05 – The Success in Failure


I couldn’t disagree more with the definition above.

The word success comes from succedere, which means to come after.

Success comes after failure. Success happens because of failure.

Humans build physical strength by introducing load that creates micro-tears in the muscle. The body rebuilds those fibers to be stronger.

Similarly, couldn’t micro-failures eventually lead to a stronger ability to succeed?


“I learned how not to climb the first four times I tried to summit Everest.” – Peter Athans

Peter Athans has an awesome nickname. Mr. Everest.

Summit attempt in 1985. Fail.

Summit attempt in 1986. Fail.

Summit attempt in 1987. Fail.

Summit attempt in 1989. Fail.

His attempts were the process of his success. He reached the summit in 1990.

There are many examples of failure that paved the way to success …

Walt Disney lacked imagination according to one of his bosses.

Steve Jobs was yanked out of Apple at 30 years old.

Stephen King had to stomach 30 rejections of his first book.

Steven Spielberg was not accepted to the film school at University of Southern Cal.

Sir James Dyson built 5,126 unsuccessful prototypes before releasing the Dyson vacuum.

MERU – An Amazing Example of Success Because of Failure.

Cornerstone Records – Case Study

So, I was in my early twenties …

The world survived the chance that computers may explode while trying to distinguish between 1900 and 2000. The economy took some heavy lumps based on the speculation of the Internet’s effect on business and lifestyle.

Cell phones looked like this:

phones in 2000

I was transitioning from Keg Cooler Scrubbing Vampire to Inside Sales Representative.

It was the perfect time to chase down a new idea.

Cornerstone Records was my first business failure.

Little did I know, this micro-failure would lead me down the path to Tunewelders.

My friend Matt and I played in bands together growing up in Simsbury, CT. We both loved music. We wanted to find a way to put that to work for us in the form of a business. I remember how excited I was to find an opportunity to create a business based on something that I loved.

At the time, we both had full time jobs that were mildly fulfilling, but we knew something was missing. With the time we had left over in our days, we began pouring over decisions and started to build the company.

Our to-do list looked something like this:

What are we going to call the business?

How are we going to organize?

What is the difference between an LLC and an S-Corp?

We needed a big PO Box to receive all the checks we were going to get.

What about a logo?

What are the best options for a bank account?

Most importantly, our titles. We had to have prominent titles, right?

We needed business cards on heavy stock paper so people would take us seriously.

We neglected to focus on the most important questions of all.

  1. What are we offering?
  2. Who are our clients? 
  3. How do we execute?
  4. How will our business make money?
  5. What is a win?

I was so wrapped up in the easy tasks because I didn’t want to spend time on the hard tasks. Why? Because easy work is easy and hard work is hard.

We liked the idea of what Cornerstone Records could be, but we really didn’t know how to get there. After a few months of floundering with part-time focus and effort, we ended up abandoning the concept. The great thing is that Matt and I later came back together to start Tunewelders with our other partner Ben.

RIP Cornerstone Records.

My takeaways:

  1. Spend your time on the hard stuff.
  2. It can be a hobby or a business. Not both.

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

Failure is not the end result, but rather a mere waypoint on the flight path.

Embrace failure as gaining the knowledge you need to succeed. Failure creates learning opportunities, pivot points, new relationships and fresh perspectives. How do you know if something is going to work unless you try? The common theme between any type of failure is that something was attempted or created.

I’d love to hear your micro-failure stories and how they’ve made you stronger.

Please post them in the comments section.

The most harmful type of failure is doing nothing.


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