The Importance Of Failure

Sounds like a controversial start to a blog but, as Thomas Watson [President of IBM] once said: –

“The key to success is massive failure”

In other words, you have to work through the discomfort to get past the pain barriers which eventually lead to success.  There is no other way.  Getting things wrong is very much a part of achieving success and is acknowledged by entrepreneurs as one of the most important learning curves.  It’s uncomfortable at times, I won’t lie.  What you have to do is view your experiences of failure as ‘bricks in the wall’ upon which you are building the solid foundations of your new and exciting future.  This is what sets you apart from everyone else.

That’s also why 1% of the population owns more than half of the world’s wealth.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes Your Stronger

I have encountered failure on many occasions.  When I got a top Law degree from Manchester University, followed by a Postgraduate qualification, I thought I was set for life.  I was wrong.  I found myself unable to secure a training contract in the North West of England where I wanted to remain due to family commitments.  I got close a few times and on one occasion I reached the last 12 out of 3500 applications.  But, I ended up on the reserve list and didn’t make the last cut.  That one hurt, believe me.  In the end, I waited more than 10 years before I was able to train as a lawyer whilst continuing to work within the legal sector, on and off, doing soul-destroying work for ridiculously low pay.

In my spare time, I also wrote several books from the late 1990s onwards and despite numerous attempts, I was unable to secure an agent or a publishing deal.  Rejection letter followed rejection letter, you get the picture.  However, I didn’t let that get in my way and in the end, Amazon Publishing meant I could cut out the middleman and self-publish my tuition book.  I have another fictional book which I plan to release on Amazon shortly so, in the end, I got where I wanted but just using a different route to the end destination.

The moral of the story is that you should never give up.  That’s what separates the entrepreneurs out there from everyone else.  There is always a way around a problem and as the saying goes: There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Breaking down the boundaries that exist in our heads is one of the hardest challenges we face on a day-to-day basis.  It’s that nagging voice that sits on your shoulder feeding messages into your brain from the minute you wake up to the minute you fall asleep.  You know the ones: ‘I look fat’, ‘I don’t deserve a payrise’, I’m not good enough,’ and so it goes on.

So what can we do?  Well, we can’t escape from ourselves but we can train our minds to think differently about the things that happen to us.  Self-defeating thoughts are the enemy of success; they extinguish all positivity before it gets a chance to thrive and flourish.  Again, how do I know all this?  Because I’ve experienced my fair share of life’s curveballs including a series of ill health issues, a parent’s ill health, eviction from a property and losing a lot of my possessions into the bargain.

But, I carried on and although I found dealing with the emotions difficult, I continued to push towards my goal of achieving success.  I’ve always tried to adopt the famous Mastermind catchphrase of ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.  It’s all too easy to just quit when the going gets tough but that’s what everybody else does.  Because, in order to be different, you have to behave differently.  Moving yourself outside of a comfort zone can be one of the hardest tasks you make when you decide to change your life.  It is hard, I won’t pretend otherwise, but I had to prepare myself properly for the life I wanted.  As Randy Pausch said in his last lecture: –

Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.”

In other words, the harder you work, the luckier you will get.  You definitely won’t find luck, or an improved future, inside your comfort zone and to quote Oprah ‘That’s what I know for sure’.

Education Is The Key To Success

And I don’t mean in the traditional sense of going to school or university.  So many of the best known entrepreneurs have not followed a traditional educational route.   It just shows you don’t need a degree or have been top of your class at school as these are not true indicators of an entrepreneur.  People who are entrepreneurial think differently to others and aren’t afraid to just try things out.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.  And, if it doesn’t succeed, they just move on without regret or any emotional attachment to any financial losses.

Entrepreneurial education is all about learning from those very people who have achieved success.  You do need mentorship and believing you can do it all on your own is a mistake.  I know, because I’ve had that mindset and it’s a massive mistake.  It’s the mindset of the self-employed individual who ‘owns a job’ and thinks they must do everything themselves.  On the other hand, the entrepreneur ‘owns the entire business’ and knows how to delegate appropriately.

Sharing ideas and brainstorming with other like-minded individuals is vital to long term success.  It’s a common belief that we are the average of the five people to whom we are closest.  If you averaged out the salaries of those five people, you’ll no doubt find that you get a figure that’s pretty close to what you’re earning right now.  That’s just the law of averages.  Think about the sayings:  Like Attracts Like and Birds of a Feather Flock Together.  Give it a go and see what happens.

So, if you surround yourself with people who are entrepreneurial in their outlook, you’re so much more likely to succeed.  Community support also helps you maintain momentum because entrepreneurs need help and advice like everyone else.  There are many networking communities out there, all you have to do is find the one that suits your needs the best.

Keep Your Digital Skills updated

Digital skills are vital to your self-improvement and ultimately to making your business much more automated as opposed to just exchanging time for money like you do in a traditional job.  Technology is changing constantly and the availability of user friendly digital platforms means we need to keep ourselves up to date – no excuses.  Too often we think we’re ‘too old’ and that technology is ‘just for the young people’, but moving with the times keeps us current.  Facebook and Twitter etc are excellent resources and, if used the right way, can lead you to connections you’d never have thought possible.  The length and breadth of the planet is there for the taking so why restrict yourself?  The sky really is the limit.

I have to admit that when I first started out setting up my own tuition business, I was slow to embrace social media but I felt the fear and did it anyway.  Change is happening all the time and we must all continue to learn new skills.  Education is an ongoing process and no, it doesn’t mean more exams, it simply means keeping ahead of the competition.

Live your Passion and Be Your Authentic Self

How often do we go through life earning a living by doing a job/career that we think everyone else will approve of?  I went through six years of education and training to become a lawyer.  Since I was six years old, I had been determined this was the path I wanted to pursue and nothing was going to deviate me from that path.  And yet, even after a lot of poor experiences in legal firms and a nagging voice telling me that perhaps this wasn’t the right career for me, I was literally blind to any other options.  A voice in my head kept telling me that I needed to follow through because all that education would have been wasted.

This sounds like I’m contradicting my ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ policy doesn’t it?  But, what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t give up on a passion just because the going gets tough. On the other hand, if the path you are pursuing truly feels wrong, trust your sixth sense [or inner sat nav as I call it] and make the change.  Allow yourself to think differently and the opportunities will start to unfold.  Once you are living your passion, you align with your authentic self.  In other words, what you think and what you want join in perfect synergy.  This, in turn, creates an energy which can only lead to one thing: fulfilment.

Think Long Term, Not Short Term

What would more freedom to do the things you want to do really mean to you?  In recent years, the UK government has changed the retirement pension rules meaning that many of us, still of working age, are operating within a system where goal posts just keep moving.  On top of that, today’s employment deals often mean zero contract hours, no sick pay, no pension and no real perks whatsoever.  A People’s Pension is certainly not going to pay for a lifestyle [let alone a comfortable one] and the government state pension definitely won’t give you the life of your dreams either.

Think about protecting yourself and those you love by making sure that you rely on yourself right now for the life of your dreams.  An employer’s decision about your working life can change your life in an instant and not necessarily for the better.  So, put your future in your hands and your control.  It’ll definitely be worth it if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort.  Remember:  Short term pain equals long term gain!

Life Hack Tips On Dealing With Failure

It’s all well and good telling you that I’ve had my fair share of failure.  I’d also be lying if I told you I’d handled it well when I was much younger than I am now.  So, how do I deal with it?  Well, I suppose if I was to write a letter to my younger self about how to deal with failure, I would highlight the following points to myself: –

Try to think of failure as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Be more like a child in this respect.  Children want to win when they play games and just because they stumble and fall or lose the first time round doesn’t mean they will give up.  You mustn’t either but somewhere along the line we lose that childlike desire to win and hustle.  As adults, we expect everything to happen ‘right now’.  This is made worse because we live in an ‘on demand’ society with the internet providing immediate solutions.  We can watch a programme or film whenever we want, we can stream music without going to a shop to buy it and we can order virtually anything on Amazon by just clicking one button.  However, none of us could walk or talk when we were born; they were skills that took time to acquire and master so don’t quit.  Failure is part of mastery and I’m afraid mastery cannot be bought ‘on demand’.

Remember what Thomas Edison [inventor of the commercial light bulb] once said:

I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work’.

In other words, think about failure as a valuable and necessary part of your journey to mastery.  Treat it as an asset.  If we didn’t have failure then we would never appreciate success which is ultimately what drives us on to do more in terms of providing value for others and ourselves.  A while ago, I took the very painful step of having my fictional novel professionally critiqued by a published author.  Being honest, I couldn’t even bear to read the comments until TWO years later.  When I did, I realised they weren’t all that bad after all and they really helped me see the wood from the trees in terms of what had worked and what definitely hadn’t.

Failure doesn’t have to be catastrophic: it can help us frame the situation and put things into perspective.  Those learning curves are bricks in the wall and make you more valuable as a person.  One day, your learning curve experiences could earn you money and help a new audience of customers.

Don’t pursue your journey alone.

I’ve tried this [what with being a very typical only child!] and I must admit that I was wrong.  Totally, completely and utterly wrong.  Being part of a community that shares your passion is an excellent way of not only realising that you’re ‘not the only one’ but it also highlights ways and means of finding a solution to your problem.  I think it’s also wise to be answerable to someone else, like a mentor, when you’re experiencing a difficult journey be that a new career or your own business.  There are lots of communities out there on Facebook, for example, just looking to connect people in similar circumstances to yours.

My group is called The Entrepreneurial & Online Gratitude Journal and I would love to welcome you in!

Know where you’re going in terms of goals and intentions.

As a private tutor, I always tell my students that when they’re writing a story, they should know how it ends before it begins.  This means that they can guide the story like a plane making its descent and landing on the runway [and not the fields or motorway to the side] so it’s exactly where it needs to be.  It’s the same in life and business.

It’s also true when they say that what you focus on expands.  In other words, if you choose to dwell on ‘failure’ then negativity will swamp you and eat away at your confidence.  Yes, I have been there and I’ve cried a lot of tears too which achieved precisely nothing except a banging headache.

On the other hand, if you choose to think about how you’re going to improve the situation, there is automatically a paradigm shift in your thinking which creates a more positive feel and spin to what’s happening.  Yes, it may have taken me two years to look at the critique I received but I did come back to it with a positive frame of mind and with an understanding that I was learning and mastering the skills required of a professional author.

Have other things to look forward to and do celebrate the small successes.

I’ve always been my own worst critic and I think that in this day and age when so much is expected of our time and resources, we should congratulate ourselves on our achievements.  We should also factor in little treats and not punish ourselves for not achieving everything we wanted 100% perfectly.  Sometimes, ‘just good enough’ is perfection and as I always say, ‘Perfection is always flawed’.  That’s just life and perfection lives inside a Disney film not in real lives.

Recently I have had to learn a completely new marketing system.  If I hadn’t persevered and learned this new skill I wouldn’t be getting the results I am now.  For you, it could be something as simple as learning a new shortcut on your laptop or being able to advise someone else on something you have already learned to do well.  It all counts.

Sometimes, it really is those ‘easy wins’ that put stuff back into perspective and fire you up to just keep on going.  And, keeping on going, just doing something positive to move forward every single day, is exactly what is needed to pave your journey to success.

If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you as I am a real person …. 🙂

I wish you every success for your digital future!

Rachel A Hill LLB [Hons]

Digital Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Private Tutor and Author



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