What I Learned From My Greatest Failure

I’ve told this story twice in the past month and decided it was time to finally write it down, with hope that you can take the same lesson from it that I do and be encouraged in your personal journey. That’s a long way from 7 years ago, when the mention of said story would make me cry on the spot.

After my first year of college I took a leave of absence from school to sort through my many dreams and figure out how my meager middle-class inheritance of baptist God and good manners would pay for them. During this time I acted in a number of small off-broadway plays and worked part-time at a publishing company. After only 6 months of this I decided that I would put on my own play. Why not, I thought, oblivious to what the commitment would do to my teenage mind and spirit. I had written a story about a family of 5 African-American women who lived in Harlem after WWII. I hired actors, found investors, rented a theater and rehearsed at a Harlem high school with a cast of very talented actors. Since I was also in it, (and had the nerve to also produce and direct it) I hired a publicist/seat filler to help promote the show. Because I was only 18, there was hype (beware of this), to the point that success was assumed a guarantee. Fast forward. Opening night. 180 seats. Guess how many people showed up?


It was the worst, most revealing night of my life. There was one night we filled the theater but by then it was too late. We were supposed to run for 7 weeks and ran for 2; I returned to Texas and cried for the remainder of the year while dealing with the remnants of the sour investment. It was my father who encouraged me to return to the city and to NYU. “Donald Trump, all those guys failed at least a dozen times before they had their first big success,” he said. Of course this made me more hysterical since I was unable to fathom processing the depth and misfortune of those emotions a whole 11 more times. But now seven years later, I understand him completely. My father says that in life, the only failure is neglecting to find God’s purpose for it before death. That means that what we perceive as failures are diminished to mere lessons, parts of a necessary process of purpose discovery and/or purpose implementation. The definition, the truth, is in perception. Because of this I am free from fear of “failure,” and welcome the ups with the downs, because I know everything I do, the engine in my head grows stronger with experience. *be patient *take time to form your idea in your head before sharing it *know when to take help, know when to refuse it*smile *know who you are and whose you are *keep records of everything. you can’t erase ink *be wary of those who believe you owe them after offering you favors *organize a team of brick solid people *surround yourself with your biggest supporters–that way criticisms always come from a good place *the early bird catches the worm *be as wise as a serpent but as innocent as a dove*things could always be worse *never sell your body*never forfeit your morals–these things, all of these things pale in comparison to simply knowing and finally understanding that when it comes to failure in business, there can really be no such thing. An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur to his/her core. The first mountain will never be the biggest. The current mountain will never be the last. What is learned along the way, good or bad; what you know is your greatest strength.