My NO THANKS Word for 2019: Failure
While many people have chosen a Word of the Year to guide their focus and provide inspiration in the upcoming 12 months, I’ve selected a “NO THANKS” Word for 2019 instead.
A few months ago, as I was ruefully rattling off a list of the many mistakes I’ve made over the last three years in business, my husband Jeremy pointed out that what we were discussing could have just as easily been described as an impressive set of valuable lessons.
When I paused to think about this statement I realized how accurate it was: The same list typed out would have looked a lot like a rough syllabus for an expensive entrepreneurship college class at the local university.
The course outline would include topics like these:
- What you need to know about the pros and cons of borrowing money;
- The potential pitfalls of growing your team;
- The high cost of choosing the wrong landlord;
- How to ensure that you have the right support to navigate the emotional ups and downs of being a business owner;
- Why pricing that covers all of your costs is essential to keeping your doors open;
- How to preserve your most important relationships when you’re working 24/7;
- And much more…
Instead of routinely berating myself about what I didn’t know–ahem, couldn’t possibly have known–in advance, I practiced congratulating myself instead:
“Hey…I did it!
I’ve survived 3 years of nearly non-stop transition, unknowns, self-doubt and truthfully…many accomplishments too! I’m a graduate of the “No (Wo)man’s Land”* College of Business Ownership! “
Looking at what I’ve experienced through this different lens has dramatically altered my perception and I’m feeling like a pretty darn successful (and lucky!) individual these days.
I’m a graduate of the “No (Wo)man’s Land”* College of Business Ownership!
After all, not everyone has the opportunity to learn by doing—to come out the other side of a tsunami of less-than-ideal circumstances—and see just how much one has grown, not just professionally but also personally.
While no doubt the challenges I’ll encounter as a business owner aren’t all in the rearview mirror (hardly!) I do feel like I’ve arrived at a new plateau. The view is a lot clearer from here and I’m holding my head up more confidently, knowing that I have the vision, passion, commitment and courage to see this through, whatever “this” ends up to be.
In the meantime, I plan to print out my syllabus and hang it proudly on the wall next to my desk, alongside my self-designed diploma from the “No (Wo)man’s Land” College of Business Ownership! I believe that I deserve a graduation ceremony after making it through the last few years, and I plan to mark this milestone in some celebratory way very soon.
And, I’m going to stop referring to myself and my learnings as “failures.”
What about you? Think of a time when you felt that you had “failed.” When you look at it from a different perspective, can you see that this so-called “failure” has led you to something unexpected, yet wonderful?
I’d love to hear about your perceived failures and how you’ve reframed them as the accomplishments they really are.
There’s no step-by-step guide to the growth of your business. Entrepreneurs commit to LEARNING by DOING, even when the result is plenty of public falling. Getting up, time after time is an integral part of the process. Every step, small or misguided as it may seem, is critical to getting to where you want to go. p.s. If you keep pushing yourself to grow and learn, you’re going to want to quit. Many times. DON’T.
Owning a business can be a lonely, isolating experience, and growth can come at a high cost.
That’s when it’s especially important for business owners not only to become aware that a “No-Man’s Land” exists–territory identified as a wide gap in knowledge and resources about how to grow, accompanied by deep isolation and lack of necessary resources–but to be connected with what they need to help them move through this stage of the business ownership journey with more personal confidence and clarity, professional and accessible expertise, peer support and accountability.
I’m creating a program that helps to bridge this gap. Interested in hearing more, either as a participant, mentor or sponsor? Reach out to me via email. I’d love to hear from you!
* I’ve repeatedly referred to the terrain I’ve just traveled while scaling my business as “No Man’s Land.” I discovered recently that a book on the same subject with that title exists, written by author Doug Tatum. If you’re interested, you can grab your copy of No Man’s Land: Where Growing Companies Fail here. It’s a powerful read and here’s an excerpt:
If starting a company is difficult, leading a company once the business has caught fire is infinitely more so. Thousands of startups each year approach the dangerous transition that Doug Tatum calls No Man’s Land—when they are too big too be considered small but still too small to be considered big.
Rapid growth is every entrepreneur’s dream, but it never comes easily and is usually rife with dilemmas. Such growth should spark self-discovery, acquired discipline, and positive but difficult transition. Unfortunately, it often becomes an agonizing battle between the tendencies of a lonely entrepreneur and certain immutable laws of growth. The result is confusion, frustration, stagnation, loss of employee morale, and, at worst, financial failure.