As someone who lost over $150,000 in a single deal, at the age of 28, and then rose again, I learned what “fail” means in every sense of that word. When I look back, I can clearly identify 6 crucial steps that I took to make the full comeback.
Now, I would like to share my experience and try to teach you how “fail” is a completely wrong term to describe such an event. You’ll see how, for example, my loss, back in the days, had nothing to do with the fail in a traditional or any other sense.
In other words, I didn’t fail. On contrary. The whole experience made me even more efficient. But there’s a catch.
And that catch is simple:
STEP 1 – Correct the entirely wrong paradigm that’s been nested in your brain. Rewrite the matrix!
Forget about the Kübler-Ross model and her 5 Stages of Grieving because, contrary to the general paradigm, loss and subsequently the fail, in financial or business sense, has nothing to do with the grief.
It can only be connected with the grief if you allow it.
Truth, I found myself in a dire situation since I’d lost everything and even more considering the fact that I took a rather expensive business loan. Wife and our two small children, along with my flat broke ass, almost ended up on the street because of my mistake.
Yet, against all odds, that didn’t happen.
And it didn’t happen because I wasn’t “grieving.”
Grieving is time-consuming and when you are up to your neck in crap, there’s no time to waste!
But I didn’t try to deny what has happened either.
Sure, I was pissed to some extent but I wasn’t searching for someone to put the blame on. It was clear as a whistle that the responsibility was mine and mine alone.
What’s most important, I wasted no more than an hour on “IF ONLY.” Instead, I redefined that crap into a learning tool in a snap.
That fact alone prevented depression.
Depression. The all too familiar and fucked up state of mind that’s been lurking behind every single corner, 24/7. Because, a dramatic fail, regardless of the type, has a devastating effect on the human neuronal network.
The event, if you allow it, will shut down the secretion of one vital neurotransmitter and that’s serotonin.
If that happens, you find yourself in that dark state of mind, when it’s even hard to get up on your feet and drink water. You just sit there, like a goddamn zombie, all day long.
But the better question is what exactly enabled me to jump right to STEP 2 or THE ACCEPTANCE?
Funny as this might sound to you, it was the fact that I haven’t changed much since my earliest days. I was, and still am, that little curious boy that never hesitated to take on some new challenge.
My wife, my parents; hell, even my friends and colleagues were always on my case, telling me to finally grow up and become a “responsible adult.”
But I refused.
I refused to become an industrial age zombie.
And you know what’s great about little kids?
Kids don’t know what failure means.
In their world, if you remember, there are only two negative feelings: pain (from the fall) and fear (from the father’s belt that inevitably follows the fall). They are never afraid to climb the tree or to do any of those wicked things we do as youngsters. It’s like something is blocking the prediction of a potential consequence.
Maybe it’s that same mechanism that allows the brain to erase the memory on the excruciating pain caused by giving a birth to a child at mothers.
Who knows. But the fact remains that a while back when you were just a small boy, you had no problem jumping from the cliff or catching snakes with your bare hands.
The first time you “felt” the fail in a grownup sense was the moment your formal education started and the teacher or even your father called you dumb or told you that your handwriting sucks.
The fear of “fail” emerged only after your first contact with some institution!
From that moment on, every time you’d make a mistake you’d feel the effect of the notorious “fail.”
You would first feel pissed and agitated and then you would fall in a state of depression – that shitty state of mind we learn only after we come in contact with the institution of some sort. And sadly, that shit starts early in our lives if we let it.
SEE ALSO our answer to a common question these days:
As for me, I never allowed such influence on my state of mind.
Not even the priest could make me feel bad about myself even though I made a scene in the middle of the church when I got up and asked the preacher the one question he couldn’t answer: “If Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel and Cain killed Abel, from where did Cain’s wife come?”
I was only 6 and the priest went ballistic because I had the nerve to openly question the entire belief system in front of the entire community. But that only made me laugh which pissed him off even better so he called my grandmother. And my dear grandmother, being a good Catholic woman as she was, pounded my ass with a bunch of the nasty, thorny, rose branches.
It hurt like hell but didn’t kill the fun I had every time I would recall that pissed off priest and his clumsy attempt to run down from the altar and grab me. It was like some fat, funny, cartoon character, dressed as a woman, is trying to chase me.
Thus, it appears that my stubborn refusal to “grow up” created some kind of a shield that protected me from the emotional consequences of my mistake.
One day, I had the world at my fingertips. Money was everywhere. Business was running smoothly. And I was still in my twenties.
Then, one morning, you wake up and realize how everything went down the drain just because you missed to check one single piece of paper. And it wasn’t your fault either because someone in the city’s administration was busy doing her nails while the work was piling up in drawers and cabinets. She “failed” to update the file and as a result, I lost $150,000, most of which wasn’t even my money.
How would that make you feel? Honestly?
Well, you’d be wrong. Deadly wrong.
Unlike you, I didn’t perceive it as a fail but as the crucial lesson on my way up. In other words, it was just a little setback. After all, only a year before, my bank account balance was less than $10,000.
I figured, if I could pull it once, what’s stopping me from pulling it again?
Nothing. It was only money after all. It wasn’t like I’ll end up in Auschwitz where they will incinerate my ass. Because that would be a problem. A serious one.
Ergo, the acceptance. What’s done is done and you can’t do shit about it. Instead, snap out of it and analyze the situation ASAP!
STEP 3 – Lesson learned!
I have this simple philosophy. It is never a referee’s fault. It’s always on the player. That’s why I didn’t hold a grudge against that sweet, big-boobed lady, who found her fingernails more important than my destiny. How could she possibly know that by avoiding doing her duties, it would somehow lead me, Chris Collins, a guy she never met before, into $150K debt, right?
So what we learn from our mistakes? What, for instance, have I learned from mine?
First, we learn that grabbing that thin leaf of a plant, our mother planted in a living room, won’t sustain the pressure and we will eventually drop down on our asses. Thus, we need something tougher to hold on to when we are taking those first baby steps.
Same is with private entrepreneurship or any other kind of endeavor that goes beyond traditionally accepted.
You won’t do it right if you miss setting the solid foundations.
Relying on the luck or on the chance is relying on a chain of events outside your control and/or influence and that’s not something you want. It’s that thin leaf you were desperately trying to use as your support when you attempted to walk across the living room for the first time ever.
In my case, I relied too much on the assumption that people are doing their jobs. Consequently, it cost me everything I had and more.
The reality is different and that saying, “If you want something done, do it yourself,” is right to some extent. If I pushed that lady a bit more, I would most likely force her to make the update and then I would see how the backbone of my business is not only damaged but has already collapsed.
Being too goddamn optimistic, too impatient and too lazy to do a proper due diligence tend to bite you right in the ass.
But that doesn’t mean that you’ll observe everything around you negatively. Far from that. If you do that, you’ll miss every opportunity, no matter how close you get to one.
That simply means that you’ll force yourself on a more critical view of the world.
Same as I was lazy to do my homework, I should not expect that the others around me were any different. I should’ve guessed that she is taking her time with all that piled paperwork. The fact that I saw her desk should make it clear to me. But enthusiasm prevailed, I guess.
However, the hard part is not just to accept the responsibility or learn some lesson. The hard part is to adopt what you’ve learned, and that might not be so easy.
STEP 4 – SELF-REFLECTING
This is arguably the single most important step you need to make in your recovery from any kind of “fail.”
You see, it’s easy to see what you did wrong. But that realization will not prevent you from repeating that mistake if you don’t change who you are. And you won’t be able to do that if you don’t admit who you really are to yourself.
As for me, along with being an “irresponsible brat,” as they used to describe me, I was suffering from maybe one of the most dangerous diseases a man can suffer from and that’s impatience.
Now, don’t confuse this with the lack of discipline. That’s something entirely different.
It’s impatience that’s been causing one mistake after another and if you analyze your life, you’ll find that everything you did wrong, one way or another, was caused by you not being patient enough to do a better job or to better prepare yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I’m an enthusiastic nicotine addict. Two packs a day is my minimum. So I figured, if I could somehow force myself to only 7 cigarettes a day, that would definitely induce some patience. Perhaps, I could even push it to just 5?
The undeniable fact is that the willpower can be trained even easier than muscles. In fact, by inducing just one good habit, you are changing your entire neuronal network. That single positive habit will remove a couple of bad ones and install several good ones. In the end, your character will inevitably change.
Can it work with something else?
Definitely. Because it’s the habits that make us who we are. And every habit, good or wrong, has exactly the same mechanism. Something triggers the routine action that leads to reward.
It’s called the “loop of habit.” You see someone smoking, so you automatically light one just to feel that mixture of dopamine and serotonin. And since we are talking about the autonomous system, we are not even aware of the action.
Everybody, even you, has some kind of addiction. It can be candy. Junk food. Sex. Alcohol. Whatever it is, use it.
What you are doing is simple. You are rewarding yourself for being patient.
My new sign (trigger) was the clock.
You wouldn’t believe how quickly your brain creates a stopwatch. I was able to know exactly how much time has passed since my last smoke without even looking at my watch. I never missed for more than a minute after just a week of practicing this homemade remedy of learning to be patient.
So, basically, you are killing two flies with a single stroke because now, not only that I’m patient but I’m also disciplined. Two traits, extremely critical for my line of business. Yet, it didn’t cost me my childhood spirit. I’m still that “irresponsible brat,” only now, I have seven figures in my bank account. Not bad for a brat, right?
But how did I go from being down by some $150K to 7 figures only a couple of years later?
STEP 5 – What comes next?
So you are sitting in your living room, it’s 2 AM and only a dim light from the streets is coming through the window. There you are, with the cigarette in one hand and a glass of brandy in another, thinking shit up.
You wanna figure out the way out of that mess because pretty soon, shit will really hit the fan. The rent is due soon. So are the utilities and food. To make things even better, winter is coming. And you know how banks have zero tolerance policy when it comes to paying the debt.
I knew a guy who hung himself in his own backyard after experiencing the closely similar situation. The irony is even greater when you know that just two months prior to his suicide, he successfully paid the very last mortgage check to the bank and became the full owner of that property. He even threw a party to celebrate it.
I wasn’t about to follow in his footsteps. As I said, I did it once, I will do it again. It was only the question of when.
The next morning you simply go out and find yourself a job. Any job. No matter what that might be and no matter how shitty the wage is.
The point is to snap out of it quickly and become occupied for several hours with something else while bringing at least some money home.
And, since every traditional low-wage job allows plenty of time for thinking, pretty soon I saw the way out. You just never know what will trigger the next great idea that might work just fine or turn out to be the cardinal mistake.
I went straight for the artery with less than $100 in my pocket.
This guy I met at work had a brother who grew sick and tired of running the local café. So I asked him to ask his brother would he be willing to lease it to me. Remember, I had less than a hundred in my front, right pocket. Not much to start the business but if you are determined and persistent, not even the sky is the limit.
Next month, I was running a cool looking bar, just a hundred yards from the shoreline, situated in one of the most frequent parts of the old town during summer.
Raw determination and my persuasion skills paid off.
I managed to negotiate the initial payment for leasing the equipment to be cut on 10 even parts and paid on the 15th of each month, and lease of the space to be paid between 2nd and 5th of each month. The guy was so sick of that place that it wasn’t even hard to persuade him.
But his brother, my colleague, played a crucial role by vouching for me, even though he knew me for less than 3 months. That is to say that it pays off to be good with people, no matter where are they coming from and no matter how good their financial situation is.
This particular guy was a janitor, so you can assess his monthly incomes with ease. Yet, his influence in that one decisive moment was the predominant factor for my future success and thus, cannot be diminished.
I’m not saying that something else wouldn’t pop up but I owe him a life-worth of gratitude and I’m making sure he feels that. Let’s just say that he isn’t working at all now while being stuffed with money he made under my supervision and guidance.
After a while, still behind the wheel of that bar, I distilled the most optimal route and made a simple plan for the future. I wasn’t that much into bars anyway.
STEP 6 – If you want to build SpaceX, build the PayPal first
And if PayPal is still too much, start by building a simple app. Then another one, only bigger and more complex than the previous one. And so on, until you reach the moment when you are ready to really roll up your sleeves and build that next stair. It’s the one that will lead you to your top goal or the final STEP.
The most important thing here is that it has to be something very emotionally close to you. Something YOU find sexy and appealing.
Most likely, that’s something you’ve dreamt about as a boy. At least, that’s the case with me.
Once, a long time ago, I saw this movie showing the Wall Street guys. I was fascinated with all those flickering charts and the fact that they are making money in such a way. I wasn’t sure how they do it back then but I knew it was something I wanna do in future.
So now, years after my dreadful experience with the “failed” business attempt, after learning exactly how are they doing it, now I’m truly free. And I’m free because I do what I like when I like and how much I like.
All because I didn’t let the paradigms of failure and “responsible adult” to grow roots inside my mind. And neither should you!
If you are afraid that you might “fail,” you, my friend, will never detach from that obsolete and completely wrong matrix. You will continue to struggle just because you think the “fail” is something horrible when in reality, that “fail” is just another mistake we do. A methodological system of trials and errors, from which we are learning how to walk in order to eventually start running fast. It’s a school that never actually ends.
So, one more time:
It’s not a “fail.” Nothing is. At least not in a sense our society is trying to present.
It’s merely a mistake. Your mistake. Same as thousands of others that you made before you reached the age of 3, most of which were borderline deadly. And yet, you survived.
Isn’t that telling you something?
Just think. When were you happier? Back then, when you were falling on your knees at least once every 20 minutes; or now, when you are “responsible adult”? Wake up that child and be happy again. That’s the big secret to success!