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.