Monday, August 02, 2021

The Great Day Of Failure 2021

Today we celebrate The Great Day Of Failure.

The Great Day of Failure, commemorated every August 2nd, is based one of my greatest failures, the day in 2005 that myself and my business partners decided that the company we had founded known colloquially as The Firm was no longer a going business interest and fired ourselves after 16 months of operation.

We had high hopes.  We had a business plan.  We even had limited success.  But our hopes and plans and limited success were not enough to combat the unexpected difficulties of the market and (as it turned out) a flawed view our client base.

And so, we ended the company.   If you ever want to get an odd reaction from individuals, tell them you had to fire yourselves from your own company.  It is not, as I have found out, a very common experience.

When I say failure, I mean failure.  The money I had initially held as seed stock was gone, as was a least one retirement account that had to be cashed out early.  In a fit of hubris (and of course because we were going to be successful), we sold our house that we had a healthy increase in price in to buy a new house, and ended up having to sell that house when the biopharmaceutical market fell out in 2009 and move to New Home, losing all of our equity and preventing us from buying another house for several years.  At one point near the end, The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I had $200 in cash in an emergency fund and less than $300 in the bank.  Add to that the salary and potential investment earnings I could have had, and the losses run into the hundreds of the thousands of dollars.

In our case we were blessed (I use that word intentionally): I was able to find a job (at a lower salary and lesser title) within two months, and we began the long, slow process of pulling ourselves out of the hole.  We are largely made whole at this point (after 16 years) - which if I think about it, is a little under have of my adult life.  16 years to recover from a 16 month adventure.  I do not like that ratio.

And so, once a year I take moment to think, recognize, and remember the failures.  All of them.  Every time I tried something that did not work or created a kerfuffle at work or managed to completely mishandle a personal interaction.  To the times I tried to make cheese and got dissolving curd (it happened) or tried to grow corn and nothing happened (almost every year).

Why a whole day to celebrate?

Our failures - even our deepest, most profound failures - contain within them the seeds of learning.  Failure has often been a springboard to success, if one only knows how to use it - and recognizes the fact that without the failure, the success would not have been possible.

We are destined to fail far more than we are to succeed in life, either because we have not learned something fully yet or simply do not know or by ill planning or even just by ill circumstances, which cast aside our learning and knowledge and planning.  If we only expect successes, we are effectively doomed to being constantly disappointed.  Far better to recognize that failure exists and not only learn from it, but celebrate it.  

So Happy Great Day of Failure, friends.  Find a beverage of your choice (mine will likely be Old Zinfandel Red Wine, your mileage may vary), and toast your failures.  Remember then, if you can, if not warmly at least with a sense of "what did I learn from this"?

For me at least, the more I study my failures, the more I see where my successes came from.

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:30 AM

    Don't forget that failure for trying is better than failure for lack of initiative. Congratulations on making this a learning experience for you and others.

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    1. Anonymous - There was education that I received from this so I should not want to communicate that this experience was totally without merit. It was just the enormity of the failure that is "impressive" to me.

      Indeed, when there is nothing left to do but cry, laugh.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I learn more from my failures than from my successes.

    A success will have a hundred people claiming to be its father while failures are mine and mine alone.

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    1. ERJ - I have too. And the lessons are generally much more clear.

      Oddly enough, we do not discuss failures enough. Were we to do so, perhaps we could all learn to treat them as learning experiences instead of things to be embarrassed of.

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  3. Yeah, I had a similar deal. I started a restaurant and ended up losing my ASS(Sets). I cant believe how much I put in. On a good day I made less than min wage and there were very few good days. Finally pulled the plug. Moved on to new ventures but boy it hurt ! Brutal lessons learned. I have had the opportunity to do similar again and I learned enough hard lessons I would probably be successful. However, I also remember working 60 hour weeks every single week and Im a lot of years older. Nah...I aint doing it.

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    1. John - While I have never owned a restaurant, I have known those that have. And yes, as you say, it is a good way to make very little money and spend all your time doing it. And even if we do learn the tricks of the trade, subjecting ourselves to that process again is tough. Add to that - for me at least - that I like to receive regular paychecks, and we were done. For myself, I think, I would never countenance such a thing again. I might look to a small side gig - but not rely on it for full support.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I thought about what you wrote and I agree that each and every failure is a learning experience.

    But there are those who fail, and never ever learn, and a different group who fail, and never try again.

    I wonder where one's resilience comes from?

    My parents didn't wrap us in bubble wrap to shield us from the consequences of our actions, and they didn't helicopter us when we were growing up.
    I'm thinking that contributes to being resilient but even the most resilient of people or objects have a point of permanent failure.

    I will join you in your toast a bit later today.
    Our beverage will be a store bought red blend because that is what the sommelier (me) brought up yesterday from the wine cellar.



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    1. John - It is an interesting question and you are correct in denoting the other two categories, the continuing to never learn and the never try again.

      I think it is a mixture of personality and upbringing (not that anyone asked my opinion, but there it is).

      There are people that are just willing to learn from things no matter what. They are programmed that way, just as there are people that seem to never learn and those that never try.

      At the same time, the environment you fail in makes a huge amount of difference. My parents were not helicopter parents either (with the sole exception of insuring that we were shielded from what was effectively the poverty of my father's youth), and they encouraged us to try things and did not come down on us when we would fail. My mother probably got sick of me coming to her with "Hey, look at this" or "Hey, I am going to try this". And my father was, even though he refused to acknowledge it, a pretty skilled jack of all trades. He had a plethora of skills he just "knew", and was okay in a lot ways with things just being "good enough".

      But there were things that I failed - mostly after I left home - that the surrounding fallout was so bad (beyond the failure itself) that I never tried those things again. The psychic burn was just too much.

      Skal, Friend!

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  5. I hope you celebrate your successes, too.

    God bless you all, TB.

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    1. I do Linda, although for some reason they are not quite as memorable.

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  6. I too celebrate some of my failures that have strengthened me later on in life.

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    1. Great minds thinking alike yet again Ed!

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  7. John is talking about plastic deformation. In the world of I beams and channel iron that is important. Everything has a failure mode too. Some things like to twist, others just pop.

    I too will have a failure day latter this year. And I will celebrate it for all the lessons learned and the Giant letters of the New Chapter it will usher in.

    I'm and in the midst of a failure. It is something that I considered the most important thing on earth. But I am cheerful and happy. I have learned a lot through this process. And am confident that even if I do wind up under a bridge, that I won't stay there long.

    I can feel your disappointment at the failure, but you had the temerity to fire yourself. That means you know where the issue was and took the appropriate action. That took Courage. Well done.

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    1. STxAR, you should be sure and post the date of your failure date so we can celebrate all over again!

      Failures are not necessarily the end. It is all in how you deal with them.

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    2. STxAR. That's also a good analogy. My mind is mulling over the reality that if we don't treat people the right way then people don't spring back and people become brittle.
      I'm still thinking that the base material of people, perhaps their upbringing, or their basic nature, is a large part of how well they respond to failure or success, or stress in general.

      I'm also thinking through what TB added about the mental damage of some failures being life changing.
      Yes to that.

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    3. John - It is an interesting metaphor, people as base materials, and I think there is something to it. People can be stretched in ways that they never come back from. To be honest, a version of this has been on my mind since my position change last year. I do not find myself as resilient or interested in what I am doing compared to before and am wondering if the previous four years and the stresses and uncomfortable work relationships have somehow "compromised" my material in that respect.

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