Our first monthly theme is fighting fear of failure, and oh how fitting it is. Jobs have been quit. Investments have been made. *See me inserting all life’s eggs in one ALV-shaped basket.* The scared/excited scale shifts by the day, by the minute. But there have been a few critical moments where I have had to make the conscious decision to say fuck the scale, and fully embrace the advice “don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” So here we are. Poor as hell, busting our asses night and day, but hopefully on our path to greatness. What I’ve learned so far, and the mental pep talk I give myself when I reach another one of those critical moments is the following:
1. If not now, when?
I know this is a tad cliché, but more importantly it is true. So I will supplement one cliché with another – there is no right time. I hear this often about having kids, and I believe it 100%. But while a few too many cocktails can allow you to not make the kid decision entirely consciously, you can’t just get drunk and wake up in the morning with a business. Try as I might. Life moves fast, and it is full of distractions and complications. If you constantly tell yourself “once x happens I’ll be ready” you will be waiting forever. If you want it to happen, start today. Take the first step. Put it on your calendar. Say it out loud. Tell someone you’re doing it. Make it real in some small way, and just get started. For me the risk I wanted to take was starting a business, and I can think of a million reasons why now isn’t a good time. I was on a good career path at work, I spent all my money on a condo and have next to no savings, I’m getting married in 6 months. All good, valid reasons why this is a bad time to make this incredibly risky move, but I just got going. I made it a priority. I kept at it. And before I knew it, it had become real (okay that’s grossly oversimplifying about a year’s worth of work, but you get where I’m going with this). And guess what, I can always get another job. I’m managing to get food on the table. And my wedding is still going to happen one way or another. There is no right time, and there is no wrong time either.
2. Failure a muscle. Work it until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
For all you type A’s out there or those of you just crushing it through life – good grades, great jobs, high performer…this is going to be a tough one. Sure we have all had our struggles and our setbacks, but most of us have never really learned to fail. And we have never learned to truly embrace failure as a positive thing. I only started working on this fairly recently because my whole life I have been one of those overachievers. Until about a year ago when I decided to attempt to earn some extra cash and get a bunch of free jewelry by selling for Stella & Dot, a direct sales accessories company. Knowing Ama La Vida was in the works, I thought I could build up a base of income through Stella to cushion the blow when I quit my corporate job to do ALV full-time. I thought wrong. My hat goes off to those of you kicking ass with Direct Sales. It is hard work. With Stella, you make money by getting people to host jewelry parties for their friends. You get a percentage of the sales. Well I asked just about everyone I knew to host a party. And I was turned down almost daily. People I thought were sure things had every reason you could think of and some I never imagined not to have a party. Of course I wasn’t mad about it, but I was sometimes hurt and definitely felt like a failure. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Then there are these Stella reps prancing around on Instagram, and for every post of them in a bracelet it just seemed like their sales went through the roof and their bank accounts overflowed. It amplified the feeling of failure. Until it didn’t. Until I realized that taking those risks was the only way I was going to get any return at all. Until I stopped taking it so personally and knew it was just the nature of the game. Until I realized those Instagram bitches took the same exact risks, experienced the same exact failures and were just further along than I was (and frankly a lot better at it). I eventually stopped selling just due to time constraints, but let’s just say my failure muscle might be the tightest one I’ve got right about now.
3. Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Aka haters gonna hate.
I actually never understood this saying because sometimes words hurt like hell. I’d much rather you throw a stick at me. So maybe stick, then words, then stones would be my preferred hierarchy of things that could be launched my way. But that’s neither here nor there. My point is fuck the critics. They are abundant, and they will always always have something to say. Risking failure usually means if you succeed then you will have accomplished something great. So their criticism comes from a place of jealousy. The way I see it, the more critics you have, the more realistic they believe your chance at success to be. If not jealousy, then it’s jealousy’s cousin ignorance, and they just don’t understand what you’re doing or why…YET. Either way, they are just another obstacle on your path, trying to stop you before you even get started (or at many points along the way). Don’t fear them. And certainly don’t listen to them. Believe me I’ve had my share of people telling me that starting this business is dumb. Saying that I’m basically now unemployed. Reminding me far too frequently that the odds are against me. And you know what, I can’t wait to prove them wrong. What they don’t know is that for every one of them, I also have 5 people who believe in me, and so can you. Continue to surround yourself by the people who will relish in your success. Who want to go out of their way to help you achieve it. Who will be there to help you recover if you don’t. You can’t always avoid the critics, and you can’t stop their words from hurting. But you can drown out their noise with the sound of support. You can call me personally to help you do it.
4. There is one certainty: you will learn.
So let’s assume you fail. You fall flat on your ass. Okay. That sucks. You may have lost a lot. Time. Money. But what have you gained? What experiences have you had? Who have you met? What have you learned? The knowledge you will gain through attempting this is more valuable than the financial loss you may suffer (or at least what’s what I keep telling my fiancé 😉 ). If Ama La Vida fails, I could walk into any job interview with my head held high. I will learn, and have already learned, a million times more about what it takes to run a business than I did in 4 years of consulting. I will be proud of myself for having tried something courageous. For going against the grain. Make sure throughout your journey you take time to reflect. Time to reenergize and appreciate how far you’ve come. Take time to think about or document what you have learned. Most importantly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. You did something you and others didn’t think you could. And even if you don’t succeed now, you are armed with new knowledge and perseverance, and your next endeavor is that much more likely to be a success…whatever it may be.
5. Regret is so much worse than failure.
No one lying on their death bed talks about the handful of times in their life where they were embarrassed or where they fell short of success. They talk about the things they wish they had done. Okay so I haven’t had all that many end of life, bedside conversations, but I’m pretty sure this is true. And it doesn’t even need to be that dire of a situation to hold true. Think about your own life. What do you wish you had done differently? What are some of your proudest moments? I know for me some of my proudest moments were a result of me going for something I wanted, despite the risk of failure. And though I’ve got my collection of failures or embarrassments, I don’t regret them. It’s easy to overindex on your failures because you have lived through them. They are a reality to you. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing what could have been had you taken those additional risks you passed up on. How great you could have felt. How happy it could have made you. What else it could have led you to. But as time goes by, you often think more and more about these what ifs. And that’s when the regret sets in. It doesn’t come from regretting what you did but rather what you didn’t.
Not to give my critics any ammunition, but I fully recognize the odds are against me in this current Ama La Vida endeavor. (fortunately, you all can help prevent it from failing – sign up for a membership, do a program #shamelessplug). And though I may seem calm and confident at the surface, I’m actually terrified. But I am actively choosing to focus on my vision for what could be. What an amazing company and life I could build if I do manage to beat the odds. I’m surrounding myself with people, some close some strangers, who want to see me succeed. And I’m recognizing that as bad of a time as now is, I’m unlikely to find a better one. Then, ever so slightly, the scale shifts back to my excitement conquering my fear, and I get back to work to make my dream a reality. You can do it too. Just get started.