What a failure

She sat opposite me, I overheard him ask her – so what do you do? Then he looked at me, smiled and said to her, tell me your story in one sentence.

We were at the coffee shop, my usual work hangout. We’re quite a gang now, some of us have been working here for years. We share our ups and downs, we miss each other when someone doesn’t show for a few days. We’re mates.

She’s fairly new. She began to explain that her midlife crisis has led her to leave project management to start a business baking. He asked, so what you’ll write a blog? She said no, cakes, biscuits, some food – I’m going to make it and sell it to people. Simple.

Her enthusiasm and energy were palpable. She just bubbled with excitement. I might take a small store she said but then I wouldn’t have time to do the actual baking so I guess I’ll just let people know and work from home.

How will you let them know? he asked. Well, I’m making a business card and a few flyers…she practically jumped up and down. So pleased with herself.

I suddenly realized how incredibly jaded I felt.

Why? Because though I could feel her excitement and enjoyed her energy, my first thought was – good luck! (and not in a nice tone).

I know how hard it is to find clients, how terrible it is to have something of great quality to offer but no one to sell it to. How soul-destroying it is to create your dream and then have to give it up because you can’t make it work.

I meet people every day who go through this. I’ve experienced it so many times myself over the years. So yeah, good luck.

I mean you really think you can create a business on good will. That business cards will keep food on the table (literally here!) or that you don’t need a website, store or a list. And what about pricing, and follow up business, and providing additional services… the thoughts just ran through my head, I could barely control myself from shouting out, don’t do it, go back to your job, get real!

And then I caught myself. Realized how mean spirited and ridiculous I sounded in my head. And how crazy it is to think failure before a person has even started.

Because I know there are many many people who succeed. In fact, I’m surrounded by them. I looked around and saw every face around me, immersed in their work and supporting each other as we journey the entrepreneurial way. 

And in my work, every time I go to a conference or work with clients, we’re all doing just fine. Yes, there are ups and downs. And she will have to figure out how to find clients and create a stream of steady income.

And what I know for sure is that a big part of the success that we all claim is due to a powerful story we tell.

That powerful story is the story we tell others, like clients who invest their heart, souls and wallets with us. And the story we tell ourselves, that energizes us to get up in the morning and keep at it. Keep working away at building our empires (tiny or huge), keep our enthusiasm and energy, keep our hearts and hopes in it, keep our vision clear and inspired.

In truth, we are surrounded by inspiring stories. Stories of amazing success despite all kinds of challenges. Who am I to think (even for a second) that she won’t be wildly successful. Who am I to suggest (even in my head) that she doesn’t have what it takes. Of course she does. And you do too.

What we all need are powerful stories. The story that has us live an empowered reality. Not the story I was telling myself in that moment of doubt and criticism, but the story that creates the reality of success.

Because it’s always the story that makes the difference. You can earn a fortune and still feel a failure. And you can struggle in so many ways, yet feel like life is just one success after another.

It’s all about the story.

So, what story are you telling today?

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