Failure has followed me all of my life.
Failure has made me who I am.
Failure is my friend.
This sounds good, and it’s true but it doesn’t make failure any easier. It’s still hard to fail. I spent some time remembering three of my most epic failures, then I spent some more time thinking about what I learned from them. Turns out they carried lessons of their own.
Don’t be frightened by failure. You know what they say: “If at first you don’t succeed…”
My First Date Failure
I amaze people by telling them that I married the only woman I ever dated. But that’s not exactly true.
My first “date” was a failure of epic proportions. I didn’t deserve it either, because I wasn’t looking for it. It hit me like a heat-seeking missile launched from a rogue nation.
So here I am, waiting for the bus in a circle of students at the end of the school day. Someone had leaked a false report that I was sweet on this girl and wanted to date her. That was only half true. We used to sing together and I was sweet on her guitar, a small Guild with starburst finish. Beautiful!
Well she gets up, walks across the circle, stands above me and says, “Do you want to date me?”
What could I say? “Well… yes.”
We tend to repress memories associated with a high level of stress or trauma. At least that’s what Freud said. Maybe that’s why the only thing I remember about that night is rushing to open the car door for her. She stepped in front of me, pushed my hand away and swept into the front seat, slamming the door after her.
Everything goes black after that.
My First Oil Change Failure
A friend of mine just got his oil changed for $43.00. Seven quarts of synthetic oil, premium filter, 30 minutes’ labor. Do the math and you’ll decide as I did years ago, “It just doesn’t make sense to change your own oil.”
Especially if you’re me.
Let me just get this out there: I’m not handy. My three “tools” are Duct Tape, WD-40 and a pair of vice grips. These have served me well but when I venture outside of these, bad things can happen.
Nevertheless, all my life I have run away from this reputation. Changing my own oil seemed like a good way to up my cred.
The first part was easy. I bought the oil, filter and this thing called a filter wrench. I did (almost) everything right. Unfortunately there’s a pretty important thing called a “gasket” that goes on the oil plug and prevents the oil from gushing out – all over the garage floor.
One of our best friends who witnessed this failure has made it her mission in life to never let it die. I have to keep repeating that verse in Proverbs, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
It goes without saying that the second and successive oil changes were performed by skilled technicians.
My First Business Failure
So, I had this great idea. A free newspaper targeting the needs of families and promoting traditional values.
It combined everything that I was passionate about and all of the skills I had developed over the years. It was a cinch to succeed.
It did not.
Due diligence required that I interview the publisher of one of the most successful free papers. He basically said, “No big deal. You can do it alone with very low overhead.” I took this as confirmation of my great business idea and set out to change the publishing world.
I did not.
The problem was, I couldn’t do it alone. I could write it, source it, sell it and market it. I could do all of those things, but not all of them well. I was spread too thin and after a robust start the paper folded (no pun intended).
R.I.P. Family Life New Hampshire.
I still have a box of them upstairs if anyone wants to rag on my failure.
By the way this is a short list of my failures. The important thing for you to know is that these were first things. The second and third things were better, wiser and more successful.
My second date was awesome and I married her.
My second oil change was environmentally friendly and leak-free.
My second business idea… well, I’m still working on it, but I know now that I cannot go it alone.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…
Failure will follow you.
Failure will make you who you are.
Failure is your friend.