Sometimes the best lessons come from failure, not success. One man shares how he learned this lesson.
Over the last few years, I’ve read dozens of business books and taken lots of online business courses. But, I never expected that some of the greatest lessons I learned would come from my failure.
Last summer, a family friend introduced me to a popular nutrition company that was based on network marketing. He told me about the success he was having with his business, which consisted of selling memberships to the company. Several other people I knew had bought into the business, and he invited me to an informational meeting in my area.
We heard from a person who had made over $100,000 in less than a year. We also heard testimonies about how the products were changing lives. My eyes grew wide with possibilities. It seemed like the solution to my financial problems was staring me right in the face!
I talked to my wife, and it was obvious she was uneasy about the whole thing. But after some cajoling from me, she agreed to let me try it. We secured a loan for the $2,000 it required to become a business owner, and we soon had a living room full of products and samples.
I began talking to family and friends about the opportunity and invited them to check it out. We even set up a few product demonstrations (complete with a slick video produced by the company). I started to feel uneasy, wondering if I had made the right decision. But I was so desperate for it to succeed that ignored any misgivings I had.
Eventually, I admitted to myself that this wasn’t working. Despite the fact that I loved the company’s products (and, in fact, still use them), I admitted my defeat and canceled my membership with the company.
Here are five critical lessons I learned from this experience:
1. Don’t believe the lie of a quick success.
Everything I was hearing, including the promotional materials from the company, indicated that this was a part-time business that could quickly grow into a full-time income. I didn’t realize how much work it would take to get to that level, and that those people were in the minority. I was so hungry for success that I naively thought it would be quick and easy.
2. Don’t get involved in a business you aren’t passionate about.
I was never truly interested in the company or its products. My real passions were writing, teaching, and creativity. I should have just focused on those. The result of getting distracted was that I lost a whole summer and a good chunk of money by starting a business that didn’t fit my interests and skills
Network marketing requires a lot of personal selling. I bought books by Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar on sales, hoping they would help me. They contained a lot of great information, but they couldn’t replace my lack of passion for what I was selling.
3. Don’t assume you can copy another person’s success.
The family friend I mentioned earlier was having great success in his business. He loved the products and had a compelling testimony of how they helped him. I wrongly assumed that with a little bit of work I could copy his success. I ignored the fact that he was much better equipped to succeed in a business that required personal selling and had a great personal experience with the products.
4. Don’t ignore your spouse’s feelings.
Despite her misgivings, my wife agreed to let me try the business because I was excited about it. I saw it as a way out of our financial problems. After being married for nearly twenty years, I should have known to listen carefully to my wife’s hesitation about the whole ordeal. I was determined to make it work and stubbornly pressed ahead anyway.
5. Don’t be afraid to kill something that isn’t working.
I hated to admit defeat after being in the business for only a couple of months. The hardest part was making the decision to quit. I had invested a lot of time and money into it, and I hated to see it go down the drain (especially since I hadn’t made any of it back). But after I made the decision, I felt like a free man again.
This experience taught me several valuable business lessons, so I don’t consider it a total failure. In a way, it has been critical to any subsequent success because it helped me focus on my strengths and not chase a quick buck.
Maybe you are experiencing failure right now in your business. Evaluate why it’s not working and take action to make any needed changes. There is nothing wrong with failing. The real mistake is continuing to go the wrong direction and not having the courage to make needed changes.
Everyone experiences failure, but not everyone learns from it. Use your failures to propel you forward in business and life. What seems like a tragedy at the moment can help you find success.
Photo: Flickr/ Michael Clesle