“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Secretary of State Colin Powell
I had a client call me, he was panicked. He just heard from his accountant that his business was about to fail. He was searching, no reaching for ideas on what to do. He outlined for me a number of problems he was facing. I asked him about the steps he had been taking in the past to address these issues and inquired about the results from those steps.
As he recounted the problems and his actions, it became clear to him and to me that his actions were not having any impact. He was dumbfounded by the conversation and his prior actions. He realized that the failure was in how he interpreted the situation.
At that point, he asked me if I had ever failed.
I shared with him a bit of my own story of failure.
In early 1999, I thought I was on top of the world. I was the owner of a successful mortgage company in New York City. I had three offices, over 45 Loan Officer and a complement of an additional staff of 20. I was one of the largest mortgage brokerages in the city and it looked as if the market was moving in the direction of greater growth.
From that pinnacle, my horizon was wide, bright and there appeared to be without limits.
It was was only about 3 months later that my world changed. It started with the realization that one of my Senior Sales Managers had embezzled a lot of money. Compounding that was that he had also taken a lot of money from clients. Money that was supposed to come through the company. Some of it was just over the top brazen actions.
Within three weeks from the realization that I could have a problem and actually getting my hands around the problem, I discovered that not only was my successful company insolvent but that I had to take much of my other personal assets to refund money to clients.
Compounding this great financial challenge was a change in how New York allowed Loan Officers to be paid. For the prior 15 years, Loan Officers could be paid on 1099. Which is how I paid them. In what seemed like only a moment everything changed. I now found that I had the liability of paying back-taxes for my Loan Officers.
Within another 4 weeks, I had closed my two largest offices. I had consolidated my operations to the third. I released 80% of my staff and found myself in the depths of despair. It was only another 3 months before I finally closed my company. Totally defeated.
I am not seeking sympathy for the situation. In retrospect, there were things I could have done. There were signs that were evident but ignored. There were warning signs all over that things were about to change. For some unknown reason, I failed to see them. I failed to react to them. When it was all over, I acknowledged that I could have successfully faced one or the other challenges, but the combination of both crushed me. Crushed my spirit and desires.
After a moment of self-pity, I realized that I was not dead. I understood that I had to start over. It was me that had to find, within myself, a new purpose. I began a period of self-evaluation that propelled me into what I do today. I reviewed all that I had done and discovered that the activities I enjoyed most were: Coaching, Mentoring, Speaking, and Training. These things had given me the greatest satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment. Fortunately for me, people pay for those activities and skills.
What I shared with this client was that failure sometimes happens. It is not the failure that defines us. It is how we deal with that failure. Do we allow for it to consume us and prevent us from the action, or do we embrace the lessons and learn from it.
“Failure is an event, never a person.” — William D. Brown
“Failure is an amazing teacher. It has the ability to take me from being a complete idiot, to being less of an idiot … almost overnight.’ — Dean Del Sesto