Happy Failure Day!
Failure Day, as you might recall (it has been some time since I have written about it) is the day that, in 2005, the real estate company I had founded with my friend officially went under. We made the decision to end the company and fired ourselves.
In doing this, I found myself to be sitting in the bank with perhaps one month's salary, the remaining month or two of health care, no job prospects, a house payment I could not afford (because it was based on a salary that I had never achieved), three children including a 3 month old, and no other outside income (The Ravishing Mrs. TB was staying at home at the time). It beat the previous two months in that we had a closing (that June we were literally down to $200 in my emergency savings).
There is a certain kind of grimness that comes from failing a business you have created, a certain bitterness when you realize that you were the one that brought yourself to this place. You were the one that made the choice to abandon a career field you knew and take a shot at something else.
The outcome? The immediate outcome, not so good. By the time all was said and done (and it took 4 years to completely work itself out) I had probably lost over $250,000 in the salary I would have made, stocks I sold to give us working capital, and the Home Equity Line Of Credit I opened and the 401K I liquidated to pay it off as well as the equity I gave up in the perfectly good house we were living in for the new overpriced house that we bought and eventually had to sell at the cost of the loan (which ate up everything we paid for the previous five years).
Did I learn things? Of course I did. I learned a certain self confidence that has never left me, that I can do things that I never thought I could. I learned I could read and negotiate million dollar contracts. I learned you need to pay a lot more attention to the bottom line as an owner than any employee ever thinks. And I learned that the power of determining how to fill your days - instead of having them filled for you - is priceless.
Would I consider it worth it? The jury is still out, even after 14 years. The knowledge I gained could probably have come only in that circumstance (e.g., pushing myself out there) but the end results were not the sort of thing that I would have wanted to put myself or my family through. The financial damage is mostly undone (but the time and compound interest will never return); the scars maybe less so.
But even after all this time, I remember that crushing moment when I consciously made the decision to end my involvement in something I had hoped was going to go so well. Watching something that you considered a dream die is hard enough; being the one to put it out of its misery harder still.
Happy Failure Day.