what I learned from failure

what I learned from failure

My sister in law who is one of the many women who will be featured in the series, In Good Company said to me "One of the questions you ask is what's your biggest failure in life & what did you learn from it. I'm not sure how to answer that, what do you mean??"

I was surprised she asked because I just assumed most people have failed at some point in their life, they just don't know it OR they don't want to admit it. More importantly, they often don't realize they've actually learned a lesson from this failure, which ultimately lead them in another direction. And possibly, it is the direction they were always meant to go in.

I ask this question a lot in my series because of my own curiosity, but in most cases, we've all had failure(s) at some point in our lives and often the most successful people we know have had HUGE failures. Those successful people in the limelight who are constantly scrutinized by the public have failures of epic proportions! These people have undoubtedly learned from their failures, they've changed course and eventually succeeded at what they were meant to do. Relationships or business, failure can happen at any time in our lives.  

Take the collage of famous people below. All of these celebrities, business moguls, philanthropists, authors and influencers have failed in their lives. You may recognize a few names on this list published by The Business Insider. Oprah, Jay-Z, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Sir Isaac Newton, J.K. Rowling. When you think of all of these people, I'm sure failure isn't the word that comes to mind. You likely think money, power, success, celebrity and fame, but never failure. But they have and oh boy, were they BIG. Just check out this video of J.K. Rowling. Its a commencement speech she gave at Harvard University in 2011. This will put failure in great perspective. 

Some of the most successful people have failed. BIG time.

Some of the most successful people have failed. BIG time.

I've had a lot of conversations lately with some close friends and colleagues over the course of the past few weeks. Some are going through major transitions in their lives, some are scared to take 'the leap' - whether its professionally or personally - and some feel like they have already failed and will never get back on course. They're stuck and don't know how to take that next step. They're so scared of the unknown and what could happen, but I always say "you never know unless you try because you won't let it go until you do something about it". 

TRUTH: This too has happened to me a lot - both giving and receiving. 

Some of biggest egos out there who feel like they are the bees knees, are often the most vulnerable people out there. They've likely failed more than they would ever admit, but are just to afraid to say so at the risk of being 'exposed'? Oh yeah, there I said it and I've known many people like this in my life. And let me tell you, if often gets them nowhere.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I've failed a lot of times in my life.  More than I'd like to admit, but here I am writing a blog post on failure. 

I still fail to this day. Often.

It still hurts, it sidetracks me, it devastates me, it derails me. It's debilitating, it begs me to question a lot of things I've done and it brings out the most vulnerable side of me, which I think I actually enjoy the most. I've literally been fired from at least 4 jobs in my life. Some because the position was dissolved, others because I clashed with my boss or because of other circumstances.

I've failed hard at relationships, I've made mistakes, chosen to be with the wrong person at points in my life, I've chosen to do things that I regret or shouldn't have done. I was reckless, I was young, I was learning, I was trying to grow up but making a lot of mistakes along the way. I didn't want to listen to my parents. What did they know? Their old and don't know me! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, FAILURE at its best.

I thought my miscarriages were a personal failure. I thought me not getting accepted into the university I wanted to go to, was a failure. I thought failing math TWICE was a failure (you can blame the educational system for that one because you can fail out of a course). Shall I go on?

Ok, I will. 

The Smart Cookies phenom was all a result of my past money failures. Getting knee-deep into debt, having collection agencies calling me on the regular wondering when I was going to make a payment towards my 2 maxed out credit cards, scared at the thought of having to sell my apartment just to pay them off, living pay cheque to pay cheque, being in constant overdraft in my accounts, successfully dropping my credit score to the ultimate low of 356. The list goes on and on and on.

No matter how successful of a career I've had - or what people perceive me to have had - I've failed a lot along the way. I have taken a lot of risks to get where I am and I've taken many roads where I had absolutely no clue which direction I was facing, but it felt right at the time and god dammit, if I was going to fail at it, then I guess I was going to find out eventually!

Basically, I've failed a lot in life and I'm here to say IT'S OK! I think those that acknowledge and accept failure in their life - big or small - are some of the strongest people I know who I have a great deal of respect for. They are often resilient risk-takers, who embrace vulnerability and chose to learn something from those experiences, rather than look at them as moments of defeat. I believe that people who have failed and picked up their life are the ones with the most balls and gusto. Egos aside. It doesn't come easy but it sure is a scary and you learn to become very self-aware through these experiences. I have.

So today, at the ripe old age of 39, I'm still learning. I'm still failing. I'm picking myself up and trying to find the answer to it all as to why it happened and where it's meant to lead me to next. I have a lot to work on and I'm sure there will be more failures in my life. No matter how old I get, the learning never stops (oh the wise words of my parents).  I'm still very stubborn and will fight to the death for something I'm extremely passionate about. I love hard and I fight hard (just ask my parents and my fiancee). I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong, but I will often squeeze every ounce of anger and annoyance out of me to prove a point until I'm ready to talk about things. 

But this long path has lead me to where I am today. Where I am meant to be (I think....I'm still trying to figure that out, but once again, I'm facing North - literally - but feel like I should be facing South, but maybe I'm meant to face East?). I know I'm with the person I am meant to be with, creating this life I so desperately wanted, yet felt I deserved. Taking one day at a time, knowing my value, knowing what I bring to the table and what my contribution is and just going with the flow.

Things are finally starting to fall into place, but it never comes easy. If everything in life did, we would still be unsatisfied. I'm fairly certain of that.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.
— J.K. Rowling, Author

And in hindsight, looking back on all these experiences, good or bad, I now realize these failures were just trying to move me in another direction towards my ultimate destiny. As uncomfortable and as difficult as they were, they have all lead me here today.

In the words of the Great O, I wanted to share this interview she gave to the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2014. This clip is the last 3 minutes of her interview but these words are so profound. She doesn't believe in failure per se, but the message is on point with this blog and I know everyone will relate to what she's talking about and take a little something from watching it. Simply put, there are no mistakes. 


PS - if you want to watch the WHOLE interview which is equally as amazing, you can click here.

in good company // issue no. 03 // wendy holscher

in good company // issue no. 03 // wendy holscher

a coming attraction...

a coming attraction...