My first failure was relatively early in my career, and timing-wise, I was lucky for that. However, when you’re just starting out, it can be harder to navigate around what seems like the biggest setback that’s ever happened.
In reality, what I’ve learned is that failure is a jumping-off point.
It shows us how to step up and move forward, and how to stay resilient.
Without these qualities, the entrepreneurial life would be unbelievably challenging, because these characteristics are the making of a true leader.
Failure is important for this reason.
I believe it’s one of the fundamental steps on the path to fulfilling success.
When I was first starting my journey after I made the bold move to drop out of college, the one thing I knew for sure was that I was passionate about the stock market, and wanted to learn more about it.
I wanted mentors, because it made sense to me to learn from those who were already successful in this area rather than scrappily trying to figure it out alone. What was most important to me was understanding what kind of companies people invested in, and why. So, I searched for those who could be deemed “experts” in this area to absorb what they had to share.
Simultaneously, I was building an online platform and community for other people interested in learning about the stock market. I was inspired by the rating system used on Amazon and Ebay and applied it to a user platform where you could see who’s advice and feedback was most highly rated, giving them a higher gold star presence. I worked relentlessly on getting this thing off the ground, day in and day out, I was furiously passionate about it because I felt like I was creating the very thing that I needed. I was filling a niche, and one that I truly felt was going to support other people in their quest for knowledge, financial awareness, and creating success.
I quickly reached over ten thousand users.
Those that had 4 and 5 star ratings became a go-to source for me on getting educated more rapidly in the world of stocks and trading. In a way they became mentors without even knowing it. They were the reason I understood what price to earnings ratio meant, they were the reason I knew about balance sheets. They were the reason I started to see the landscape, and truly understand how people played on it.
A CEO reached out to me and asked how he could get exposure to the investment community I was building. We’ll call him Rob. He told me I was pioneering investor relations in the digital world — and that stepping outside of the traditional model of getting exposure was more challenging for smaller companies like his. I was 19 at the time, and I went to see him at his office in the top floor of a beautiful building. His office was insane. It was huge, had a wraparound terrace, and overlooked the skyline.
He gave me a tour, told me a bit about what he did, which intrigued me, and then offered me a job on the spot.
“Why don’t you become our Director of Investor Relations?”
I was losing it! This was the most exciting thing in the world to me at the time, because somehow, it also meant I had become an expert. He said he wasn’t bothered by me building my own business at the same time as long as I got my work done, and so the hustle began. I had a key to the office, and I would grind there every day until 3 or 4 in the morning.
I did everything for this man — built a new website, did video marketing, got him written up in Wired Magazine. I wore one thousand hats, and never hated a minute of it because I was learning so much.
I ended up building them up to have the largest shareholder base for a company of their size in the world.
At the same time I was building my own website and company late at night after work. I was all in, and pretty wildly committed to it. During the year I was with this company, their stock went up 400%. Four hundred percent. A solid chunk of change. It was a testament not solely to how hard I was working, but I definitely let myself bask in the fact that I had contributed to this.
I called Rob, and told him it was time to do a live demo of his groundbreaking tech product, so many people were paying attention to the company, and it could secure millions of dollars in funding for him to take it public.
He handed the job to me, told me to organize the entire event, and to run with it. So, I did.
I hustled, rallied anyone and everyone I knew as a resource, and knocked the planning aspect out of the park.
But, when the day arrived where I would have to speak in front of all of these people, I was barely holding it together. I had cue cards I was nervously fumbling through in the bathroom, when Ron stepped in and told me all I had to do was be myself. “Put the cards away”, he said, and just get out there. So I did. I spoke, then the rest of the event was carried by Ron, and a demonstration of the battery tech that he had developed — the nano battery (a longer battery life than we could imagine).
I’d gotten tons of important investors and people with a lot of power into a room to watch this demonstration. It’s what they came for.
It was the live explanation of this technology that was going to change the world. And it didn’t work.
On that day, on the stage, somehow they hadn’t prepared, and it didn’t work. People were screaming questions, swearing, asking if the whole thing was a fraud. It destroyed the biggest opportunity of their lives, and while I didn’t have a hand in that aspect, as the one who organized the whole experience, I felt responsible.
I thought my career was over. I was the young guy who royally screwed up.
What actually happened was that a few guys came up to me and gave me their business cards. “Hey Kid, you got me in this room. Call me.”
The coming days were where things changed. It’s where my real focus on mindset began. I realized that it didn’t matter that it felt like a huge public failure, because the only thing I could focus on was how to learn from my mistake, move forward, and recognize what I had actually accomplished — which was a ton.
It was a turning point. I sat down and recognized — these are my talents.
This is what I’m great at. So, I started a digital marketing agency based on the motivation to move forward like a bat out of hell and use the experience to remind me that when you trust what you’re capable of, you just keep going, no matter what. I became one of the most sought-after online marketers for publicly traded companies in the world. It was a pretty big leap from being a 19 year old being responsible for an event that failed, and being involved with a company that ruined itself.
I was managing six and seven figure budgets for companies that wanted full-scale marketing plans and execution, and I was barely out of being a teenager.
A high percentage of companies fail. It’s good to study and experience failure for this reason, it can be inevitable. Without having some awareness of it, you’re not really understanding the whole picture of what it can mean to be an entrepreneur, be active in business, or to build something from the ground up. It’s part of our human experience, and it’s a valuable lesson that can change our lives beyond our wildest dreams.
By the time I was 24, I had built my business up to about $10 million a year.
I was traveling, loving life, and taking full responsibility for having gotten myself to where I was. I can say with full certainty that I wouldn’t have realized what I was made of and where I could go if I hadn’t found it within myself to keep going after what felt like the world ending. It was zero to sixty, and I attribute it to the test of resilience and dedication I received to prove that I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to turn my mission and vision into my living.
The keys are very simple: keep going, focus on what you’re good at, and stay fiercely moved by your desire to create the life you have in mind.