Some call it, failure porn. The proliferation of failure-to-success stories and the overwhelming desire to write about it. As if failing was another life experience that only caused a brief pause in your life before you bounced back wealthier than before.
Much less is written about those that struggle and may not bounce back.
There’s a side to failure that remains relatively silent. I’ve written about it before. Before it happened to me.
It’s the side that can’t look past the after-effects of failure and move on.
The side that is unable to get up in the morning and just “do it.”
And the side that often hides behind a false front that “all is okay” but is actually crumbling on the inside.
It’s the crumbling that’s scary. It sneaks up on you.
You think you’re managing the situation just fine and then one day you’re swallowed up and drowning.
I’ve always been a firm believer in attracting what you think and dream about. It has been the primary reason I’ve succeeded in many things and overcome failures in others. I consider myself well-read in the writings of John Maxwell, Earl Nightingale, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Bob Proctor and others.
But I never faced a tsunami failure until this year.
The experience has taught me that there is no safe harbor when failure approaches. And, when it does hit, we will all find ourselves in the tsunami danger zone.
For some, practicing affirmations, catching negative thought patterns and turning them positive keeps them out of real danger. For others, nothing seems to slow the approaching wave.
The tide keeps rising and the waves get higher until you’re choking on water. You thought you were treading water and keeping your head above the surface. You considered yourself a good swimmer. You were able to swim away in past storms, but for whatever reason that you don’t understand, you can’t this time.
And, then all the other bad stuff that you were afraid might happen does and it all washes over you and you drown.
The heart of my story is probably not much different than others. I had lost my financial footing. Financial security washed away. Gone were the rewards gathered through a career in orthopedic surgical devices as an inventor, a founder, and CEO of several startups.
How did it happen?
I tried making up the cash lost through a divorce with one last hurrah in the startup world. But after pushing a round peg into a square hole for four years, I went under.
There was no doubt that I felt overwhelming embarrassment with the idea of facing investors and peers knowing that I failed.
I slipped under the surface and sunk into depression laced with paranoia. I perceived that no one wanted to associate with a loser.
I perceived that others saw an idiot who failed to proactively plan and accept things early on for what they were.
Increasing negative thought patterns sent me spiraling downward faster and faster. I couldn’t stop it. Reciting affirmations were useless. I didn’t believe any of it.
My planning for the future turned toward running and getting off the grid, and scattered thoughts of suicide.
Several longtime and long distance friends recognized through their phone calls that I wasn’t right. They reminded me how I pulled through difficult situations in the past. They said that they never knew anyone with my “survivor DNA.”
I saw no way out. I owed too much money to too many people.
I lost interest in everything. Posting blog articles? No motivation. Reading? Couldn’t stay focused. Mail piled up on the desk. Unopened bills and overdraft notices. Who cared? Not me.
I spent a lot of time in the world of the “should have.” I replayed all things that I should have done so that I wouldn’t have ended up where I was.
I replayed Bruce Springsteen’s The Wrestler a thousand times. I was that one-armed man punching at nothing but the breeze.
One afternoon, I found myself standing on an overpass looking down at an expressway of traffic.
People died this way, I thought. They jumped.
Then I realized that I’d never heard of anyone throwing himself over a bypass into oncoming traffic as a way to end it all. The stupidity of the thought was a jolt. I walked away.
As I walked home, I came to the conclusion that the one-legged man had enough.
It happened just like that.
Being the Wrestler was a role I no longer wanted. I felt a sigh of relief. It was over.
Finding my way back.
Being hungry and not being able to walk into McDonald’s.
Drinking a cup of free water while sitting at an outside table at Whole Foods next to a homeless man sitting at another doing the same thing.
Not knowing how you’re going to get to your feet and stand on your own once again.
That’s tsunami failure.
The only way out is to do these four things:
- You need to accept the situation you’re in.
- You must realize that only you can bring yourself back.
- You must express gratitude for the good that shows up each day.
- You must take care of your mind.
Springsteen sings in the Wrestler: My only faith’s in the broken bones and bruises I display. That’s about the lowest point anyone could possibly fall.
You need to accept the fact that you are at your own rock bottom. Once you do, only then will you have something to push off from and rise to the surface.
Acceptance is realizing that your current situation happened because of actions and events that occurred yesterday or months and years ago.
The storm in which you find yourself happened TO you. It didn’t happen because of who you are. Nothing can wash away character and integrity.
You were not created to exist at rock bottom. Events pushed you into the storm. You didn’t ask for it. Your life wasn’t always that way. So, why keep drowning yourself in it?
Move past the “should have” frame of mind.
Yes, you may have made bad decisions. There were also unforeseen events.
It’s time to accept the facts.
You are where you are no matter how it happened. Belaboring all the why’s won’t change anything.
It’s time move on. It’s time to change. It’s time to make it what you want.
It’s only you
Others can offer moral support. Financial support. A place to live and food on the table. But it’s you who needs to put change into action.
You can either keep depending on others for first aid and turn yourself into a victim, or, you can fight to get to the surface to be free.
No one can change what happened. It’s done.
Change is not easy. The experience is a roller coaster ride of steep ups and deep dives and then back up again.
The change will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
Bad karma will encroach. It will come from those around you. From those who judge based on how much money you made and lost. What little fun you now bring into their life with no money.
From those who are embarrassed to associate with a someone who failed…someone who lost it all. Someone who sat next to the homeless and drank free water.
All of this will happen and from the people you least suspect.
Ignore it. Walk away from pessimism. Don’t associate with those who are cynics, liers, untrustworthy, or dishonest. Don’t listen. IGNORE.
Focus on the direction that YOU need and want to go.
You can’t worry if others are running alongside you or what they think about you.
It’s only about you.
Make it only about you.
It’s about what you think.
A vital staple in creating change is gratitude.
At one time, I expressed gratitude every day. But I lost the ability to practice it as the storm approached. And, with it, all things positive disappeared and nothing showed up to replace it except the bad.
The expression of gratitude attracts good things and that hard-to-describe string of synchronicity which allows coincidences to blossom.
So be thankful for anything good that happens each day. At night, review the day and think about that one person you met with whom you felt a connection, that one person who smiled and asked how your day was going. The phone call from a son, daughter or close friend.
The more thankful you become, more things will show up to be thankful about.
Feeding your mind
A healthy mind is critical or else you will keep floundering. Without it, you will only have the ability to temporarily rise from the bottom before sinking once again.
The combined experience of realizing that only you can change yourself through acceptance and gratitude opens your mind. When it’s open, it’s vital to feed it with the right food.
A mind fed through meditation, prayer, affirmations, and positive actions will develop a mindset that will lift you to the surface.
I think of mindset as a small stone of arrogance that you carry in your pocket.
A stone that needs to be protected.
Mindset is chutzpah.
It’s what once drove me over the top when others said there was little chance of ever getting there.
Finding chutzpah takes focus, discipline, and hard work.
Chutzpah takes you from the rocky bottom to the smooth surface.
Chutzpah doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s not getting out of bed one morning, finding it, and suddenly you’re moving like a stormtrooper taking out the enemy.
The hardest part to finding chutzpah is sticking to the process.
The process of acceptance, continual gratitude, and feeding your mind.
In the beginning, my meditative focus only lasted seconds before being interrupted with a negative thought pattern. Fighting for focus was like a tug of war.
I prayed often. I listened to Doreen Virtue’s angel meditations. I replayed Wayne Dyer audiobooks. I read Bible passages. I watched The Secret on Amazon multiple times. I used James Altucher’s advice of writing down ten new ideas to pursue each day.
I stayed in touch with my writing group at Jeff Goins Tribe Writers. I may not have been posting articles, but I journaled my thoughts on a daily basis.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I forced myself to engage with strangers when I was out walking. I smiled in Caribou Coffee and struck up conversations.
Then a friend had an idea for a career in real estate. She convinced me and I embraced it. I had a plan.
And that’s when I knew for sure that I was no longer playing the victim. I stopped playing the Wrestler role. I could listen to the song and know that I was no longer him. I had left it behind.
The real estate plan was dotted with roadblocks.
Paying for the mandatory real estate pre-licensing course, transportation to class, paying for the state exams, and finally, finding a car for the one I lost. After all, I couldn’t sell real estate on a skateboard. There were also required licensing fees and monthly fees to the real estate firm.
Through the practice of meditation and affirmations, I fell back on my previous experiences when I did overcome the odds.
I remembered the determination and discipline, and it provided the confidence that I could do it again.
As for the roadblocks, I focused on them one at a time. Once I got through one, I’d focus on the next. I would do everything I could not to look beyond what was in front of me.
Amazing things happened. Others reached out and helped as I eliminated one roadblock at a time.
I came to know this:
If you believe, then the how will show up.
So, am I a million dollar real estate agent?
Am I achieving my goal for the desired lifestyle of getting paid for writing?
No. They are still developing opportunities to fulfill. It’s also daily battle to keep that stone in my pocket.
In real estate, I’m focused on building referrals. I began with five friends in Raleigh (okay — maybe seven) and fourteen Facebook friends (mostly from the Philadelphia area). I work at it every day.
I’m back to writing for free (with this blog) and I’m back to revising my finished novel (the first in a series of psycho/crime novels) and outlining a nonfiction book regarding my relationship with my dead parents.
Where do I find the time? How am I doing it?
All it takes is a pebble of chutzpah. Now, go find yours and hold it tight.
Thanks for reading!
This post is dedicated to Matt Berman, Jody Sherman, Austen Heinz, Aaron Swartz, Faigy Mayer, Ovik Banerjee, Ilya Zhitomirskiy and all the others who gave up on life in the silence of failure.
About The Author
I’m a writer, entrepreneur, and survivor. I share my experiences and discuss how to battle the odds and keep coming back. Don’t let fear and anxiety control your decisions in life.
CLICK SUBSCRIBE to receive my articles in your email.