Want to know the formula for success? Check out how you can use your failures to create a new beginning.
Chances are, you failed at least once or twice before you were successful.
When I think about all of the things I’ve done well in my life, they all started with things I failed at.
I graduated high school, but I failed many times throughout my elementary school career.
I graduated college, but I failed multiple times when I tried to balance school, work, and motherhood.
I have four amazing children, but I failed at making a happy home with their two biological parents.
I married my person, but I failed at two serious relationships prior to finding him.
I run a successful business, but I failed at being happy in my initial career choice as a teacher.
From my small successes to my big ones, they all start with failures.
Failing at something means that you’ve quit.
I used to have this activity that I would do on the second day of class with my students. They would answer some questions about failure–when someone called them a failure, how it made them feel, etc. Then, I would start by sharing times I was called a failure and how I felt before allowing anyone who felt comfortable to share their own stories. Then, I would show them a graphic of famous failures. They would spend some time reading and then respond to how and why they connect with those famous failures. Finally, we would discuss how those failures became successes and what they need to do to do the same.
The reactions to this activity were incredibly moving. Many of my students were so fixated on their failure that they didn’t know how to do anything else.
If you do something, and it doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to, you are faced with options.
If you give up, yes, you’ve failed. It didn’t work, and you stopped. You’ve failed.
But if you try again, you may fail again or you may succeed. The only way to succeed is to keep trying or to redefine your definition of success.
Originally, I looked at my nearly 10 years with the father of my kids as a failed relationship. Looking back, it was a successful relationship.
I have 4 amazing kids who are gorgeous, smart, witty, and kind.
I found an extended family, including a host of nieces and nephews who I adore.
I experienced what I don’t want in a relationship or for my kids.
Without that toxic* relationship, I never would have found success in those areas.
*I do not recommend enduring a toxic relationship to find your successes. I recommend getting out as soon as possible (see below).
When looking at your life, it’s important to assess what you feel you’ve failed at.
There were many times as a mom that I felt like I failed. My kids made mistakes, and if you believe social media, parents are to blame for all of those mistakes. (Please don’t believe everything on social media, especially when it comes to parenting.)
But every time I felt like I was failing, I tried to consider what went wrong and what I could do differently. And then, I tried again. And again. And again. I didn’t always get it right, but I kept trying.
My kids always complained because I wasn’t around enough when they were growing up. I made it to games, meets, and major events, but I wasn’t around as much as they wanted or felt they needed me to be. I tried, but I worked hard to make sure they had what they needed. It didn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was failing.
Probably my biggest “failure” came in 2019. I was taking a break from teaching full time to be Assistant Director at our local community center. What started as a grant-writing and administrative job quickly became an all-consuming life suck. I was working 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week for more than $20k less than I was making teaching. My daughter wasn’t doing well mentally, and as much as I tried to help her through it, she tried to kill herself. Whether it was an attempt for real or an attempt for attention doesn’t matter. It was an attempt.
I remember sitting in the hospital with her, texting my boss to figure out who could replace me for work the next day and working so hard to line up who could fill in for me while she went to a facility that was over an hour away.
I felt like I failed as a mother, and I felt like I was failing in my job.
I had to stop and determine my priorities. My job never should have been so close to my daughter as a priority.
After some therapy, time, and healing for my daughter, I had lunch with a friend who needed some help with a job interview. During our conversation, she gave me some great advice. She talked to me about using my talents, skills, education, and training to start my own business. She told me about a friend of hers who was a therapist, working for a business who didn’t respect her time. Upon our friend’s advice, she went out on her own, found her niche, and started making 6 figures by doing what she loved. That day, my wheels started turning.
A few months after my daughter’s failed suicide attempt (a failure I’m happy with), I started putting my plan together.
I started by determining what success looks like to me.
I wanted to be able to be at every single volleyball game, senior event, and whatever else my daughter did for her senior year. I wanted to be able to be there for my two sons out of the house and one son still at home as needed. With a senior and freshman at home, I wanted to be able to travel when possible. Money is great, but my success is focused around what I can do with money. I wanted to make enough money to pay my bills, travel how I wanted to, and support organizations I care about. I also wanted to be able to help people in my community.
I had to evaluate my previous failures that interrupted that success.
That was easy. Working full time, for businesses or organizations that depended on me to show up in the building and to be present kept me from showing up for my kids and traveling. I could only help one organization/group at a time when I worked for a business or organization. I couldn’t afford to not work.
One of the most difficult parts in the process was to identify what I’m good at.
I have years of experience in a variety of environments, training and education, skills and abilities, but just like when I started college the first time, I didn’t have the confidence in myself or the understanding of what I didn’t know. I made a list of what I know how to do and what I don’t know how to do. And then, I went to work.
Anyone serious about making failures into successes will put in the work.
While I was still working my full time job, I networked with everyone at every opportunity. I asked tons of questions. If someone said something I didn’t know or understand, I researched it. If someone offered another connection, I reached out. I followed up and followed through. I showed up. I took advantage of every free moment of my time, every free event, and every free resource.
One of the most evolving parts of this process is to map out your new beginning while respecting that it needs to change.
I started making a detailed plan to make my success happen, but there were many times I became irritated. It seemed like advice changed based on who I talked to, so I had to filter through the advice. My research and connections didn’t always show up the way I expected. And it seemed like it was all taking forever. It didn’t help that my fear was keeping me paralyzed.
One of the key components of moving away from failure into success is finding the right support network.
For me, my family and friends are great support, but they don’t always take me seriously. I needed to find a support network who would cheer for me when I needed it, push me when I was getting lazy, talk me out of something unhealthy, and show up at all hours. I was able to find that (through research) online with a few Facebook groups. People in the groups were from all around the world, so I was able to have support when I needed it. One group was full of former teachers, and the other group was full of people doing the same thing I was. The two groups meant I always had a variety of feedback whenever I needed it. They also provided me with my first clients!
Getting started is scary, but continuing is even scarier.
At one point, I had to get started. I cashed out my tiny retirement savings, put my notice in at work, and put myself out there. We already had a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee planned, so we went on the trip where I was able to book my first job. I sent her my price, and she thought it was too low, so she doubled it! I secured my first job for my own business on the river with my laptop, drinking coffee while my husband slept. I thought I had finally made it.
And then I didn’t get another job for a month.
I was devastated, worried, and felt like a failure.
I went back through the steps and made changes. Some changes were small, incremental changes while others were big. I researched. I went back to my network. I went back to my support network. I kept going.
I could have easily stopped and went back to what was comfortable, but I didn’t. Financially, I had a rough few months. As a mom of four and the primary breadwinner for our household, that was almost enough to make me quit.
But I kept going. And I cherished the small wins. The small wins led to bigger wins. Those bigger wins have finally helped me find success, which I keep redefining.
Failure is inevitable, but the only way you’ll find success is to keep trying.