Embracing Failure

"Life is a series of adjustments.... He who adjusts best, profits most" - My daddy

I started this year fueled by purpose. I made the huge life decision to leave my job in NYC - I just wasn't happy there - and relocate to the town of my alma mater Norfolk State University. I started a business, planning to remodel and reintroduce a historical nightclub back to the oceanfront. I began tackling the life goal of becoming a public speaker; in three months after moving to Norfolk, I had three speaking engagements. In summary, I was crushing it.

Covid-19 was a just a story on the news to me. I admit completely underestimating the pandemic in February/March when news became widespread. But by Thursday, March 12th the world around me began to close, and I knew this would devastate my business. What I didn't know, is what it would do to me. April and May were two of the hardest months of my life. Like many business owners across the nation, my nights were filled with financial scenarios - the over/under on whether or not I would be a going concern in the next quarter, let alone the next year. With 100k of sunk costs in the renovation and 100k more needed to completion, I now worried what continued investment would get me.

The depression was real.

I applied for grants daily, I looked for any olive branch I could find, but nothing came my way. Soon my self-esteem became as elusive as the SBA grant. And in mid June, I had to make the tough decision to walk away from The Cave.

Somehow, I had taken the greatest risk in my life. I had taken my faith and my dreams and extended myself for what I wanted, and I had it in my hands. It was difficult to not feel persecuted, to not feel disappointment and despair, with each unanswered or denied loan application. It was even more difficult to not blame myself.

And the media parroted my gloom. From mainstream news to social media, COVID and all its devastation was on full view. As my anxiety and depression reached it heights, I had an epiphany - the business died. I didn't.

As hard as things had been, I had forgotten a very basic aspect of what makes a win a win. Its not in the perfect path to excellence. Nor is it in the one idea or the one attempt. I had to remind myself that I AM the success story.

Brian Tracy, success and leadership author says, "Failure is a prerequisite for great success. If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure."

So that's exactly what I did. I dared to dream again. I switched lanes completely and tried my hand again. My greatest takeaway was understanding why I became an entrepreneur in the first place, and being a club owner was just one piece of it. This is what I really wanted....

  • I want to create jobs.

  • I want to control my own destiny.

  • I want to use the skills I've acquired in corporate America to affect change in my community.

  • I want to leave a legacy behind.

  • I want to stretch ME!

As I wrote out who I was and why I was even in business, I realized that I lost 'me' and replaced it with a 'thing'. Like the wife who stops seeing herself beyond her husband and kids, or the employee who sees themselves as their job incapable of imagining themselves retired. Nothing would ever grow again from me, until I embraced my "failure" and moved on to creating more.

This is my first LinkedIn article. And even though I am not a writer, I wanted to tell this story. I wanted to share it because this is a story I needed to hear. For all the information that we share as people and professionals, we don't talk about the "L's". We don't provide each other with the knowledge necessary to deal with the inevitable.

To whoever is bruised and bloody holding on to a dream that seems determined to die. Be encouraged, that business, that idea, that vision, is in you! And you are NOT dead! The current vehicle that is carrying it, may not be the iteration that succeeds. (Sad but true) Accept that now. Accept that your dream must serve who you are NOW, and belongs to who you WILL become. (This includes all the tears and pain along that way.). The past efforts have no stake in tomorrow so, learn to bury what does not serve you. And do not become so attached to your plan, that you fail to see the exit points.

Lastly, adjust. Everyday, promise to adjust to every moment. Remembering that the failures are what is going to make the story that much better 😉

You deserve a great story.

For books and resources to help you through your own hard place, or to prepare you for those inevitable moments, I recommend: "The hard thing about hard things" by Ben Horowitz - (also available on Audible).

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