Recently, my friend Judy K. shared a link to a Steve Jobs interview where he talked about the power of “asking”. He talked about failure. And, when he mentioned the word “failure” he smiled. Someone pointed that out to me in a group chat, how he actually smiled when he mentioned “failure”. I can resonate with that smile and I’m sure quite a lot of people can too. There’s magic in there… smiling while mentioning the word failure.
Here’s the interview:
This has had me thinking for a couple days and it reminds me of something I learned from Brian Tracy and that is problems, adversities, obstacles are all normal parts of life, especially in business. And, on average, most business people have major problems every few months. That means, of everyone you know, someone is either in a crisis right now… just coming out of a crisis… or is about to enter a crisis!
Therefore, when it comes to success in business, our abilities to react & handle failures and problems will determine our success. In fact, the bigger your goals, the bigger your problems can be. I mean, I remember early in my business career, when I owned an offline ad agency in the 90’s, reaching a crisis situation where I had to meet payroll and the money was not there. I had a matter of a day or two to come up with like $20,000 to cover payroll for that period and my business bank account was on fumes. This was an emergency, crisis situation.
Payroll checks were to be given-out on Friday. I had to figure out what to do. I remember sitting down and pulling out a notebook and writing 20 things I could do to solve this emergency problem. I struggled to come up with 20 but I sat there and tried. I then picked up the phone and called a relative in Illinois who was in a similar business and asked him if he had any ideas. He gave me a few that lead to a few more ideas I had.
Finally, I had at least 20 ideas I could pursue to solve this catastrophic situation. The pressure was on, my stress level was at an all time high and I was so disturbed, I remember physically shaking and my voice cracking when I spoke to my relative on the phone. I was like a deer caught in the headlights. I was paralyzed from the stress and needed to leave the office for a little while and get it out of my head before it killed me.
I remember going home and running a hot bath. I never took baths, always showers, but decided I needed my own make shift hot tub. I laid there in the bath, during the middle of the business day, put a hot wash cloth over my eyes and tried to relax. I remember being able to hear my own breathing and how quick and short it was. I was only in my twenties at the time and was certainly not used to this kind of business stress.
Just a month prior I was on top of the world and money was flooding in and life was grand. I was invincible and everything I touched turned to gold. But then, all of a sudden, like a black thunderstorm wind crushing in, I was in turmoil and considered throwing it all away and quitting. Who wants this kind of stress and responsibility? I had been picturing my employees upset, mad, making fun of me, quitting, killing the business, pitch forks and torches. I ran scenes through my head of being homeless… a failure… a loser.
As I soaked in that hot bath, I became relaxed. It was fight or flight and I had started giving up to the point I did not care what happened anymore. I had worked until my eyes bled for many months and pulled late nights for what seems like forever trying to build this business. I reached that tipping point and I did not care anymore. I was fine with the failure and almost welcomed it as relief from my stress.
As I got out of the bath I considered calling it a day and going to the movies or something. Or maybe tequila shots was in order. Then it happened… a subtle almost feather-like… thought entered my mind. I had remembered a past experience with an old job I had, where the business owner (my boss) asked me to help him go collect a bunch of money that was owed and past due.
I remembered how we collected a ton of money in like 2 or 3 days by showing up in person to all these other business customers who were past due. Maybe I could do the same and go collect money that was owed to us myself? The idea grew. Then, my attitude was one of fight. I rushed to the office in my old jeep (I loved that jeep) and pulled up all the past due customers. The printer was zinging with invoices popping out one after the other.
I totaled up the total amount owed to us and it was way more than 20k.
I took my stack of printed invoices and hit the streets. One after the other, I hit these businesses face to face and said, “Hey, how’s it going… I wanted to see if I can get a check for this past due amount”. It worked. I put my stress and pressure on THEM. I was on a mission, my business life depended on it. My pride depended on it. I was going to collect my way out of this and I did not care who I pissed off either. I saw red and I went and collected the money owed.
Friday came and I was still short a few grand of payroll. I delayed cutting the checks until after 4pm to buy myself some time (BTW, if you have a job and your company delays checks until 4pm, that might be why). I delayed the checks to make sure I did not go negative in the bank. Since it was Friday, it would be hard for me to continue collecting over the weekend.
At around 2pm or so on that Friday, I called my bank and spoke to a very nice lady. I explained my situation and said I was short a few grand, but that I would get it deposited no later than Tuesday. she asked me to give her all the “check numbers” and she’d cover them no matter what. WOW! I cut the checks and covered payroll. By Tuesday, I not only covered the entire 20k of payroll, we got a 10k new customer that same day. Then, more revenue came in and then we landed the biggest client we had ever had the following day…. and that huge client alone would cover payroll each and every month.
Now, looking back, I learned so much. I learned there are always answers. There’s always a way. There’s always an answer. There’s always a chance to learn from any catastrophe and do better the next time around. The collections strategy of showing up in person became a monthly occurrence and increased our revenue big time. It was a new strategy I’d use over and over again. PLUS, it gave us new revenue too because it gave us the chance to up-sell or solve new problems for our clients. I mean, we’d show up to collect, but then mention that we are now handling radio advertising and some clients would upgrade bringing in new revenue!
As I look back over the years and think about problems I had as a business owner, or catastrophes, I realize that those shaped me as a business person. Those failures made me better, smarter, faster, more creative and more resilient. Those problems often made me recreate myself, innovate new solutions, change and change again and again. I realize those failures made me grow stronger. I realized that crisis is just change trying to take place. I realized that problems are natures way of saying… “GROW!”
We’ve all had problems… not only in business, but in our personal lives too. Half the time, those problems never even come to fruition and we often amplify our problems and make mountains out of molehills. We tend to glorify our problems and blow them out of proportion. We tend to stress on our problems and paralyze ourselves from moving forward confidently. We beat ourselves up with guilt, depression, feeling sorry for ourselves and dwelling on mistakes we’ve made.
We let our past mistakes crush our present actions. We beat ourselves up over mistakes we made in the past and find it hard to let go of those mistakes in order to pursue our dreams in a bold and confident manner. We let ridicule from other people crush our dreams because we beat ourselves up and dwell on problems. Our problems take center stage and those emotions we have from those problems crush our actions and confidence causing lack of action, timid action and people pleasing.
Bold, aggressive, action taking is what causes success. It’s all about cause and effect and if we are timid, we fail. If we are bold and confident, we succeed. Therefore, problems are certainly problems indeed, because if we allow our problems to be problems in business (or life) those problems win and we lose and succeeding becomes even more difficult than it already is.
That little voice in the back of your head that is beating you up and dwelling on problems is a voice that is a problem all in itself. The way I handle problems now is I pull out a sheet of paper and I write down 20 ways to solve it. I then ask. I reach out to people and ask for advice or ask for something. I then go from flight mode… to fight mode. As I enter “fight” mode, answers open up to me and all of a sudden that problem seems microscopic.
As I devise a plan to fix or attack any problem, answers open up and I feel 100 times better almost instantly. If I see something is failing in my business, I look for the opportunities. Some of those opportunities can be to change for the better! Some failures have ended up being the biggest of wins. All of those failures pumped success into my blood. It’s amazing what you can do about problems when you attack them full throttle with everything you have.
If you have a problem right now that is bothering you, then try this:
— write down 20 things you can do to solve that problem
— ask someone for advice
— take action on at least ONE of those 20 things you wrote down
— fight, be on a mission and get aggressive to conquer that problem and get after it
You’ll likely find the solution in record time and cast it off as no big deal almost instantly. People dwell on their problems and those problems become their main excuses and they tell everyone how that problem is keeping them back… like a handicap to success. Squash that problem and welcome failure. Fight instead of fly. Solve instead of dwell. Realize problems are normal. Realize that catastrophes are the cost of doing business and the better you are at handling financial pressures, the more successful you’ll become. Realize there’s always an answer, ALWAYS!
Realize you are not the only one on this planet who has faced the problem you have, so seek answers! Seek solutions! Seek help and advice from others! Seek the opportunities hidden in those problems. Seek to grow and evolve and change. Seek to become better, stronger, more creative and more immune to stress and stressful emotions. Become bolder, more confident and get thicker skin. Become more resourceful to figure things out yourself. Put the blame and the responsibility to fix your problems yourself. Take control. Don’t be afraid to piss others off. Don’t worry so much about ridicule from other people, especially your peers. My friend Matt Gill once told me that someone did not like me. I got a little upset about it and then he said, “You think Donald Trump cares that some people dont like him…. you think Mark Cuban has people who dont like him… you think Bill Gates pissed some people off along the way…”
When the illusion-thought of failure shows up, smile. Steve Jobs did.