Any business book worth its salt will tell stories of adversity faced by the most successful businesspeople. You learn of catastrophic product launches, bankruptcy, divorce and health scares, all part of the hero’s journey to becoming a wealthy, successful entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur success formula
- Register business name
- Get website up
- Have massive humiliating failure
- Have massive success
- Write a book describing said humiliating failure followed by massive success
- Plan motivational speaker tour and tell humiliating failure story, followed by dramatic business success story
- Appear on cover of Inc. Magazine in confident pose
- Tell failure and success story on the Today Show
- Sell your company to Google
If failure is such a part of entrepreneur lore, why do we let it upset us?
Because we think that our particular humiliating failure is not in the same category as those we admire.
Sure, Seth Godin may say:
“The first five years of my solo business, when the struggle seemed neverending, I never missed a day, never took a nap.”
But inside you say “Surely Seth was not really struggling, or if he was, it was over something like a typo. I am sure he felt absolutely confident in his ability to become a best-selling author. He is, you know, Seth after all.”
Seth felt the same humiliation and fear that you may be feeling about some aspect of your life at this moment.
But as his quote says, he “never missed a day, never took a nap.” He thought about the failure in such a way that did not stop him from moving forward. He also may have had people who really believed in him, and encouraged him through the rough spots.
The upside of adversity
No matter the severity of the challenge you are facing, ask yourself these questions:
How is this experience:
- preparing me to do great work?
- preparing me to be a smarter, kinder or more compassionate person?
- teaching me exactly what I need to know so I can serve my market well?
- reminding me of what my true, natural strengths are, and aren’t?
- pushing me to make an urgent decision about something that is critical to my well-being?
- reflecting back my thinking?
- teaching me what I need to get help with, outsource or stop doing?
- teaching me to have more patience?
Honest, non-judgmental answers to these questions will give you huge gifts. Life-altering gifts.
I know that I will continue to face some big challenges this coming year.
I also know they are exactly what I need to live my mission.
As my good friend Martha Beck told me on a particularly tough day:
“Some day you will see that this was not being done to you, but rather for you.”
I trust the process. Do you?