Gini Dietrich

Failing In Order to Learn

By: Gini Dietrich | May 24, 2011 | 
123

Yesterday I had a very frank conversation with a close friend. He was describing a situation where he felt like he had failed.

You see, he tried this whole entrepreneur thing and he recently had to get a full-time job. He had to go back working for the man; being an employee. And, in his mind, he failed.

We talked about how hard entrepreneurship is: Not having a steady paycheck, never having a day off, lying in bed wondering how you’re going to be able to make the mortgage.

I know the grass is always greener, but some days working for the man doesn’t sound so bad!

Failing In Order to Learn

We’ve talked a lot on Spin Sucks about failure and how you don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. And some of you may have already heard this story, but bear with me…there is a point.

In October 2008, the bank called and said that they not only were no longer going to do business with professional services firms, but that they were shutting down our line of credit.

Our payroll, at the time, was $110,000 per pay period. And clients never paid within 30 days so we used the line to carry through the first payroll of the month, paying it back when invoices were paid.

But, suddenly, I was sitting with trying to figure out how to make that 15th payroll without a cushion.

Then the economy really tanked and we lost some clients and we had to let people go. I had no choice.

That. Sucked.

I found myself sitting at home after work, wallowing in self-pity, and wondering if this world wouldn’t be better off without me. I thought about how my former colleagues must feel about me. I thought about how we hit the pinnacle of success and then bombed it in a serious way.

There were so many things I could have/should have done differently. I never should have relied so heavily on our line of credit. I should have required all employees were fully utilized. I should have hired for skill and not for personality.

I was beating myself up daily and I was spiraling into a deep depression.

And then I found this quote by Confucius:

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.

I promptly wrote that down and taped it to my wall, where I have to see it every day. It knocked some sense into me and I began to think about how I would pick myself up and, essentially, start over.

The Lesson

When I asked my friend what he learned in the past couple of years, working for himself, he listed about 15 different things. When I asked him how he could apply those lessons to his new job, to his family, and to his friends, he readily had answers that were well thought-out and clear.

So, you see, it’s not in that you never fall, but in how you pick yourself up after you do.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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123 Comments on "Failing In Order to Learn"

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JimConnolly
JimConnolly
5 years 2 months ago

I am trying to figure out how many ways you just knocked the ball out of the park, in one fairly brief blog post.

Your story is compelling, because it carries a valid message and it’s true.

You, Gini, are compelling, because you are opening up an important part of your life, so that your readers can learn from you.

The lesson is compelling, because yet again it assures readers who may be going through a tough time right now, that there is something amazing on the other side of their challenge.

Thanks.

Krista
5 years 2 months ago

I agree with Jim’s sentiment– a simple story in which everyone can see a little of themselves. It’s not always easy going out on your own or taking what ever the next big step is. But you make a good point that failure is not the end but rather the beginning. Thanks, Gini!

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

If it weren’t for falling and getting up again, I wouldn’t be here. Several times over. And I’m sure I’ve got lots more falling left in me! It helps to have the support of good people around you, including your family. Makes all the difference!

fitzternet
5 years 2 months ago

Great post. Been there. It does suck. But failing does have a way of helping put things in perspective*.

And fear of failing AGAIN is one hell of a motivator, as long as you don’t let it lead to second-guessing and creative paralysis.

* – BTW, I have a lot of extra perspective lying around, if anyone needs any. I buy in bulk.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@JimConnolly Thanks Jim! It took a long time to be able to talk about it, but I agree in that we’re all human beings, we all have issues, and we all choose to either overcome or not.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@Krista Life isn’t easy, period. There has been a lot of conversation of late of all these Internet celebrities who are put on pedestals and then torn down. We all put our pants on one leg at a time.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KenMueller Ken! How did it go last night??

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich It went really well. Gave me some ideas of some other things I wanna do down the line.

KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich @Krista pants? who wears pants?

wendykeneipp
5 years 2 months ago
Great post Gini. The ways I can relate to this are numerous – I appreciate you sharing. : ) I think one of the greatest things we can do for other people is helping them see how a situation/lesson learned can translate to their own life and move it from a negative to finding something worthy about it. Not everyone can see it, and sometimes we’re too wrapped up in the loss and self-pity to be able to see it. Your friend obviously knew the answers, but having other people help point that out can make all the difference. We… Read more »
faybiz
5 years 2 months ago

please please please please please please please please please write that book

seriously?

if not, I will steal ALL your online nuggets and give them to the world- and i am only half joking

BestRoofer
BestRoofer
5 years 2 months ago

Wow Gini, I can really relate. Similar issues have me staring at a sign on my wall everyday that says “CASH- NO DEBT”. I’m still working on it. Hit the ground hard several times. It’s all about getting back up!

KDillabough
KDillabough
5 years 2 months ago
We don’t learn from doing things correctly: we learn from mistakes. My caveat: you only make a particular mistake once. If that’s the case, you’ve learned from it. If not, then it’s Einstein’s “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” Your story has so much resonance for me, as I’m recovering from a nasty 2+ years of TM litigation, and now re-branding my “new” 28-year old business. I’ve mentioned it in a few comments before, but now I’m compelled to write my story, so others may also see that: You can do it all right, and it… Read more »
toddlercomm
toddlercomm
5 years 2 months ago

I try not to look at it is failing so much as an unexpected result. If we get what we expect all the time, we never grow because we are never challenged. Sure it sucks going through it, but time and perspective makes us stronger and more confident for future failures.

JohnAkerson
5 years 2 months ago

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” Confucius”Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right” Henry Ford”There’s no secret to success, It is the result of hard work, preparation and learning from Failure” Colin Powell”it’s not in that you never fall, but in how you pick yourself up after you do.” Gini DietrichLife is not a photo, it is a movie. If this frame isn’t good enough, make the next one better.A great post, a great lesson, and done with amazing brevity, Gini, Very nice!

T60Productions
5 years 2 months ago

Hi Gini… I know I’ve shared the following “60 Minutes” story here in the past, but for anyone who needs a lift Coach Carroll is the man for the job! Not exactly Confucius, but it does the trick! 🙂

“Something good’s just about to happen.” That’s the quote I look at everyday. Not exactly Confucius, but it does the trick! 🙂

60 Minutes Feature on Pete Carroll: http://youtu.be/Y-wIAL0Dfsw

JohnAkerson
5 years 2 months ago

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” Confucius”Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right” Henry Ford”There’s no secret to success, It is the result of hard work, preparation and learning from Failure” Colin Powell”It’s not in that you never fall, but in how you pick yourself up after you do.” Gini DietrichLife is not a photo, it is a movie. If this frame isn’t good enough, make the next one better.A great post, a great lesson, and done with amazing brevity, Gini, Very nice!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@JohnAkerson Thanks John! It’s super fun seeing you around lately. You always add additional things to consider.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@T60Productions Something good’s just about to happen. LIKE A BABY!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@toddlercomm That is such a great outlook on life! I suppose you’re a glass half full person, too?? 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KDillabough One of the things I learned in the past two years, watching a friend go through bankruptcy and starting over, is there really isn’t any failure in life. Rebranding your 28 year old business or starting brand new out of bankruptcy both take a lot of energy, motivation, and stamina, but it can be done. And you’re much further ahead than most because you’re doing it. Again.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@BestRoofer Mine is a little more blunt – “Have fuck you money.”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@faybiz Oh be patient, grasshopper!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@wendykeneipp Thanks Wendy…and thanks for the comment on Twitter, too! I have a friend who has stage four cancer. He has maybe six months left to live. And people walk on eggshells around him. They tell him their thoughts and prayers are with him and they treat him like he’s already dead. I tell him to get his butt out of bed, mow the lawn, go do something. Sometimes I’m more harsh than that. But the point is we all need people to tell us to get our shit together and move on.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@fitzternet I’m following you around the blogosphere! I’d love some of your extra perspective!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KenMueller You wear a skirt?

RogerFriedensen
5 years 2 months ago

What a great post this morning, Gini. We’re STILL waiting on that one client to pay, but we have become much more “assertive” and will be calling the CFO tomorrow if we don’t hear anything by EOB today (thanks to everyone at CAPRSA for encouraging us finally to get tough with our old friend/client!). Success over the long haul IS so much a matter of attitude, and mistakes are simply good long-term outcomes wrapped in crappy short-term results.

No doubt about it, Gini; you and Confucius ROCK! Happy Tuesday, girl!

dariasteigman
dariasteigman
5 years 2 months ago

Spot on, @ginidietrich . The first time I lost a big client (and they decided to tell me on a Friday no less), I came home and sat down and wrote out a list of 5 people I could call on Monday morning. Just that small act of moving forward put me back in control and made me feel better.

Plus, in the long run losing that chunk of work opened up the opportunity — and gave me a needed shove — to diversify my business and make it stronger.

AnneRyan
AnneRyan
5 years 2 months ago

I agree that there really is no such thing as failing. It’s gained experience. It allows for maturation. It makes us vulnerable. Lends us some compassion. These are adjectives not always embraced in business, but they ultimately lead to a business being successful and building long term relationships with clients and partners who share the same values rather than one-off conveyor belt marketing projects that provide little security. As long as our efforts and goals are based on good intent and the right principles in all aspects of doing business, I just don’t believe we can truly fail.

faybiz
5 years 2 months ago

@ginidietrich oh i am SO doing it NOW!

KensViews
5 years 2 months ago

Another great post, my friend. When I use the word “failure” while I’m training or teaching, I always use my air quotes gesture. Failure’s just a step on the road to success. You learn something important from each and every failure, but only if you’re open to the learning. As this clip makes clear, “If you haven’t failed, you haven’t lived” (Hope it opens!)

http://bit.ly/famousfails

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT4Fu-XDygw

NancyD68
5 years 2 months ago
This is not related to business, but when I left my husband with a two and a half year old, I felt like a pretty big failure. it is not easy to be a single mom, but my life now is better than I ever could have imagined. A few years ago, I knew I wanted to write for a living but had no idea how I was going to do that. I now have the flexibility to blog, and I am looking at contacting women’s shelters in my area to see if I can come speak so that I… Read more »
robbyslaughter
robbyslaughter
5 years 2 months ago

Great post!

I think this topic is so important, that I wrote an entire book about it. <a href=”http://www.failurethebook.com/book/buy/”>Failure: The Secret to Success</a>.

KarenARocks
KarenARocks
5 years 2 months ago

Okay @ginidietrich please get out of my head. I was out for a run yesterday and was thinking about what to blog about and failure was the topic. MY favorite quote (even listed on my FB page) is ” A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure unless he gives up”. I have no idea who said it, but I have been inspired by that optimistic line for at least 20 years. It has held true for me personally and professionally. And yes I will still write my blog post.

wabbitoid
5 years 2 months ago
I, for one, am a lousy entrepreneur. I can’t sell m’self for anything and I completely lack the killer instinct for negotiating and billing. I don’t work for the man only because I want to pick my kids up at school every day – the life of a divorced Dad. But it’s just not for everyone, and I’ve learned that. I learned that driving down West Seventh St at 50 MPH racing to get to the bank before it closed. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed, I eventually decided, it means that this life just isn’t for everyone – translating out… Read more »
hackmanj
5 years 2 months ago

Gini – thanks for sharing this story, there is something special about the challenges we face in life that really adds something to the internal skill set. These humbling opportunities for leadership, learning and commitment are essential to our ongoing success.

FocusedWords
FocusedWords
5 years 2 months ago

How can you know when you succeed if you never fail?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@RogerFriedensen It’s only been like eight months, Roger. I think you’re being way too impatient.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@dariasteigman That is such a great idea! Next time I’m feeling in the dumps, I’m going to send you a note and you’re going to tell me to do this.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@AnneRyan And perspective, too!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@NancyD68 And…now you’re headed to BlogWorld and we get to meet! All because of that decision you made almost six years ago. Well…maybe not, but go with it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@robbyslaughter Sweet! I’ll check it out!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@KarenARocks I’ve been missing you! I’ll be looking for your blog post. And I’m posting that quote on my wall. I like that one, too!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@wabbitoid I agree – what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. It’s ridiculous that we (society) put things out there that seem like success and we hold everyone to those same measures.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@hackmanj The key word here, Joe, is “humbling.”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@FocusedWords Exactly! And, while you’re here, get your photo in Gravatar. I want to see your face!

TheJackB
5 years 2 months ago
I have this conversation with friends and have blogged about it many times. I hate failing. I hate, hate, hate, hate it. But i have failed and will do so again. As a father one of the most important things I have done is tried to teach my children how to fail. When we play games I don’t just let them win. Sometimes I make a point of winning because they have to learn coping skills. They have to learn what to do when things go wrong. I am cautious not to crush their spirit or kill their self esteem,… Read more »
EricaAllison
5 years 2 months ago
Gini, this post so resonates with my month! You have no idea. I alluded to this last week when you so graciously featured me in your #FF. At that very point, I was standing at the cross roads of entrepreneurship and wondering if I should continue on and fight the good fight or say, “you know what, I may have to take another path and have an entrepreneurial spirit while working for someone else.” NOT. KIDDING. Not to hijack your post, I just want to say, that I too have found ENORMOUS wisdom in the process of failing and am… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 2 months ago

@TheJackB I don’t have kids, but I agree with you in that you can’t do things for kids…including letting them win. The parents who do things for their kids, like their science projects, are the same ones who call the boss (me) and ask for a raise for their kid or negotiate their starting package. That’s the fastest way to not get the job…and it happens all the time.

EricaAllison
5 years 2 months ago

@TheJackB Jack, I do the same thing when playing games with my oldest. He HATES to lose. I despise the thought of him never knowing how to cope with losing *more* than I dislike his sadness when he loses; therefore, I make sure we play fairly and if I win, I win. Well done.

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