We’ve all heard the phrase “Failure is not an option”.
Most of us will have grown up thinking this is true – through our schools, parents and influential peers. The phrase is attributed to Gene Kranz, flight director of Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle missions – so in his case, people’s lives were at risk so understandably he didn’t want the missions to fail.
So unless you are putting other people’s lives at risk or you are Jack Bauer trying to diffuse yet another mislaid nuclear war-head on 24 or James Bond skydiving from a private jet using only a handkerchief, chances are “failure IS an option“.
I used to get so stressed out about failing, whether this was my exams at school or a romantic relationship going sour or even failing as a friend. As you get older, you are challenged by a lot more things that could potentially fail. I would always aspire to be something more, someone better, I had big dreams, but I was afraid they would fail, so I worked for a company, bought a house and met a guy, just like most people. I was happy with what I had, but I still wanted more… but then the seed of doubt… “what if I fail?”.
In a very short space of time (March 2011 to August 2012) I failed catastrophically at everything in my life – money, work, marriage, friendships, health and life in general. I would love to say none of it was my fault but I can see that at least some of it was down to me, the decisions I made and allowing myself to be influenced by others.
I got married in October 2010, it was and still is one of the best weddings i’ve ever been to. At the time, I was working as a brand manager for a national furniture company. When I first joined, I loved the fast pace of the marketing and learned lots of new things like ‘how to not cry in front of your team’ after being screamed at by your narcissistic boss and ‘how to keep a puppy still and quiet’ when meeting top sales teams from ITV and Channel 4 to discuss advertising slots. It was a weird place to be and my boss was a bully. Having never experienced this before, I persevered, got my head down and ploughed on with my job. My home life post-marriage was pretty rubbish. I would come home and cry to my husband about my horrible day, which was like talking to a teenager as he sat with his headset on staring at the tv and playing ‘Call of Duty’ with the same blokes he had left in the office an hour earlier.
By March 2011, I’d had enough. The stress at work was just too much. With feigned support from my husband, I QUIT! The first job I have ever quit without anything to go to. 1. WORK FAIL.
My background is in design and marketing, so it wasn’t long before I had a steady flow of work coming in and I could work from home full-time. (Working from home, does not mean you have loads of time in the day to also be the perfect housewife). My husband would leave for work at 8am and I would go to my home office (the dining room or spare bedroom). We would chat via Skype messages all day and it was nice to have the connection with the outside world. When my husband came home, I would still be at my desk… and still there a few hours later. He would shut himself away to play on his xbox – so it felt like we were roommates rather than married. I worked long hours so that I could prove to my husband I could work for myself. Although the money was coming in, he was not convinced that I could sustain the level of work and suggested I applied for jobs. After my last experience working for an ‘owner-manager’ and having my confidence booted out the door, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about getting a job again. It’s not like I had the perfect life working from home, I would prefer to be in an office with real humans, but I also saw opportunity to earn more than any salary I had ever had.
I began to work with an old supplier of mine on design projects, she would pay me a day rate and it meant I got out of the house a lot more. We birthed the idea of a ‘must-have’ guide to Manchester that would help local business with affordable advertising and start to build a community of business who could trade services with each other. I took my eye off the ball with my design work and plunged head first in to this exciting project. However… it soon became apparent that my business partner’s involvement was lacking. I was working 14 hour days on the project, whilst she went shopping with her daughter. She was a natural sales person, but her talent for sales was lacking in this project. On the launch day, I booked a venue in Manchester, we had beauticians, galleries, restaurants and personal fitness coaches providing services and exhibiting at the event I even managed to get the John Lewis store’s personal stylists to come in to offer services to guests of the launch. My best friend’s band came up from Birmingham to play throughout the night and a raffle for MacMillan Cancer was hosted by Smooth Radio. I was so pleased with how it was all turning out. We had lots of guests come to the launch and I remember running round like a headless chicken most of the day, sweating and not looking my best… my business partner turned up just before the event started and went off to get glammed up in her hotel room. My family, friends and husband were all there to support me and could see the 80-20 effort with my business partner start to unravel.
Following the launch, my husband still pushed for me to seek employment or stop doing this project as it was making me ill. In some ways he was right, it was making me ill, but the stress he put on me at home was the icing on the cake.
By December 2011 I was in a bad way. I felt I was living under the rule of my husband, I was working long hours, not sleeping and not eating properly. I put on more weight to the disgust of my husband who refused to sleep with me as I was too fat. Life was pretty crap for me. I couldn’t afford Christmas presents as all my money had gone in to this business venture in Manchester, something had to give. I didn’t want to lose my husband so I gave up the business. An awful fight with my business partner then followed which sent me in to a spiral of depression and anxiety. In the end my husband stepped in and stopped my business partner from contacting me again. 2. BUSINESS FAIL. 3. FRIENDSHIP FAIL with my now ex business partner.
January 2012 – After a terrible Christmas, my husbands support level was a big fat zero. He’d had enough of me working from home (even though the money from freelance design was coming in). He would start arguments, I’d cry, we’d make up and so the cycle began. Later that month, my husband picked up my post and opened my credit card statement (not by accident). He found out that I had paid for some radio advertising and some of the event costs on my own personal credit card. He was apoplectic! He called my dad to come and collect me… I was 31 at the time… You can read more about this story in ‘Bankrupt & Betrayed’… 4. RELATIONSHIP FAIL.
February 2012 – coerced by my husband to enter in to bankruptcy 5. MONEY FAIL. 6. LIFE FAIL.
In August 2012, my husband dumped me at a friend’s wedding in front of all of his friends 7. MARRIAGE FAIL… he left me for his best friend from university who he is now engaged to… (by the time you read this, ‘married to’).
So having failed at quite a few of the important things in life I had to pick myself up (off the floor on more than one occasion) and face life head on, failures in tow.
Being both bankrupt and in the middle of divorce has it’s fair amount of challenges – buying food with no money being one, renting a house another and trying to earn money when your head is not in it is another. Why am I telling you this? Through all my failings I have learnt valuable lessons which I will carry with me for life and importantly, I have learned to appreciate the simpler things in life. I am grateful every day of my life for the family and friends who love me and care about me. I’m grateful for the money I earn from the design business I have built up from zero to a six-figure turnover year on year. I am grateful for the mini-holidays I go on and the fun times I have spent with my girlfriends in the last 4 years.
Don’t be afraid of failing, it’s really not the worst thing in the world. Be honest with the people that love you. Never be ashamed to ask for help from family, friends or even charities/helplines or food banks. Appreciate what you have and learn from even the smallest of failings.