For today’s episode of Let’s Talk Business, I’d like to tell you a story about epic fails!
When I was five, I was gifted with a beautiful, plastic self-inking stamp. The image was a strawberry with a happy face, and the ink was strawberry scented. I was pleased. I realized that I really enjoyed the important, business-like feeling it gave me to powerfully stamp it all over a manilla folder. Then I had an idea.
I would go door-to-door, soliciting my neighbors to purchase a hand made candy dish (which I would later figure out how to make out of cut up manilla folders and glue). If they desired to purchase a dish, I would smartly and professionally smack a stamp on my folder, then on a little card, and give it to them as a receipt.
Every single person ordered a dish. Thankfully, I wasn’t smart enough at the time to ask for payment, because I completely failed get around to making the dishes, therefore my only loss was maybe a little credibility, meh.
I just really enjoyed pretending to be a professional, and the thrill of a sale was all the reward I needed. That, and some pretty sassy office supplies. The success for me at that tender age, was the experience of the task, not the money.
Since then, I’ve had a lot of major epiphanies for new business ideas. Unfortunately, my epiphanies have not resulted in creating 50+ jobs for people, have not landed me on the cover of Forbes, and have not allowed me to finally trade-in my 96 Geo Prizm for my dream car…YET.
The businesses I’ve started (and ended) are:
– Online store selling handmade baby clothes and silk baby slings
– A service similar to SpaBoom for spa owners to sell gift cards online
– A shared workspace/child care co-op
These businesses failed, for various reasons, despite my initial passion for them. I lost money. I lost friends. I lost faith in myself, and most importantly, I lost the ability to enjoy the successes that are in addition to money. In each of these failures was a common thread. I was crippled with fear of losing money. It consumed me, and eventually I wasn’t able to enjoy them, so I closed the doors, one by one.
What I learned, is that if I had been capable of figuring out smarter ways to keep my investments within my means, giving myself the time and patience to think things through carefully, and overall, staying like that wide eyed five year old, focused on feeling fulfilled by my trust in the process, I think things would have been different.
I had to fail in order to learn those lessons.
So, with those lessons simmering on the back burner or my mind, for 1 year I put aside any thoughts of making money in new ventures.
I allowed myself to enjoy writing for this blog, and plug away in my graphic design business, which is the only thing in my career that has withstood the test of time.
Anything else had to be purely hobby, when there was time and money.
It was liberating to be free from the pressure to make money from those wonderful, hobby-ish things, and just enjoy the process of being creative. It’s been teaching me SO MUCH. It allowed me to make mistakes, which eventually turned into happy accidents (ie, innovations). Without the pressure to make things quickly and efficiently, with the expectation of making money, I was able to create things that I was extremely proud of. Things that I used on myself, and gifted to my loves ones, instead of rushing them out the door to the public in hopes to turn a profit.
Essentially, it’s teaching me to care for myself, which might just be the most important thing to be able to understand, in order to create a successful career, and life in general. It taught me that success isn’t just money, it’s an overall picture of your life, and how comfortable and joyful you feel. Frequent, regular comfort and joy are true successes.
Now that I’m at the one-year mark of being safe, figuring out what I really love to do, without the pressure of making money at it, I’m releasing myself from these restrictions, forgiving my 5 year old self for never fulfilling those candy dish orders, harnessing that wide-eyed wonderment that I relished at that age, and THEN revisiting the money questions with a clear head, and asking friends for advice. I am now ready to gear up, and start Entrepreneurial Venture #725 – the Etsy Shop. I’ll be keeping y’all in the loop on that project, stay tuned!
If you’re interested in exploring the notion of starting your own business (but maybe feeling a little crippled with fears related to past failures), here are some excellent books to get you going:
But most of all, just enjoy the process and try not to psych yourself out.
I’d love to hear your experiences and lessons learned from successes and failures alike, please feel free to chime in here!