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Stop Feeling Like A Failure, You Probably Learned Something

Today is a funny day.  It marks one day before my tenth year of marriage, and one year from the middle of one of the most epic small business journeys I’ve ever taken.  The memories are strong, the trip was fast and furious, and the future was bright on that fateful drive home.  Looking back, the energy and excitement (mainly from giant Dutch Bros iced coffees) is something I’m not sure I’ll feel again.  We were headed into the unknown, which always gives me hesitant, yet overwhelming excitement.  And my favourite saying, which I learned from the VERY talented Emily Chow, “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings true.  And it does every day, in all walks of business.

So let me tell you abut that trip.  Amelia and I had signed up to do a large, two week long fair in the big city.  It was expensive, it was a commitment (12 hour days, 7 days per week), but we got our staff on board, scheduled it out and braced ourselves for the largest event we’d ever done.  For this – we’d need stock, lots of stock.  We buckled in, and drove the 26 hours to the Los Angeles Fashion District, where we had been several times before, to load up on stock.  With the back of our car filled to the brim, we hustled back to get ready for the main event.  56 hours, 3 states, two hotels, one swim in Lake Shasta, several coffees and one stolen hotel towel later, we returned home.

So…the main event.  Looking back, yes, there were a lot of things we didn’t consider, but again, how do you know?  Our friends had done it the year before and gave it the seal of approval. They had done so well, and felt it was definitely worth it.  Move in day arrived and we arrived for set up, only to find that the building we were setting up in was not air conditioned.  It was hot. Sweltering hot.  So hot, we had to buy cooling towels and bring fans.  I remember going to the washroom with the cashbox, and just sitting in the stall because it was in the basement.  Taking a breather.  We weren’t doing well.  We were tired, we were stressed, staff were cancelling, literally writing nasty messages about us on Facebook and everything was falling apart.  We were hot.  We weren’t making sales.  We wanted it to be over.  We worked the last day together, 15 hours, including take down.  Taking turns beside our tiny fan, sharing angry glances over the pitches we were so tired of hearing over the last 15 days.  We were jammed into this building with the electro magnetic healing slippers, fake eyelashes, knives and mops vendors.  We were out of place, far away from our friends that had been arranged into a nice fashion centre.  We were stuck inside, on the back row of a building that everyone walked through to use the bathroom.  We. Were. Miserable.  We were failing, and (I’m blaming the heat) it felt like everything was crashing down.  Our friends were doing GREAT.  We were doing anything but great.

BUT.  We finished it.  We worked those extra shifts, we screenshotted angry messages, discussed them and got over it, we made the most of those dark, hot days.  We even did two events at the same time, with one of us sitting in a park with only medium clothes (woops!) and the other at the big show.  We did it, with the gracious help of our awesome friends who recognized we were struggling, and stepped in to take a shift or two from us.  (Jayne and Sarah, seriously, we’re indebted to you).  It was the end of the summer and we had so much summer stock left over, we weren’t sure what to do with it, but it was over!  We rested.  It’s a possibility that we didn’t talk for a week. School started.  Fall came, winter happened, spring, and, here we are.

We decided not to do the big event again.  Our friends are all going back, but we’re standing strong.  Yes, sometimes there are those feelings of FOMO, but we’ll get over it.  We learned that we work well as a team.  That we’re willing to take big risks, financially, emotionally, physically.  We learned that we’re stronger than a building that’s temperatures soar into the 80’s, with the sun setting into our booth.  We learned that having staff is hard, and being clear of your expectations is very important.  We learned that you have to do big things, fail big, before you can win.  If you don’t know the bottom, it’s hard to understand the climb to the top.  We learned that staying true to our brand and ourselves is super important – while our friends were outside doing so great, we were trying to stay focused.  And although it was really hard, looking for the silver lining.

The first thing they teach you in skating lessons is how to fall.  Falling means failing, sure, but learning how to fall is important. Don’t forget why you’re there.  Don’t forget why you came.  Failing is a part of business, a part of life.  Failure makes you learn.  Take the leap.  If you fail, you will learn something, I promise.  We shit the bed at the main event, but we changed those sheets and moved on, knowing so much more than we did before.  No regrets. (Maybe an ice pack suit.) .

I’ll leave you again with this quote:  “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  Leap.




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