As an (overly) ambitious and driven person, accepting failure is hard. Finding the lessons to be learned from those failures, however, is not too difficult to do. The truth is – and this may sound ridiculous – I have not “failed” at very many things in my life and in a way I felt I was overdue. I know this is a really weird way to look at things, but hear me out. It’s an important lesson that I need to pass on to my daughters and one that’s taken me nearly a lifetime to learn. We can’t live in fear of failure because failure is a part of life. If it’s not something you’ve gone through and experienced, you won’t necessarily learn the coping skills to pull yourself out to the other side.
But while I’ve not experienced failure in my professional life on any grand scale (perhaps up to now), I feel like big success has eluded me as well. I write this rather tentatively because I know I’ve gotten flack in the past for being critical given everything that I have, but I don’t take anything in life for granted. More now than ever. Being driven can leave you unsatisfied with current and past successes because it’s often not enough, but success is subjective and it means different things to different people. Your definition of success isn’t necessarily the same as others – and it shouldn’t be. Why? Because we wouldn’t have leaders and dreamers and entrepreneurs making great things – big things – if the definition of success was the same for everyone. So while I’m working on loosening the grips of all the little aspects of being a life-long perfectionist that are unhealthy, I’m reluctant to totally let go of this part of my personality because it is what drives me, despite what I have achieved so far. Sometimes I get tired of being told that the constant seeking of bigger successes is the root of unhappiness. I see the value in the power of contentment, but it’s also often at odds with my ambitious nature. I guess this is where the struggle lies and the key, as with everything, is finding that elusive balance between healthy and obsessive.
So…back to failure. Our startup failed. The fact is, the vast majority of startups fail. We failed to raise our next round, but I don’t think our product failed. I was floored by the community response around our closing and the words that were thrown around in tweets, messages and videos: Innovators. Pioneers. A company that listened to their users and cared about the community till the very end. In that sense, we did not fail and our team should really feel proud of that. I remember a few years back, talking with a friend and saying that I really wanted to be a part of something, to be part of a team and have the experience of building something great. I can now check that off my list and this is an experience that not everyone gets the opportunity to have. So perhaps the biggest disappointment is not getting the chance to see how far we could take it. I certainly didn’t expect to mourn the closing of this company so deeply. That story might be over, but what I take from it will carry over far.
Photos from Dia Beacon.