5 Times I Failed and What I Learned

Last Saturday, I attended my final goal-group meeting of the year. This is the meeting where we are asked to stand up in front of the group and state what our biggest challenges and our biggest achievements were this year: Insert panic here! When I looked back at the goals I’d set last January, I couldn’t check many off the list. I wondered if perhaps I’d set the wrong goals—or maybe I hadn’t tried hard enough? Or could it be that I just simply suck? Have you ever had a year like that?

If I had to sum up 2017 in one word, it would be challenging. My husband left his very good job at a prominent company last August to launch his indie virtual-reality game; what set out to be a six-month project has turned into fourteen months of the unknown—and I’m sorry to admit that I don’t handle the unknown very well. Funny that I chose to be an entrepreneur!

This morning, as I was reading my e-mail in bed as usual, my husband came in the room, sat down in our chair, and said, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.” Uh-oh, I thought. This can’t be good. Turns out, overnight he had found the clarity that I had been praying about for months. For twenty minutes he sat there and rattled off all the ways he felt like he had failed over the last year with his launch, and what he needed to do about it, and he was REALLY hard on himself. But he was also on fire in a way I haven’t seen from him in a very long time. It really got me thinking about all the times I have “failed”—but more importantly, the lessons learned from failure. After all, we learn from failure, not from success. I hope that sharing some of my own challenges will help you feel less alone in your proclaimed “failures,” and realize that like the Phoenix, you, too, can rise from the ashes.

5 Lessons Learned from Failure

1. I DIDN’T MAKE CHEERLEADING IN HIGH SCHOOL: This may sound ridiculous, but truly, it was the first time that I remember being stunned by a disappointment, and that you don’t always gets what you want. I had been captain of the cheerleading squad in 8th grade, and I just assumed that of course I would make the squad in high school. It was very competitive—and simply put, I  didn’t do the work required to make the squad. It’s the best lesson I got as a young person: those who work hard will succeed over those who don’t. I think that lesson has driven me to push myself harder in everything I do.

2. I DIDN’T GET ACCEPTED TO THE N.C. SCHOOL OF THE ARTS: As a young person, I never remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actress. I was from a very tiny town, however, and we just didn’t have access to training programs that those in larger towns had. When it came time to apply to the School of the Arts, the most prominant college in our state for the performing arts, my mom did everything she could to make sure I was prepared. She hired an acting coach in Charlotte and drove me there to work on my monologues. I thought I was prepared until I walked into the audition, and realized that half of the audition requirement was to sing a song. OH %$@!  I had nothing prepared! Not only that, but I can’t really sing! I sat in the hallway with my dad, where you could hear the other hopefuls with these powerhouse voices coming through the door of the audition. I wanted to die. How in the world had I missed that significant detail?! Rather than leaving, I decided to pick mysef up, go inside when they called my name and at my dad’s suggestion, I sang—wait for it—”Happy Birthday to You,” and swallowed my mortification. What did I learn? You can never be too prepared, and most of the time it’s better to try than to run away and do nothing.

3. I GOT DEMOTED FROM SALESPERSON BACK TO CASHIER AT MY RETAIL JOB: My first job in L.A. was working retail at a very high-profile boutique with multiple locations. We had tons of A-list celebrity clients, and the salespeople were requried to meet a daily quoata. I was first hired as a cashier. After about six months, I was promoted to salesperson. In a word, I hated it. Not only was I battling depression because of feeling like a failure at life for not pursing what I moved to L.A. to do in the first place, or using my college degree in the way I felt it should have been used, but I just simply didn’t like selling on the floor. While it was embarassing for me to have to go back to cashiering, what I learned is that not every job is going to be right for you. It doesn’t make you a failure at life. After one year of working retail, I landed my first major entertainment job that launched my career. I found something else that I could succeed at doing. Even now, there are certain things I am better at than others. The trick is to hire people that are better than you at what you deem as your weaknesses.

4. MY FIRST BUSINESS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR DIDN’T WORK OUT: My sister-in-law moved to Los Angeles at my encouragement for us to partner for her maternity clothing business. I was going to handle the PR, and obviously, she would be the designer. What we failed to do is discuss all the ends of how the business would run and exactly how our partnership would work. Four months after I quit my job at PMK, I had to go back to working for someone else. What I learned from this is that a business partnership is as important as a marriage. You better know what you’re getting into, and you better have really clear communication about expectations, roles, and strategy. The next time I formed a partnership, I was much more prepared and was able to learn from my mistakes.

5. THE BLOG I LAUNCHED IN 2008, THIS BLOG, DIDN’T BECOME MY FULL TIME DREAM JOB: This is something that I still beat myself up over on a weekly basis. When I launched my blog, not many people were making a living doing it. I wish that I had been a visionary and realized what I needed to do back then to make my blog be one of the few standouts that now not only inspire people, but that makes me a good living. I feel like I figured out a lot way too late, and by then, had a full time job that takes up most of my energy and effort. What I will say is that I have learned more skills than I ever thought possible by having a blog. And they are things that have helped my clients. Things such as how to take a photo, how to use WordPress, how to use SEO, how to use programs like LightRoom and Canva and ConvertKit, how to build an email list, how to create an opt-in, how to A/B split test and the importance of a marketing budget. While I am still figuring out what I really want this blog to become, a huge thanks to all of you who read every post, comment regularly and always find a way to inspire me to keep going.

As we come to the end of another year, I have really tried to put some key things in place to gear me up to start 2018 with a bang. Last January, I got in a funk that I had a really hard time shaking; you might even say it lasted most of the year. My goal-group leader forced me to stop focusing on any goal other than self-care the last two months of this year. For me, that has meant taking 30 minutes a day to go for a walk and listen to an inspiring podcast about business. If you have been feeling overwhelmed with career goals, I invite you to join me in doing less. It’s made all the difference!

PS. There’s No Such Thing as an Overnight Success!

Photo by Ragan Wallake


23 thoughts on “5 Times I Failed and What I Learned”

  1. Great post! For 1 and 2 I was reminded of movie quotes.
    1: “She dozen’t do ze werk. She dozen’t do ze work!” – Julie and Julia
    2: “Apart from the one obvious tiny little baby little hiccup.” “I don’t play a musical instrument?” “Yes, sir.” “A tiny, insignificant detail.” – Love Actually

    Lucky you’re the greatest and you can’t fail in my eyes.


  2. I love this Molly! What courage to talk about the things that didn’t go the way you wanted them to with such honesty. You are inspiring and I am so proud of all that you do. You have accomplished so much, you work so hard and still take time to care for your family and friends. You will always be a star in my book!!

  3. What is it about failing to make the cheerleading squad back in our hometown that proved to be so devastating?! Coincidentally failing to make the squad in middle school landed me in the band where I know I was much happier 😉 Added bonus that I’ll be able to teach the boys how to read music and won’t mind at all if they want a drum set.

    Great post, Mol. As I’ve stumbled a few times in my new career in real estate, I’m learning much along the way. Hopefully I will grow my business as successfully as you have with yours. Miss you.

  4. I wouldn’t say it was completely devastaing (in the way the rejection of the school of the arts was), more of a shock and a big wake up call! Thanks, Lilly! I was just talking to Anna and saying we need to be better next Christmas about making plans for all the girls! xo

  5. We will be at Mom & Dad’s house Dec 23 & 24. Otherwise, will be home. Let me know if you come to Winston.

  6. Refreshing stuff! I also didn’t make that squad and was much better for the other doors it opened. With social media available every second and in every platform it is easy to think of one’s shortcomings….very humbling for you to gain perspective and to glean out the good in your ‘mistakes.’ I think you shine bright lady! ??

  7. Sandra Zaninovich

    Thanks for this beautifully written (as always!) and profound post; I loved devouring every word and feeling like I got to know you better with each paragraph. It takes a lot of guts to spill them like this for all the world to see, and my hat is off to you! I remember so well those demotion days, and to see you outstrip by far anyone who worked at RH, personally and professionally, is just so gratifying and amazing. You richly deserve it, and I’d say I consider you anything BUT a failure! We should all fail so splendidly. Mazel tov on all your extremely hard-earned success, and the very best and happiest and most magical and healthiest holidays to you and your heartpartner in life and love.

  8. Love your post! It makes me realise I am making the same mistakes. It’s time to move on. Thank you so much for your inspiration.

  9. This is SO good! Molly, I love your perspective and thank you for sharing being real! I love the lessons you learned and taking them in my heart with me. ?

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