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How Failure Leads To Our Greatest Successes

Co-written with Samantha Skelly.

Let’s get something straight right away. No, we aren’t Oprah and Bill Gates. Neither of us can count to the number that Warren Buffet has in his bank account, and we haven’t climbed Everest or seen all of the Wonders of the World. Like you though, we have had our successes, and regardless of what they are, we are proud of them.

After a long conversation last week, we discovered that our greatest successes didn’t come because we knew exactly what we were doing, but because life corrected us along the way. We learned (and continue to learn) the hard way about hiring people, about telling our story, about providing value, and learning about who we are. What we learned throughout the conversation though, is that our successes came from our failures.

They have to, right?

Think of this. If we are to try something, fail, and keep moving forward, instead of calling it failing, we should be calling it what it is: learning.

Because the truth is, the only time we fail permanently is when we we fail to keep failing.

Let me try that again. The only time we fail permanently is the time we accept failure and stop there. If we learn from our failure and keep moving forward, we will eventually succeed.

We have to.

And so as we carried on with our conversation, we made a game out of our failures. Our goal was to see how we out-failed each other, understand what it was that we learned from it, and share with the other person what the next steps we took were.

What we found is that we are where we are because of the mistakes we made before the success we have.

For us, this was profound. This sparked a whole new energy.

The next question we asked was whether this was reality for all people, or if we just had this in common. Thinking hard about the world we live and grew up in, it was our elementary school spelling tests that provided the perfect example.

Consider this: If that spelling test you took waaaaay back in grade 1 was out of 20 and you got 17, technically you failed on three of the questions and succeeded on the others. If the corrections you made after learning from those mistakes allowed you to do better next time, well, we call that learning. Nothing new here.

Think too, of the greatest entrepreneur you know. How many prototypes did it take to get them where they are today? How many iterations of the same product were required to get it to where it is today? How many nights in their (insert family or friend here)’s basement did it take before they finally ‘made it’.

In every case, the answer is a lot. It has to be. We’re learning and doing the things we do for the first time. We can’t expect perfection.

And so, as we venture through life turning over every stone we can along the way for the very first time, consider the mistakes we make to be lessons, and not failures. Because those who fail to take the test and learn from the mistakes don’t graduate with top marks.

Chase failure knowing that it's going to lead to your greatest success yet.

It has to.

You’ll be learning too much for it not to.

How the Postcard Effect Changed Everything for Me

We all have that friend that recently went to *insert beautiful destination here*, right? You know, that one that just got back from Rome and that THE BEST time? Or how about the one that just got back from the Gold Coast of Australia with that nice tan while you and I were at home, working away? We’ve all been there, I know.

But what if that experience wasn’t all that the postcard said it was?

I’ve got a story.

A few weeks ago I got a postcard form a good friend who went to Thailand. Yes, you already know that the postcard had a long-tail boat docked on a beautiful sandy beach with clear blue skies. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, nothing new here.

I was jealous. I just had a long day at work, got home late, and really wasn’t feeling well. I opened my mailbox and there it was. The postcard (what was this, 1995?!). I was so happy for my friend, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for myself.

And so as I went to sleep, I thought of my friend running down the beach with Chariots of Fire playing in the background and the scene shot in slow motion. No, a tear didn’t roll down my cheek, and yes, I’m being dramatic, but I think it is safe to say we’ve all been staring at the ceiling thinking the same thing before.

But recently that friend got back and we met up for a drink. When I asked about the trip, I found out something a little shocking. While away, my friend experienced many days of rain, the hotel they had booked was overbooked and they stayed in a hostel, and the bus they took into town got a flat. Truthfully, he said, the trip wasn’t that great. Sure, they made the best of it, but it certainly wasn’t the picture I had drawn up in my head.

And that was how the Postcard Effect was born.

Consider this: many things we experience in the day are what people want us to think they are, and not an accurate reflection of the experience or person being described.

Think of that Facebook profile that doesn’t represent your friend (or your life). That’s your postcard.

Think of that dating site that tricked you into thinking you were going onto a date with that beautiful person that just, well, wasn’t. That was their postcard.

Think of that job you may have had that really was nothing like the job description said it was going to be like. That was that company’s postcard.

Think of that ad you saw for your favourite burger that you know you should avoid but got anyways only to see a sad pile of food that looks nothing like the picture. That was the postcard.

And so when I’m looking around and seeing various profiles, accounts, advertisements, and job descriptions, I learned to understand that things aren’t always as they seem. We’ve all become good storytellers and in a world that is more competitive than ever before, where more information is present and easier to access, perhaps our not-so-representative postcards getting more and more misleading.

The One Secret to Happiness According to Mega-Successful Millennials

Like everyone else, I’m caught up in the pursuit of happiness.

Each day I’m working hard to be successful, to be able to sustain a life that allows me to have and do the things that make me happy, and to be surrounded by people that challenge, inspire, and make me better.

So, as I search for happiness, I wanted to ask 11 of my friends who I feel are the epitomes of success what they feel is the one thing their work has to have if they are to be successful and happy.

But before I get to that, there are a few things I've learned that need to be shared.

  • Success is relative. For some, success might be measured by dollars and cents. For others, it might be about material accumulation. Others might value education, title, or freedom. In my experience, it doesn’t matter what success means to you, as long as you’re sure of what it is that makes you happy.
  • The people that I talked to are all considered successful, but none of them people are bankers, lawyers or doctors. This suggests that the definition of success might need a tweak.
  • None of these people are coasting. They aren’t pursuing an impulse or blindly following a dream or passion, they’re hungry for something much bigger.

So what is it that we (yes, I’m hungry for the same thing) have in common?

I talked to 11 successful millennials that contribute to Influencive, Forbes, Inc, Mogul, Entrepreneur Mag, HuffPost, Time and others.

All of them felt a sense of purpose in the work they're doing.

Here is what they had to say:

Before founding Influencive, Brian D. Evanswas chasing money. But he soon realized that there was no ceiling to money, and that he wouldn’t feel fulfilled. Now that he has shifted from money to people, he finds happiness through the work of Influencive and in inspiring people.

Clinton Senkowis finding purpose in enlightening people and providing value to them. He finds happiness because people are reaching out to say that they are inspired. What he gets to work on is a lot bigger than himself as he gets validated by providing a platform for others to think big and get through tough times.

Nicolas Cole left his 9-5 at an incredible think tank so he could choose his team, learn, and grow. He now helps people work on personal branding and to be the best they can be.

Stephanie Slatt started Speshio knowing that she could build something that has major impact. She brings people together to build community and support groups.

Jeremy Slate had a masters but—in his own words—lived a life without purpose before helping other people become successful. He isn’t threatened by their success. He’s fueled by it and lives a happy life as a result.

Jules Schroeder saw a gap in what people were needing and started to tell stories to show examples of what a new standard can be. She is being pulled (not pushed) to what excites her most and is listening and feeling for her ‘hell yes’. This came from her ability to listen to herself and from understanding how to find that positive action.

Jose Rosado used to work for a big company remotely for four years. He then started his podcast helping and influencing others and finds happiness through the life he gets to live, not has to live.

Kale Panoho was doing the right things for the wrong reasons and felt lost as a result. Now he is helping people set concrete paths to help them find their individual success. He finds happiness because he has facilitated and enabled that discovery.

Erika De La Cruz purpose came from reverse engineering her career. She wanted to make impact and her brand came as a result. Her purpose is to bring women together to tell stories through her brand, Passionista. Through what she does, Erika finds happiness first, and everything else follows.

Jonathan Maxim shares fitness motivation on a grand scale without limitations. He can change lives through the development of his app and finds happiness knowing that he gets people out of a state of ‘idle’.

Sam Sawchuk’s purpose always comes back to the people he is trying to empower. When he connects a face, a personality, and a smile to a person, it brings it back to a human level. It is important to find something about a person that you can relate to. Empathy through familiarity is what gives Sam a sense of happiness in his work.

Building a sense of purpose in the work we are doing is a top priority.

It has to be at the core of the work we are doing, and it has to mean something to us. Perhaps that is the key.

See, purpose can be found in so many places. For instance, we can be selling TV’s and know that our sale enables tears of laughter as a family gathers around it to watch their favorite movie together.

We could be building an app, manufacturing a t-shirt, shooting a basketball, selling insurance, or plumbing, and if we feel that it has purpose and impact, then it doesn’t matter what it is we do, right?

And so why is it that we depend so heavily on the societal definition of success when these incredibly successful people have (and will continue) to prove that success looks like many, many different professions and bank account sizes.

Success is bigger. Happiness can come from so many places if we feel connected to the work we do. If we feel purpose.

And so moving forward, I’m going to continue to find purpose in my work as the founder of DRYVER, and also as an international speaker and author. I'm going to realize that my path is my own and through the purpose of the work I'm doing, I couldn’t be happier.

I hope you can find the same happiness and success we have, whatever that looks like to you.

And hey, keep in touch. I find happiness in hearing from you.

Eric Termuende (@termuende)

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