In 2010 I left a top investment bank to start a new venture at a smaller firm and I failed miserably. Everything that had worked in the past did not work for me at the new firm. I couldn’t open any of my old accounts while some of my past relationships that I had counted on for the new venture were unable, or unwilling, to help. The fact is the market had changed and my new firm did not have the ability to stay ahead of the current market conditions and profit from them.
We started another new project, signed up a new large client and gave him an idea where he could make a lot more money for his business. On the day we were suppose to go live, he pulled out of the deal saying he had negotiated a better rate than what we could give him. We had given him a brand new way of thinking and growing his business and he loved us for showing him to do it. Then, greed got the better of him and he moved on without us.
The move to Texas cost me a ton of friends. They were upset that I had left, upset I had not told them about my plans, and upset I would no longer be around. Sadly, I rarely talk to any of them. For some reason, their reaction to the hurt was to cut me off completely. So within a year, I had lost a lot of my friends and many of my business ideas were not working out as I anticipated.
While each of those professional dead-ends and personal betrayals hurts and is painful, I realize that in life none of us are immune.
In our youth, we go to school and are given guidelines on how to be successful. If we do our homework and study the materials we can have a successful academic career. But in the real world of life and business, success is more complicated. There are no easy answers. In life, people grow, obstacles emerge, we evolve, change and get hurt. In business, success can be ephemeral and fleeting as well.
The techno-giant Apple almost went bankrupt at one point. Yet ,the founder of The Pet Rock sold and made millions selling rocks in a box. Many millionaires such as Henry Ford and Walt Disney went bankrupt before hitting it big. Kathleen King, solely built a multi-million dollar cookie business only to have it stolen from her by late coming, ill-intentioned business partners. She rebuilt it on her own, again from scratch, and today sells $1.7M in cookies a week. The point is… in real life there are no easy solutions just challenges and detours that we are tasked with trying to rise above and for which we are asked to find alternative routes.
Seth Godin, business author, wrote a book a few years ago called ‘The Big Dip“, which plays around with the notions of quitting, perseverance and business failures. With young people, he explores the notion about how our culture reinforces and preaches the ability to stick things out and persevere. Yet in the reality of the business world, this quality of sticking through things can bring you financial ruin. The ability to know when to stick and when to let go, in business as in life, separates the winners from the losers. Godin drives this point home when he argues that “failure” (as he terms it) is a bad thing only when you can’t alter your course and move on to the next opportunity where you can then take the lessons you’ve learned and apply them to create a successful outcome.
There is always another day and another way to move forward in life. However, if you can’t acknowledge and recognize when there is no longer any growth potential and admit it is time to create anew, you can linger way too long in a stagnant or even self-destructive enterprise.
Every day, have the courage to take a little time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Then, move on from what is not and devote all your creative energy to what is…or perhaps… what still lies waiting to be birthed within your imagination.