I got to thinking this evening about the failures I have suffered in my lifetime. I began to wonder and to ponder just whether and how those failures might have helped to shape my life to bring me to the position that I find myself in right now.
It is hard to put a finger on all the exact details of how failures have shaped me … changed the course of my destiny — brought me opportunities ….. yes, I believe failures are the fountainhead of opportunity.
I didn’t always believe this way. There was a time when failure of any kind seemed not to be an option for me and when a failure occurred, it was all I could do to keep from self-destructing. I hadn’t yet learned how to mine failures for the little nuggets of success they all inevitably hold.
What do I mean by that?
Let me try to give you an example of what I am talking about:
Failures, when properly analyzed, always show a person the mistakes that have been made to bring the failure about. That is a gem of a discovery because once a person realizes the mistakes made, then the person has a greater chance of refusing to commit the same errors in future trials.
My first few businesses failed even though I worked very hard to keep them afloat and I came to the point where I wondered if I would ever succeed at anything. One of my biggest mistakes back in those struggling days of youthful enthusiasm was that I tried to do everything myself. I tried to keep the books, to obtain the materials needed, contract for the advertising, design the advertising, make the sales calls, produce the products, distribute the products … etc., etc., etc.! It became nightmarish! It exhausted me!
One day I learned that it was better to lay out a table of great food and drinks, turn on some music and invite friends, relatives and acquaintances from around my neighborhood to come in and fold the thousands of papers that we had printed … in the days before I could afford a folding machine. We had folding parties and everybody had fun and made a little money in the process. It was from this experience that I learned the necessity of sharing the burdens of business with others who were, in one way or another, skilled at something … anything … even the small things!
As this particular enterprise grew, I discovered that it was more advantageous to hire a tax preparer and an accountant than it was to do all the taxes and accounting work myself.
It dawned on me one day that Henry Ford had begun in a similar fashion.
I remember a story about Henry Ford where somebody had taken him to court to try to prove that because he lacked a lot of formal education he was unfit to run an organization the size of Ford Motor Company.
At the proper time, Mr. Ford reportedly turned to the judge and told him that all he needed to run a big business was a desk with a lot of buttons on the top of it …. buttons with which he could summon sales people, accountants, lawyers, production experts and every other expert needed to run a big business the size of the Ford operation. He is said to have told the judge that he didn’t need to know anything about business as long as he had the people who did know about business at his beck and call.
Mr. Ford won the case!
Another lesson I learned early on was that it was impossible for me to grow an enterprise using only my own money and the profits from the business to make it grow in any significant manner.
That is when I learned how to appropriate “Other People’s Money” through loans from loan companies and banks. That lesson led to other lessons … especially lessons about leveraging …. leveraging time, materials, personnel and money to make every incurred debt self-liquidating.
Yes, each of my failures … and there were many … served to make me more determined not to fail again … made me mad enough at myself for failing that I got the guts, the gall and the determination to forge ahead with my visions regardless of the apparent obstacles, and the good sense to surround myself with people smarter than myself who could make sure that what I desired to do got done.
It finally led me to a singular conclusion that I had made into a sign and which I kept on the wall behind my desk — because it was a truism … and it inspired me. The sign said simply, “The First Million Is The Hardest.”