Have you ever poured your heart and soul into a project, a business or a relationship, only to see it crumble and fail? Are you familiar with that overwhelming feeling of devastation? The failure is a crushing blow and the future looks dark and bleak.
I imagine you know this feeling. Everybody who has ever tried to achieve anything of significance has been stung by the bitter disappointment of defeat. No doubt you have heard the often-told story of Thomas Edison [below], who failed many times before he hit on the successful design for the electric light bulb?
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
That's okay for you Thomas, but this is my business, my idea, my life!
After a big failure it is very easy to feel that you don't have another 9,999 tries left in you. But you never know when success is just around the corner. Here is another quote on perseverance, also from bright spark Thomas Edison:
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
Sometimes our biggest failures occur just before our biggest leaps forward. But you can never see this when looking through the fog of disappointment that surrounds a failure. Edison is right though. So often "just one more time" can be when the biggest successes happen. You just have to find a way to continue, to persevere.
I know this from personal experience, but have only ever been able to see this with hindsight. Let me tell you briefly about one of my big failures (I have had many!), and the eventual outcomes from persevering beyond that failure.
In 2008 I made international headlines when I decided to sell my "entire life" on eBay. The decision to do this was caused by yet another of life's challenges, but that's another story! The decision to sell my life caused much interest around the globe, and the auction was closely followed by millions of people.
There were many predictions of a huge final bid, of great success, and a life of leisure-filled happiness to follow. But ultimately the final bid didn't even reach the valuation of the house that was included as part of the "complete life" package.
All the publicity had achieved nothing in terms of auction results. Even more disappointingly, the final bidder failed to complete the purchase.
After six months of hard work I was back at "square one". I was devastated. What was I going to do? I wrote about the failure in a blog post at the time.
But somehow I had to pick myself up and carry on. I had to come up with a Plan B and implement that quickly, as I had already committed to two years of travel and adventure. It would have been very easy to cancel the flights I had already booked, and simply give up on the goals I had set for the future, but I wasn't prepared to do that.
Again, from Thomas Edison:
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
I took a gamble, setting off on my journey with the house unsold, using funds borrowed against the equity I had built up in the house. This wasn’t an ideal situation, as at some point in the future I would run out of funds, and would have no choice but to return home and find another job. However, I wasn’t prepared to give up on my dream so easily.
Six months later my estate agent finally found a buyer for my property, and I ended up in credit once again, unburdened by a hefty mortgage. In the meantime Walt Disney Pictures had also stepped up and offered to buy the movie rights to my story. So although the results didn't come in the way I had hoped or expected, I eventually created the freedom to travel that had been my original goal.
Over the course of the next two years I travelled the world tackling my "bucket list" of 100 lifetime goals. I achieved 94 of them!
Because of that decision to continue after the failure of the auction, my life changed beyond my wildest imagination. At the end of my two-year goal achieving adventure I used Disney's money to buy a small Caribbean island, where I lived on-and-off for three years.
I sold the island recently, and since then have travelled in the USA for six months in an RV and lived in China for a year teaching English. I am currently in Australia house sitting a luxury property in the Victorian Alps. Along with my partner Vanessa, I am heading to Fiji next to house sit a beautiful beachfront resort.
From rug store assistant manager to a life of global wandering, made possible by house sitting and creating income online, my life has changed in ways I could never have imagined. As I have always said, my belief is that life is meant to be an adventure, and I just want to live my adventure in the best way I can.
For me the biggest successes in my life have often followed from trying "just one more time" after hitting the brick wall of defeat.
You never know what lies just beyond failure.
How did you overcome your biggest failure? What were the results?