- Failure at School
I didn’t get on with school. In fact, I hated it. To my mind, the British educational system in the 1980s was more about keeping kids in their place rather than chasing their dreams. I was a creative child who (because I didn’t want what my teachers offered me) was told I would never amount to anything unless I bucked up my ideas. At the age of 15, I bucked up my ideas and left school, choosing instead to chase my dreams and forgo a traditional education. Yes, I’ve made a load of mistakes along the way (a valuable form of education in itself) but had I listened more at school, perhaps I would not have become a published author (x5), headed up the international efforts of two large corporations or been paid to travel much of the world, speaking to audiences across three continents. The moral of the story is, just because someone in authority is too lazy to see beyond their own horizons, doesn’t mean you cannot educate yourself.
2. Failure at Having a “Job”
For many years I believed you had to have a “job” to be successful. Although I never failed in work, I often struggled to be truly satisfied. While working on a three-month secondment (that turned into a 5-year life-changing experience) in Budapest, I discovered that holding down a traditional job was limiting. It’s perhaps ironic that I learned more about entrepreneurialism in an ex-communist country than I ever did in any “Western” economy. At the time in Hungary, everyone was an entrepreneur (largely due to the tax system), working for multiple clients and essentially learning how to make the system work for them. Since leaving Hungary, I’ve tried not to get pinned down by a “job” and always had my finger in multiple pies. It keeps things interesting and reduces risk. Why work for “the man” when you can be your own man?
3. Failure at Pleasing the Boss
As a marketer, my job is to make people look good. In the past, I’ve learnt that some people are beyond my help. This experience has taught me that some bosses are better than others and life is too short to work for jerks. In the past I’ve worked in environments where office politics and bullying is rife. I refuse to work for (and make money for) people who do not treat their workforce with respect. Conversely, I’ve also had the pleasure of working for truly inspiring leaders. I now know that I would not have had these incredibly positive experiences if I had not had the guts to walk away from the negative ones.
4. Failure at Saving The Company
I was once drafted in to attempt to save a failing company. The once hugely successful mail order company had failed to adopt internet technologies and as a result lost significant market share and relevance to more agile companies. My efforts came too late and the company folded. The lesson I learnt from this experience was just because an organisation has had a glorious past doesn’t mean it can trade of this experience to protect its future. Unless everyone in your organization is focused on the future, you will ultimately fail.
5. Failure at Self-Belief
While I have no real regrets, I sometimes wish I’d developed a stronger belief in myself at an earlier age. Working in the online environment, I constantly meet with amazing entrepreneurs, often in their early and mid-twenties, who have completely taken the world by storm and seen amazing success. Could I have done the same at such a young age? Should I blame my lack of education (and the system around it) for my shortcomings? I don’t think so. I believe we make our own luck and while I might never become a multi-millionaire like some of my younger peers, I’m happy to know that I’ve carved my own path and taken control of my own destiny (a positive move at any age).
What lessons have you learned from failure? Share your comments below: