A wise man once said "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Today was an exciting day in my life. Less than a month ago, I was nominated for Joint Venture Partner of the year in the Top Investor Awards by Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine. Competing in my category were 5 other very competent investors, all of which I admire greatly.
I had a fair amount of time to think about the strategic possibilities of my nomination and ran through all of the possible scenarios that such recognition would bring.
My competitors were all very successful investors, and depending on the metrics used to determine a "winner", any one of us could have won the award.
Three ways to determine a winner would be:
1) The winner could be determined by dollar volume, in which I would certainly NOT be the winner.
2) The winner could be determined by profits, in which I would certainly NOT be the winner.
3) Or the winner could be determined by story, in which I would have a chance to win.
I had to prepare myself for two scenarios:
- A scenario in which I win
- And a scenario in which I do not win
It is truly an honour to be nominated alongside such successful investors and the nomination alone is worth a tremendous amount of value to me.
I thought about the two scenarios above for a long time and determined that I would rather lose to a champion than win over an inferior competitor.
In my head, I created a no-lose scenario.
I would either win the award and run with the temporary boost to my brand/marketing or lose and still run with the temporary boost to my brand/marketing.
The only way to create a no lose scenario is by learning to create profit from failure.
I have failed in my life more times than I have succeeded.
They say that the formula for failure is to try to please everyone.
The formula for success is to take your current rate of failure an double it.
I have doubled my rate of failure many times over and continue to increase my quota. I am not afraid of failing because when life gives me lemons... I have learned how to squeeze out a delicious glass of lemonade.
I have made lemonade so many times in my investing career that I could open up a lemonade stand.
Although, I have had many chances to wrestle with failure, many people have not had the luxury of having so many experiences to study and learn from failure.
The school system conditions us to avoid failure at all costs. In school, we treat failure like the same way we treat death: if you fail, you don't get good grades, you can't get into a good university, you can't get a good job and you will starve to death on the street because you have no money.
In many ways, we are learned to treat failure like death.
In reality, failure is the essence of life.
We learn our greatest lessons when we fail and often, we use these experiences to craft our identities, our character, our philosophies and our stories that make us into champions that can press forward against all odds.
My thinking has changed dramatically over the years when it comes to failure.
I used to get upset when I failed. However, I no longer get upset. When I fail in my current endeavours, I identify and correct my mistake as fast as possible. I then ask myself, "how can I prevent this in the future?". Failing is no longer a negative emotion for me, in fact, I get excited to fail now because it means that I will get an opportunity to learn a lesson. Lessons make me smarter and increase my chances of winning in the future.
FAILURE MANAGEMENT 101
Imagine you are an olympic athlete for an obscure sport like Javelin in which you take a running start to throw a single spear as far as possible.
You train for 10 years, put in 10,000 hours plus of training, forgo sex, good food, alcohol, sleep, professional career opportunities, children, money and lifestyle for a chance at winning the olympics.
The day of the olympics comes and you get one chance, one throw and in that moment you will become one of two things:
- A winner, a medalist and you will become immortalized in the olympic hall of fame
- A nobody, you do not qualify, you miss the distance required by inches and your javelin efforts vaporize into thin air
On monday morning, when you get back to your home, what do you do when you sit down at the kitchen table and ponder your next move?
Had you achieved success, you would have got a sponsorship, a great career opportunity, recognition, and fame, etc.
However, you failed... What next?
How do you make lemonade out of the lemons?
How can you create success from the experience?
I have been in situations like this many times. Life is a performance based sport, you often only get one chance to make something happen and if you don't, how do you deal with it?
It's not what happens to you in life that matters, it's how you deal with it.
Today when I was waiting for the speaker at the podium to announce the winner of the Joint Venture Partner of the Year award I had fully prepared myself for failure.
I desired success, understood that it was possible, but the final decision was out of my hands - I did not worry.
In hindsight, I was 95% prepared for failure and only 5% prepared for success.
I was shocked to learn that I had won the award and did not have a speech ready. I winged a few words at the podium, thanked everyone I could think of and proceeded with my "success plan" that I had to quickly engineer.
I was so convinced that my competition would win the award that I had given up the idea of success. To avoid disappointment, I had created a plan to deal with failure and had a solid plan to create an asset out of failing to win.
I have become so good at losing and dealing with situations that go wrong that I had forgot to plan for situations that go right.
Getting good at losing, however, is one of the major pillars of success. It helps us take risks and allow us to win - even when we lose.
Life becomes very easy when you can find ways to win from failure, especially when we learn to monetize these situations.
When I think about the Joint Venture award that I won, I am convinced that my story is what captured the judge's imaginations.
I did not have the biggest deal, the biggest profit, the highest dollar volumes or the sexiest deal.
However, I had a great "rags to riches" story that explains my investment career. My story for 2012 begins with failure and ends with success.
Most people give up when they fail, I have learned to push through failures until I can turn them into successes.
In your own life, learn to spot the "good" in the "bad" and package it into a marketable asset that you can use to your advantage.
Failure is a necessary ingredient to success and many people do not understand that success comes in cycles and is more like a wheel than a destination.
Picture the ferris wheel at the local fair. When you are at the top of the wheel (success), the only way to get back to the top (success) is to go through the bottom (failure).
Life is much like a ferris wheel: to get the top, we must rotate through the cycles at the bottom.
In the words of Napoleon Hill "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit."
Learn to find these seeds, plant them, water them and watch them grow.
Jack and the Beanstalk is one of my favourite stories that perfectly describes my life so far.
- Jack trades his mother's cow for some "magic beans"
- Jack brings the beans home to mother who curses him and throws them out the window to spite him
- The next morning, a huge beanstalk has grown into the clouds and jack decides to climb up the beanstalk
- Jack finds a giant in a castle in the clouds
- Jack slays the giant
- Jack climbs down the beanstalk with the princess (his woman), the golden harp (his calling) and the golden goose (his ability to make money)
- Jack began his journey as a boy and becomes a man through the process
Although Jack is successful in the story, he begins with failure. He traded his mother's last milk producing cow for 3 magic beans. The beans have no intrinsic value, his mother believes he has made a bad trade and in her anger, she throws the beans out the window. After the beanstalk grows from the magic beans, Jack climbs into the clouds, goes through a series of trials and becomes a successful man.
My investing career has been the same way and my first 2 years in the business were a series of very tough trials that could have easily become fatal failures.
However, through persistence and tenacity, I have always found ways to turn failures into successes. Every time I have failed, or experienced a set back, I have been successful in converting failures into greater successes and have become consistent in my results.
The next time you fail, look for the opportunity to create an equal or greater success.
I have become better and better at this skill with each time I practice it.
In my lifetime, I aim to become a master of "failing" so that I will constantly be in a "no lose" situation. Life truly is a "no lose" game if we approach it with the right attitude and the right level of creativity.
"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend" -Bruce Lee
Thanks for reading,