“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” – Morihei Ueshiba
Anyone who says they can’t start a business is making up excuses not to begin, and the reason they aren’t beginning is because they have a fear of failure. While painful, I will admit the absolute reason for my success came from my previous failures. Before making my chimney business successful I went through a series of failures. These failures, although extremely embarrassing, lead me to finding my purpose and the life I lead now.
My first lesson in failure came when I first moved to Nashville in 1990. Believe it or not, my goal was not to build my chimney business, but actually pursue my dreams of playing drums and becoming rich and famous. After many years of trial and error, I finally hung up my drumsticks. There was something about playing music that left me feeling like I was never truly in control of my future, and I couldn’t handle it.
Lesson two in failure came when I decided to focus on my business. I read an article on Jim Brewer, a chimney sweep in Virginia Beach, who had taken his chimney sweeping operation and had created a true business, not just a job for himself like I had done. Reading the article motivated me to want more out of myself and my company. The failure part in this comes in my recognition of running my business improperly up to that point. Previously, I has been using buddies to help me sweep chimneys, but this was a mistake. If I wanted to build my company I needed to think bigger, and thinking bigger meant hiring real employees, as well as attending conventions and meetings about business building. It was a whole new world for me, and I realized that the chimney industry involved many smart people from whom I could learn a great deal.
Lesson three in failure came in the form of an accident I had in 2003. I fell off the roof of a two and a half story home. After a visit to the hospital, I was informed that the fall resulted in multiples tears and sprains throughout my entire body, I was truly lucky to be alive. Following the fall, I almost immediately decided that I wanted to get out of the chimney business and go in a different direction. I wanted to sell my chimney business, get a lot of money for it, and do something different. But this is where my thinking was severely flawed. I thought that since I had built a good name for myself, my business would be easy to sell. Wrong! No one wanted to buy my business for what I thought it was worth. This prompted me to want to build a business that could work without me. The type of business that would have value when I wanted to sell it and move on.
When I chose to embrace these lessons of failure, versus allowing them to hold me back, I began to grow as both a person, and in my business. No matter what, all failures and dangers in business, and in life, can lead to eye opening, pivotal moments of success and great fortune if you allow them to. John Maxwell calls this type of thinking, ‘Failing Forward’ and believes that with the right mindset, anyone can turn mistakes into stepping stones for success.