“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford
History loves failures who turn their situation around. I mean, how many times have we heard the story of the celebrity or the highly successful person who used a failure as the great motivator that drove them to success?
Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, went to Pixar, matured, was given Apple back, and then proceeded to turn the tech company into an even bigger giant.
Thomas Edison was once told that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He then accumulated 2,332 patents in his lifetime.
One time in Baltimore, a TV station fired one of their anchors… that anchor, Oprah Winfrey, went on to become one the most sought after television personalities ever.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he apparently “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Now, Disney could easily be considered as the most imaginative person in recent history.
Vera Wang is no stranger to failure… She failed to make the U.S. Olympic team as a figure skater. Then, she went on to be an editor at Vogue where she was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. Now, her dresses are desired by every bride-to-be across the world.
Is there something special about failure?
I don’t think so. Rather, I believe that any success is ultimately the result of someone learning and growing from their past failures. For me, this is absolutely true. I have had many failures in my life and I have responded to some of those failures positively and some of them negatively. So, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to determine which reactions to my failures have produced the best results.
For the failures that I have responded positively to, it has always resulted in a positive change in who I was as a person.
And, the same is true in reverse for all of the failures that I have responded negatively to. In those situations, responding in a negative way (i.e. blaming others for my situation and complaining about where I put myself) always ended up lessening who I was and leading me to a more unfavorable place.
But in this post, I want to talk about the former and show you a few instances where responding positively to a failure, or temporary defeat, led me to even bigger success.
My hope is that, whether you’re facing a failure in your business or another area of your life, you can look objectively at that temporary defeat and see it for what it truly is… an opportunity to improve yourself, your business, or a combination of the two.
Failure #1: Attended University (As in I was Enrolled), But Never Actually Went
After high school I tried going to junior college and I didn’t really like it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So, I moved in with a friend and his roommates in another state because that friend got me a job as a valet at a casino. It was a good gig.
All of my roommates attended the local University and after awhile I felt like I should be doing something important with my life as well.
Not only that, but my roommates were friends with some of the guys on the school’s rugby team and they convinced me to come out and practice with them. I played rugby in high school and I really liked the idea of jumping back into a competitive sport.
So, I applied to the University, got accepted, and began my second stint in college.
I Was Made for College… NOT!
Everything started out fine. I was going to my classes, playing rugby, and making decent money at my valet job. But that was taking up a lot of my partying and video game time (#ForTheAlliance). My schedule quickly changed from school, rugby, and work, to rugby, video games, partying, and work.
By the time I reached my fifth semester in school, I had only accumulated 9 credits total. I didn’t even go to school during the fall semester, because to play rugby I only needed to be enrolled in the spring semester. And, eventually I would just signup for spring classes, go to a few of my classes, realize that it was boring, and stop going altogether.
To further make matters worse, I even started flaking out on work. And, eventually, I lost my job because of it.
The Depths of… My Mom’s Basement
With no job, no money, and no direction, I had to move back in with my Mom. This was a major low-point in my life and the worst part was that it was all self-inflicted. But, it was also the wake-up call that changed my life.
On a side note, looking back now, the funniest part of the whole situation was that I had to live in my Mom’s basement. Yes, I was that guy. Of course, I’m thankful to have a parent that would let me move back in with her in that kind of situation. If I didn’t have that option, I don’t know where I would have ended up.
And, I don’t want to bring other people who move back in with their parents into this discussion. A lot of people move back in with their parents for various reasons, but not all of them move back in because they wasted every opportunity they had beforehand. That was me. Bad decisions led me home, not unfortunate circumstances.
Anyways, I knew I had to do something. I had to change. And, so I made a promise to myself that I would never let my actions get me so deep into a hole again. I was determined to become someone better than I currently was.
The Book, the Idea, and the Decision
From there, I contemplated joining the military. I got really close, in fact, and I would have joined if not for stumbling upon a book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
I think the military would have done me a lot of good, but after reading that book I got a spectacular idea firmly planted in my head…
That idea was that I didn’t need someone else (in this case, the United States Army) to discipline me… I needed to discipline myself. The Army would have disciplined me to be who they wanted me to be, but the book made me realize that I had it within myself to become who I wanted to be and that I could do so on my own terms. And, for me, I believe that was something I inherently knew, but Napoleon Hill’s classic presented it in such a way that it became a thought that dominated my mind.
And, so, my path changed yet again. I have to stress how difficult this decision was to make. It wasn’t a difficult choice in making the decision. I knew in my gut that it was the right decision. However, it was a difficult decision because I wondered what the people closest to me would think. “There goes Brent, backing out again… making a bad decision… not committing to something.”
It was like I knew the decision was the right one, but it was also one that would make those close to me further doubt me. And, from their point of view who could blame them?
Thankfully, I did receive support from my family. But I still felt like people were disappointed in me, regardless of whether or not that feeling was legitimate or not.
Ultimately, I used this fear of being a chronic disappointment to light a fire inside of me. This fire was so strong that I felt like I had already obtained a high level of success, even though that was not my outward reality. They say people only make real changes when their backs are against the wall… and that’s how I felt.
A Little Hope from My First Online Venture
Not long after, I found out that I could make a little bit of money writing ~$10 articles for a text-broker-type-of website. To me, this was a big moment, because it ultimately convinced me that it was possible to make money online. Even though it wasn’t anything that is close to how I eventually went on to succeed online, it was the seed that would kick everything off.
The articles I wrote were for a company that setup blogs for heating and air conditioning companies and I was essentially ghost writing those articles for the HVAC company’s owners.
That ended up going well enough to the point to where I could move back out of my parents house and in with some roommates. I was finally out of my Mom’s basement and I had finally–for the first time in a long time–had some positive momentum behind me.
Failure #2: The Crash that Led Me to A Life-Changing Breakthrough
I was still writing heating and air condition articles and making enough money to survive, but they were getting extremely boring and monotonous. The company who setup the HVAC blogs recycled topics and used the same topics for everyone of the blogs they setup.
So, an HVAC company in Detroit had the same exact article topics (with the content and headlines changed slightly) as an HVAC company in Sacramento, Tallahassee, Denver, and Los Angeles.
It was easy, but not very exciting.
However, my misery was put to rest when the company stopped sending me articles to write and thus ended our relationship.
My First Stab at Creating My Own Profitable Blog
While relieved to not have to write about heating and air conditioning EVER again, I was once again broke and had no income stream. This is when I tried getting into internet marketing for the first time.
It was a failure and a very unmemorable experience and I would avoid telling you about it completely except for one thing…
But first, a little backdrop…
My blog was kind of a mishmash of personal development stuff (a guy making no money, barely surviving, offering life advice!) and I did one post that was titled something like “How I Will Make $5,000 Per Month Online.”
It was supposed to be a bold announcement of something that would come to pass in my life. The declaration was supposed to so profoundly announce my intention to the Universe, that the Universe would have to respond back to me and give in to my demands.
As I said, the blog failed and I closed it down, but I did receive a pretty brutal comment on the post mentioned above. I don’t remember it word-for-word, but some random person commented something along the lines of how I would never make $5,000 online. (I wish I could find the article still, but it appears to be lost…)
The comment was the first time I received criticism online (at least on my own website… I’ve been known to get a little crazy on some forums in my day) and it really got to me. I mean, it was probably the first comment I ever received and it was someone just flat out telling me that I didn’t have what it took to make $5,000 per month online.
I did stop running that site. The comment may not have been the main reason but it definitely stuck with me. And, when I finally broke through and had my first $5,000 month online, it was then that I realized that there are a lot of critics out there who don’t know what the f#%k they’re talking about.
So, if you’re facing critics right now, I’d like you to ignore them. And, if you can’t do that, at least watch this Bobby Knight video and see what his take was on the critics he had…
Maybe I Was Made for College…
After my failed attempt at creating an internet marketing blog, I decided to go back to school… again.
This time I decided to go with a the less expensive option (especially given my track record) and I enrolled in the local community college. (I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have gotten back into the University if I wanted to.) And, to my surprise, I actually did committed myself to school.
In fact, not only was I going to all of my classes, but I was doing all of my work and I was actually studying, too.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for applause because I went to school and did something that a lot of other people accomplish on a daily basis–especially since everyone else doesn’t need three tries to make it work–but I was surprised with myself, because just two years earlier getting myself to go to class was like pulling teeth.
In just 5 months from February 2012 to July 2012, I earned twice as many credits, 24, (4 classes in spring and 4 classes in the first half of summer) than I had earned in the five semesters I spent at the University.
Everything was going great…
I had these grandiose ideas of trying to transfer to a prestigious 4-year college. I was convinced that I could convince the admission board to let me in. I’d write the best essay they’d ever read. I’d come up with some amazing doctrine and email college professors ahead of applying letting them know who I was, with the hope that they would like my doctrine and would put in a good word for me. I knew that if they knew where I had come from in the past couple of years they would see the value in bringing in a diverse student with life experience. You know… someone who was going to be a real asset on campus.
(That’s what I told myself anyways. I’ve never really been one to try and stop my imagination from running wild.)
Did I even have a chance of getting a prestigious 4-year University to consider me after all of my failures? Likely not.
But, in any case I never got the chance to find out…
One night not too long after my first half of summer school ended, a friend of a friend convinced me to give internet marketing another shot. He told me about Ed Dale’s free 30 Day Challenge course. The course was designed to take you through the step-by-step process of finding an idea for a website, setting up your website, and making your first dollar online.
I figured that since school had been much easier this time around, I could easily juggle both.
I was wrong…
This new venture completely consumed my life. I stopped going out with my friends and I stopped going to school… again. For the next 4 months I would grind away on a website idea I came up with after going through the 30-Day challenge.
I knew it could work. But more than that it had to work. I told myself and others that I was going to make money off of this website or I was going to die trying. I didn’t care if I was a 90-year-old man still working on this website… it was going to work.
I literally told that to people.
My days would consist of me getting up, going right to my computer (which was conveniently located next to my bed), working nonstop on the website, coming out only for food, going back to work on my website, and finally going to bed only when there was nothing I could do to keep myself awake. I worked 16 hour days like they were nothing. (It’s not like it was manual labor. I was sitting in my computer chair… with good posture.)
If it wasn’t for the fact that I met my future wife at around the same time, there’s a good chance that I would have maintained working from the time I got up until the time I went to sleep. However, since I didn’t have any money, I couldn’t take her out on dates. So, I had to get a part-time job working at Geek Squad in Best Buy.
Then something amazing happened…
One day I logged into my Amazon Associates account and found that I had not only sold some items, but that they had already shipped to the customer and that I had made $90 in commission. It was almost unbelievable.
You see these people talk about making money online, you put in all of this work and nothing happens, and then one day, all of the sudden, BOOM… you have validation.
And, validation was what I needed. I now knew that there were people out there who would buy something from my website. It would actually work. Because if one person would buy from my site, then surely others would, too…
Then the sales started coming in more quickly.
Two months after my first sale, I broke $100 in a month. Then a month after that I made close to $500.
The following month: $1,000.
Two months after that I hit $3,500.
By that time my girlfriend (who, like I said, would eventually become my wife) and I were renting a nice three-bedroom house. I told her that if I were to make $3,000 per month for three straight months I would quit my job at Best Buy. It was a naive goal, but I wanted to get back to working on my website full-time. She was hesitant, not fully trusting that what I did was something that could be sustained, but she agreed.
And I was able to sustain it… for awhile. I made $3,000 for five straight months. I quickly put my 2 weeks notice after the third month and I quit my job at Best Buy. Sayonara!
It wasn’t long after that, though, that I got a taste of how harsh and volatile Google can be…
Google released an algorithm update that bumped me from the first page for a few popular keywords to the second page and I went from consistently making $3,000+ per month to right around $1,000 per month.
This would be okay if I were still paying $400 per month in rent and living with my roommates, but now I had a girlfriend, a larger rent payment, and more bills to deal with. If it wasn’t for my wife having a decent paying job, we would have been in big trouble. And, even then it was pretty stressful. Before, my mistakes mainly affected me… now I was responsible for someone else.
I had put my family in jeopardy and I knew that I couldn’t make those kinds of mistakes anymore.
Improvement As the Only Option
I knew that if I didn’t get back on to the first page of Google’s search results for those keywords, I was going to have get another regular job. (You know, the kinds with bosses and stuff.) So, I buckled back down and set out to not only correct everything that was wrong with my site, but to improve the overall quality and user experience of the site as well.
I completely redesigned and revamped my website.
I upgrade my server from a shared hosting plan on HostGator to a much more efficient dedicated server from Synthesis.
I worked on increasing the page speed of my site and improving the overall functionality.
I lengthened and improved my content. (I turned two 2,000-word guides into two ~20,000 word guides.)
And, I really worked on networking and outreach so that I could build my audience.
(Want a more in-depth explanation of the strategies I used to improve my website and take it to the next level? Then be sure to sign up for the Income Addon newsletter. Just enter your email into the form on the top right and I will send you the free report.)
5 months later I returned back to the first page in the search results and had a $3,000 month. I maintained $3,000 per month for another 3-4 months straight.
Then I broke $5,000 in a month. I had was closing in over $6,000 per month right about the time my wife and I got married.
A couple of months later I made $9,000 and from there I consistently hit $9K per month for the next few months. Then the holiday season came…
I made $11k in Novemeber…
And $26k in December.
It was an incredible turn around… A truly amazing blessing for my family and I.
In 12 months I went from making $1,000 per month on my website, to well over $20,000 per month. Everyday during December my wife and I would sit down in the morning, get a cup of coffee, and add up my Amazon sales to try and estimate what I sold for that day. It was incredibly exciting.
Ultimately, my site was solid in the rankings and I kept making $20,000 per month like clock work.
The best part was that it was just in time for the arrival of our newborn baby son.
And for that, I thank you, God.
Failure #3: 40% of my Income Lost in an Instant
I was hitting right around $20,000 per month or more for 9 months straight when I got an email from Amazon informing me that they were dropping the commission rate on the main category I sold in from 4% to 2.5%.
The email further informed me that the changes would go through in just a week’s time.
Just like that I received a 40% reduction in my income. No warning, no time to prepare… just a bunch of money taken from me in an instant.
I was pissed at first. But in truth, Amazon is a business and the next closest affiliate program for that kind of product was offering 3%… and they, of course, will never be able to convert customers into buyers like Amazon can. So, Amazon was simply doing what big businesses must do when they are losing profit.
And, I knew that if I started to play the blame game, and turned it into what Amazon did to me, it would only steer me away from my goals and from the real opportunity at hand.
My Current Situation
The truth is that this email was just sent to me about a month ago. This is where I am right now at the time of writing this post. I just lost 40% of my income.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that I’m still making a very comfortable amount…
The better news is that I have a great opportunity in front of me.
To be honest, I got so comfortable with the way things were going that I lost some of my drive. And, I firmly believe that comfort is the death of all progress.
So, this is my chance to get some of that drive back. It’s my chance to diversify and seek out other options like creating my own physical products, or putting more time into some of my secondary websites, or looking for different ways to improve my main site to try and get some of that lost income back.
There are so many new things I can do now that I know what it takes to be successful with an online business.
In a way, this sudden decrease in income has put me back into “improvement” mode, and the last couple of times that I have been in that mode, it has taken me to a new level.
That’s what I’m looking to get from this latest temporary defeat… It’s another reason to light that fire. It’s another excuse to improve who I am and what I’m capable of… not just for me, but more importantly for my family.
So, in a way, this failure has renewed my excitement for the future.
Hopefully in a few months time I can write a post titled “How Amazon Took 40% of My Income and How I Got it Right Back.”
Are You Reeling From A Recent Failure or Temporary Defeat? You Have An Incredible Opportunity Before You
You may be wondering what the point of this post was… Was it just some long-winded written piece so some guy could tell you about his life? I hope that’s not how it comes off, because if that is what you get out of reading this post then I have failed at communicating to you a very important life and business lesson that I have learned.
The point of me writing this post is to show you that no matter where you are in life–even if you’re living in your mom’s basement–you can get out of that situation if you change your attitude towards the failures and temporary defeats that come your way. No defeat or failure has to be permanent unless you let it.
And, if you let it beat you then I am sorry to say… you don’t deserve to win.
On the other hand, if you are willing to look at your failures as opportunities to grow and improve yourself, your business, or your situation, then the sky is the limit–and rightfully so, for you deserve it.
From a purely business standpoint, failures are your chance to make the changes you need to take your business to the next level. If my site would have never gotten hit by Google’s algorithm update, would I have just kept on making ~$3,500 a month and called it good? Maybe…
If that would have been the case and I wouldn’t have had that important moment of defeat, I never would have gone on to hit $20,000 in a month and I would have left a lot of money on the table. Not only that, but it would have had a drastic impact on my family. My wife wouldn’t have been able to leave her job and I wouldn’t have been able to get as good of insurance for our son.
And, money aside, I wouldn’t have gained the knowledge of what it truly takes to run a successful online business.
So, if you take away anything from this post, know this… failure is not the end. Not if you don’t want it to be. If you want, it can be the beginning.
Failure and temporary defeat are opportunities to grow and take yourself to the next level.
So, don’t be a victim anymore. Take responsibility and respond to setbacks in a positive manner. You won’t believe the results.
What about you? What failures or temporary defeats have you used to drive you to greater success? Answer in the comments! Your experience could be the motivation someone else needs to get through a challenging time in with their business, or in their life.