Although my business is now successful, in December of 2005 I was at a crossroads. After six months of R&R that had followed the end of a difficult events job, it was time to get back to work. I chose to open my own event consulting company, a perilous decision given that 8 of every 10 new businesses will fail within 18 months of their founding.
Yet I survived and am now thriving. Why? Am I significantly smarter than the 80% of entrepreneurs that do not? Probably not. To what do I attribute the difference? Because I have been burned.
That’s “burned” as in having failed, as in having had to grind for years, hustling and scrounging to get to where I now am. But mostly I was burned. In what ways?
- I got my start in sales, but within months I was put on probation for having missed my sales quota – even though I had the worst territory amongst 18 sales reps. Think Glengarry Glen Ross. That burned!
- At Lufthansa, I was told I’d never succeed as a sales rep. That burned!
- For an assignment in the Netherlands, I was told that the project for which I had flown 3000 miles would be a failure because I lacked direct experience and was only 22 years old. It burned!
- While working in Boston, the major sponsor of my biggest event commanded that I produce a solution to a problem that they had created, and do so by 6 AM the following morning. I remember feeling my scalp get scorched that time.
There are countless other occasions – personal and professional – when I have tried things and not succeeded. There were jobs I wanted, dates I sought, grades in school for which I worked, etc. And not getting them left me feeling burned.
If you have failed at something, yet got back up and tried again and again until you succeeded, then you know what I mean.
You can’t truly savor victory until you have been burned by failure. That experience is the best fuel to becoming better than the next guy, making your quota, or launching an event and hitting a home run with it.
Currently, I carry a part-time sales quota of $1 Million – and I’m launching successful events every year. Neither situation would be possible without the failures I’ve listed. And I anticipate – even welcome – possible future failures, recognizing that they will similarly propel me forward.
Burn, baby, burn! Keep it going and try new things. For those that do so, I salute you!