India by laying off workers in the U.S. But, unfortunately, the company had started losing customers because the service provided was by untrained and unseasoned workers.
She believes that everyone is bound to make mistakes. “I reminded myself that we are just human, not divine,” she says.
6. Follow a Mantra
Memphis, Tenn. – based angel investor – Bob Compton raised $40 million in the mid-90s and magician David Copperfield to launch a magic-themed restaurant in Times Square. Still, the majority equity holder blocked another investor to avoid dilution. The project collapsed after many years of handwork, which left him depressed.
He relies on Theodore Roosevelt’s speech from 1912, in his rough times, which reads, “It is not the critic who counts. … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who … if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
7. Put Things in Perspective
Once, the owner of a pressure-cleaning company in Mobile called Ala, Terry Hillery – Founder of the Hillery Holding Company, claimed to have gone into a disaster mode when the city of New Orleans took months to pay its bill after using the services. He went into debt and had to take up a pizza delivery job to pay his bills.
He took up volunteering work with pediatric cancer patients. “I had leukemia as a child, so spending time with these kids really put things in perspective for me,” he said.
8. Deal With Your Anger
The home-furnishing company CSN stores’ Co-founder – Steve Conine had earlier started a software outfit to help companies save money on mobile bills. Merrill Lynch, which was then located near the world trade towers, was their first big client, but following the terror attack, the company ran into debts and had to shut down the company.
To overcome his anger, he took to housework by demolishing and rebuilding it. He found it therapeutic.
9. Prove Them Wrong
Actress – K.D. Aubert felt under pressure and had no time to prepare for the audition when Paramount Pictures approached her as a top choice for the female lead in the film The Love Guru. The role was eventually given to a “stronger actress,” she was told.
She proved them wrong by going back to school and taking drama classes. She didn’t audition for four months during the Writers Guild strike and focused on improving her diet and training hard at the gym. After the strike got over, she seemed ready to audition and landed a big guest role on CSI New York and a role in the movie Surfer Dude.
10. Remember Its Never Over
Photographer and author Matthew Rolston who worked early on with Andy Warhol, Harper’s Bazaar, and Revlon, says he had no business sense when he initially started working and forgot to bill clients until he ran out of cash flow and went into credit card debt.
He recalls a lesson he learned from the movie Gerry where two guys lost in a desert, one of them thirsty and during asks the other to kill him. The guy kills him as an act of kindness/mercy, and minutes later, spots cars passing by the road. A little more effort could have saved their lives. The lesson he learned and believed in is “it’s never over until it’s over.”
As a matter of fact, most of the people you see in Forbes’ list of richest people in the world had to take enormous risks to get there. That almost always means a lot of failing. About 73 out of the first 100 billionaires in the world are self-made. That’s a Bloomberg fact. There’s no conspiracy going on. They work harder than you did. Those self-made millionaires applied some core, fundamental knowledge everybody else has access to. They did what everyone only read about. But knowing and doing are very different things.
So what are you going to do next time you fail? Give up? Or become the next billionaire?