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My 5 Greatest Failures & The Lessons I Learned From Them

Heroes 03/11/2019

 

Who was your best teacher?  Was it the college professor that had impressive control of the classroom with their perfectly presented PowerPoint presentation?  Was it the 4th grade teacher that seemed to care about every kid personally? Or the online course that you could direct on your time and at your pace?  There are so many teachers that are overlooked in the value they bring to your life. But all of them pail in their results to the best teacher of them all… Failure.

 

Honest Deceit

By Brett Thompson

 

I’ve been deceived, by the truest of friends

With best intentions, I’m sure.

Those teachers that meant to guide me,

led me down paths impure.

The struggles this detour incited

has caused much reflection indeed.

Hind anger, fear and mistrusting,

Faith attain, must we succeed.

For nobody knows where they’re going,

Some assume higher their path.

If direction ahead were for certain

then destination we presently hath.

The guide knows no more than the guided.

The shepherd, no more than the sheep.

Together, the path we must travel,

none knowing the path we must keep.

To follow and lead become equal.

student/teacher on the journey do meet.

Due to shadows of life unforeseen,

we all impart honest deceit.

Teaching now seems quite hollow

since teachers teach lessons untaught.

And when the test in the end seeks perfection?,

Then failure‘s indelibly sought.

Our hope, then, can only be failure.

Then swift recov’ry the goal.

The teachers we veritably learn from?;

Mis-steps ingrained in our soul.

 

Here are my 5 greatest failures teachers and the lessons I learned from them.

 

(In chronological order)

 

1-  7th times the charm

I ran for and lost every school election from 6th grade through my Junior year of high school.  0 for 6 is a pretty pathetic election record. I was scrawny, quiet and very “not cool.” But for some incomprehensible reason, I continued to put myself through adolescent misery.  

 

I continued to run and lose…BIG…in front of the whole school.  

 

So, of course, I did what any normal, nerdy, high school loser would do after losing six times in a row…  

 

I ran for the highest position in student government, Student Body President.  

 

Why stop the streak now, right?  

 

With a campaign full of posters with my face glued onto a superhero’s body, I surprisingly won the election.

 

You know what they say; “7th times the charm.”  

 

That one win put me on a pathway to a full-tuition college scholarship, multiple leadership and service opportunities and added a sense of confidence I had never felt before.

 

Loss(Approx. $100 high-schooler dollars and major adolescent embarrassment)

 

Lesson Learned:

You never fail if you never quit

 

EasyHard Come, Easy Go

 

Upon completing college and a one year insurance internship, I joined the insurance workforce in a small town agency.  Five years of history is too much to explain in one short paragraph, so I’ll sum it up this way.

-4 1/2 years of great growth,

-My boss got nervous that corporate would give her job to me

-The economy fell apart & growth stopped

-I was the perfect scapegoat

 

I could have gone over her head to defend myself, but I didn’t.  I passively took it up the (insert body part), mistakenly thinking it was noble.  As a result… I got screwed and lost my entire book of business with very little to show for it.   I failed to stick up for myself and my family. EPIC FAIL.

 

(Approximate Loss $150,000)

 

Lesson Learned:

When the pressure is highest, It is noble to stand up and fight

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Jobless, Homeless & FREE

We built a home in 2007, at the height of the Utah housing bubble.  Soon after we moved into our house, the market collapsed. The next few years have been well documented as the worst economic collapse since the great depression.  Our home lost $150,000 of equity and we needed to move. Short sale was our only option. Before that, only screw-ups and losers had to short-sell their home.

We must be screw-ups and losers.  Right?!!!

Looking back, we lost a lot of equity and cleaned out our savings.  I distinctly remember the feeling that night after everything happened. We felt an overwhelming and surprising feeling.  

We were jobless, homeless and…

FREE.  

We realized that our losses were just numbers on a computer screen.  But our kids were healthy, we were moving back near family and we were escaping a toxic work environment.  The pain and fear, that had been building over the prior year, washed away in an instant. It was all in our heads.

(Approximate Loss $150,000)

Lesson Learned:

Most pain is temporary and all fear is imagined

Can you have your cake and eat it too?

In 2012, a friend approached me with an idea for a website that sold gift certificates for restaurants and offered a free dessert as the incentive.  I loved the idea and the numbers seemed to work out. So, as in most things in my life, I jumped in with both feet. The process was fun. Collaborating, planning, building, branding, etc was addictive and thrilling.  It wasn’t until we launched the website that I had a strange epiphany…

I don’t want to sell dessert coupons.

I think my partners felt the same way and the idea melted and died much faster then it started.  

(Approximate Loss $10,000)

Lesson Learned:

A good idea does not a good business make.

 

I am my own weakest link

5 years into my second insurance agency, my frustrations with the industry reached a boiling point.  I realized something needed to change, so I started writing.

At first, it was a way to release my frustration. Over time it morphed from a release, to a passion, to an addiction, to a mission, to a community.  I started spending more time and money on this mission (much to the worry of my boss and my wife) but I couldn’t stop.

Too many people needed this.  

I needed this.  

However, I was hypocritically talking about teamwork, specialization and collaboration while still trying to do everything by myself.  I am not a web developer, marketing expert, business strategist, operations manager, video editor, designer or even a very good sales person.   

I am exceptional at 2 things:

-Consulting companies about risk and insurance, &

-Always getting back up after getting knocked down  

Once I realized that, I started practicing what I preach.  I searched long and hard for a team. That search is paying off as much of my previous work (that took me months or years to build) is now being replaced by my team with much better solutions in a matter of weeks.  I have never felt so humbled and relieved. It’s hard to picture how I survived without an incredible team. Too bad it took me nearly 3 years and a lot of money to learn this lesson.

Approximate Loss $30,000 + nearly 3 years of hard work

Lesson Learned:

Just because you think you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.  Find a team you trust and get out of their way.

Every one of these lessons have led me to where I am now.  Never have I learned such strong lessons as I did through these and innumerable other so-called failures.  There is a lot of talk about the power of discussing and learning from failure. But very few people are vulnerable enough to do it.  

Now that my biggest failures are out there, we’ll find out if sharing them will be failure #6…

To be continued…

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