Learning From Failure: My Biggest Failure And How It Shaped Me
Whenever I’m asked about my biggest failure to date my immediate thought goes to my 23 year old self, who was I can confidently say, at a very low point in my life.
I had just found out that my then husband had gone to the Dominican Republic with another woman. We had been married for less than a year and to make the sting even stronger he put the trip on our joint credit card which I ended up having to pay for, a total gem… I know.
I can remember the moment I found out about this betrayal clear as day. It’s crazy how one moment life can look one way and the next, everything I knew to be true fell away. My worldview of love, marriage, trust, and who I knew myself to be had been shattered.
So now, over a decade later why is this the experience that comes to mind when I think of my biggest failure? It’s often an odd answer as I get asked this question the most in a business context and I think people expect me to share something like a failed product launch or business blunder instead.
However, I don’t believe in these arbitrary lines we so often draw between personal and professional. What makes me a strong and resilient Entrepreneur and Business Leader is what makes me a strong and resilient human. I define failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. This experience brought me to my knees. It required me to dig deep and show myself what I was made of.
The resilience and grit failures like this require lasts long beyond the event itself. Events like these carry us through life and the lessons learned keep on giving, shaping who we are and who we choose to be.
I’m grateful for this experience because it taught me that life isn’t always fair but we do always get a choice in how we respond, as a victim or a leader. I had to choose how I was going to take on not only the divorce but the $40,000 of debt I took on from the break up.
At 23 $40,000 was a shit ton of money, hell it still is today. But, the experience taught me how to break down something that seemed insurmountable into manageable chunks and take it on piece by piece not getting overwhelmed by what might seem impossible at the get go.
I am grateful for this experience because it taught me about forgiveness. It taught me that holding onto pain, anger, resentment only hurt me. It didn’t help the situation, it didn’t change anything, it only hurt me. I learned that to forgive I didn’t need to make what happened ok. I could hold my boundaries and still wish a person well and let go of any negative energetic attachments I had towards them. Don’t get me wrong, this one took years, but I got there with lots of coaching and support.
I am grateful for this experience because it was the first time in my life I consciously chose who I was going to be. What does that mean? Well, up to that point in my life I had let life happen to me. Getting swooped up and pulled along for the ride. Looking back I had lost myself in that relationship. I was so disconnected from my values and from myself.
In this holy shit moment I realized that one I didn’t connect to who I was and two didn’t even like who I was. In that moment I got to choose, I got to choose from that place, who I was going to be. This is a huge freedom and gift I continue to give myself today. I have no obligation to anyone to be who I was yesterday. I get to choose, rechoose and then recreate, who I am day to day as I evolve and grow. It is a huge value of mine and one that serves me deeply in the world of being my own boss and building my business.
I am grateful for this experience because I learned in a very real way how to build resilience and healthy habits that make me thrive. Going from drinking myself to blackout drunk weekly to where I am today is mind boggling, even to me. It reminds me all the time that the biggest changes start with a choice and disciplined actions. No crazy magic, just a commitment to loving myself.
I could go on and on about what this failure in an unexpected place taught me but I’ll wrap it up there. Now, 12 years later I can truly say it was one of the most influential events of my life, as any great failure usually is. Without this experience I wouldn’t have gotten a crash course on how to dig deep when you have been brought to your knees. Now when I have a failure in my biz, sure it stings, but I know I have the tools to grow, learn, and come out the other end a better person because of it. I trust myself and give myself permission to create and recreate myself and my business over and over again as I learn and evolve.
That is the beauty of failure, wherever we might experience it. Our failures are our opportunities to create from nothing. A beautiful and totally freeing place to be.