I totally blew it. I had been given the opportunity to show that I was responsible and could be trusted, and I completely failed. I thought my life was over. I was certain that I would never be trusted again. I didn't really know how to deal with failure at this point in my life. I thought the appropriate response was to go hide in the closet and cry.
So that's what I did. I hid in the closet and cried.
When my mom eventually found me and asked what was wrong, I tried to explain as best as my 8 year old brain could:
"I messed up mom. You gave me a $100 bill and told me to be very careful with it. You were going to take us to the pet store, and I was going to buy a pet bird for the family with the money. And we were going to buy a cage and toys for the bird, and it was going to be great. And then I lost the $100 bill. And now we're never going to get a bird and everyone's going to hate me."
My mom was clearly a little upset with me, but she never showed it. How I could lose the $100 bill in a matter of minutes is still a mystery as we never found it.
That is my earliest memory of failure. It sucked. My parents wouldn't give me any more money for the bird. They told me that if I wanted a bird, I'd have to go out an earn the money to buy it myself. How the hell does a 8 year old earn $100?!?!
Well I created a plan to start washing cars for $5 each. I would use my mom's supplies, and it would cost me nothing. If I washed 20 cars, I could get a bird. Perfect.
I never washed 20 cars. I maybe convinced 5 people to let me wash their cars, but I gave these cars the most incredible washing they've ever had. They ended up giving me more than $5 each, and I ended up with around $60. I bought the bird and sacrificed on the toys and nice cage. Thinking back, my mom is awesome. I can't believe I was out knocking on doors asking for business as an 8 year old.
24 Years Later...
Fast forward to today. I have an amazing relationship with failure. I hate failure more than just about anything on the planet. I don't cry in the closet (as much), but I still hate it as much as I did when I was 8. At the same time, I love failure. More appropriately, I love that I put myself in a situation where I could fail.
I seek out failure. As an entrepreneur, we never know what's possible unless we push things to a ridiculous limit. When you push things that far, you're definitely going to fail. If you're pushing far enough, you're going to fail much more often than you're going to succeed. And that's ok, because every once in a while, you're going to succeed.
Succeed Over the Long Run
“The goal is not to fail fast. The goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.” Marc Andreessen
There are certain things in life where you only need to succeed once regardless of how many times you fail. Fail if you must, but it should be building towards succeeding over the long term.
The famous examples of this you know: Edison failed 1,000 times until he invented the light bulb; Lincoln lost many elections before winning the most important one; Ford went broke 5 times before he succeed. More recently: Larry and Sergey were rejected when they tried to sell Google for $1 million. Zuckerberg faced expulsion and was charged with breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy. Tim Ferriss was rejected by 25 publishers before The 4-Hour Workweek sold over a million copies.
There are countless other examples of people who have failed over and over again and became really successful. Nobody's counting how many times you fail (unless of course you raise venture funding and do a bad job), but they sure do pay attention when you are successful.
I'm not here to tell you to fail early and often. I think that's dumb. You should do everything you can to succeed on your first try, but you should never shy away from something beacuse there's a chance for failure. It's all about putting yourself in a position where you embrace failure, BUT you must ensure that if you succeed, it's totally worth.