Recently Dan Sullivan of strategic coach challenged me during one of his 10x podcasts. He said that one of the differences between successful business people and average business people is that successful business people are comfortable talking about their failures. Challenge accepted.
In 2001, I experienced one of my biggest professional failures. I worked for a company named NetApp. We sold network file servers to tech and Internet companies. In 2001, selling to tech and Internet was very challenging due to investors pulling out of dot.coms. At the time, I had a customer list of 70 customers with an additional 300 customers on my prospect list.. Within nine months, half of the customers were out of business and two thirds of my prospects were headed that direction.
Our CEO, Dan Warmehoven, told us we needed to change our strategy and instead sell to enterprise (brick and mortar) companies. As somebody new to the organization, I did not know if I could be successful. The most successful sales reps told me selling our products to enterprise customers, would be a waste of time. My boss told me he wanted to sell to accounts in Richmond, VA. The most successful sales people in Richmond asserted that nobody from northern Virginia could be successful selling in the southern "good old boys" network of Richmond.
I felt like a failure. I was going to be fired. My wife and I would never be able to buy a house. I prayed every day for God's mercy, because I now knew I could not do it on my own. I failed often. Each failure helped me know what not to keep doing. God blessed me. I did not get fired and I had tremendous success learning values lessons about myself, business and God in the process. My success lead to my next two failures.
My second biggest failure was being afraid to admit my weaknesses. My father instilled in me that I should never show my weakness. He thought people would use your weakness against you, and I adopted this mentality. In fact my manager told me, I was always the smartest person in the room (This was not meant to be a compliment). I had to learn humility, to say I made a mistake, and how to overcome my next failure.
My third biggest failure was the refusal to admit I needed help or ask for help. If this hasn't come through before, my view of self is this; that I'm a hard worker, a high achiever, and I believe the two are intertwined, enabling me to run though any wall. My hard work was what had enabled my success. Furthermore, I resented people who had things handed to them. This was a failure, not only because I did not have assistance, but because I robbed others of the joy of giving.
To summarize, while hard work and reliance on self helped me achieve success early in my career, these qualities kept me from growing. By learning humility and asking for help I now benefit from the unique abilities of my team.
How have you failed? Join the club. Share you story in the comments.