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Turning epic fails into memorable tales
As solopreneurs, our failures can benefit us in a variety of ways. Here’s how my rookie epic fail is now a comical tale.
Have you ever been in a situation that was so ridiculously bad that a tiny voice inside whispered, “This will make a great story someday.”
My husband and I spent last week in Washington, DC, and New York City. We joined another couple from Seattle on a trip that had been planned for nearly a year.
Up until our last day in New York, everything was going smoothly. Did you hear about last week’s historic rainfall and flooding? Yeah, we were in that mess.
For those who don’t know, here are a few of the single-day rainfall totals by early evening:
Yep, it was a lot of rain—in a very short period.
The blustery downpour meant a $100 Uber ride to cross Manhattan, with damp clothing and horn-honking drivers. When we arrived at the Met Museum, we discovered that their computer and ticketing systems were down. Everyone was allowed to enter at no charge, which heightened the mayhem.
The storm shut down portions of the museum, resulting in serpentine treks over multiple floors to find an exhibit. One restaurant was closed; the other had a 90-minute line. The building hummed with crowded chaos.
The rain lightened in the afternoon, so we chanced the subway to return downtown. My eyes stayed glued to the electronic train arrival board on the steamy platform. It would read, “Next train, 7 minutes,” then I would blink, and it would say, “Next train, 26 minutes.” After 48 minutes, we boarded a train filled with wet, grumpy riders.
From one perspective, the weather created a massive fail. Yet amid the soggy frustration, I could still hear that voice: “This will make a great story someday.”
Ask a solopreneur about their successes, and it will likely be a short conversation. Ask about their mistakes, and they can go on for hours.
Why is the balance so skewed toward the stories of failure? I believe it’s because most solopreneurs have big visions. They’re considering the gap between their attempts and what they want to achieve.
Furthermore, they recognize that the it-was-easy stories are less compelling than the I-gritted-it-out-and-made-it-happen accounts.
An 800 number gone wrong
My epic fail as a rookie solopreneur was a toll-free 800 number I invested in to promote my first book, Working Solo. It was a vanity number that redirected to my office phone and was very useful in my radio and television promotions.
After a few years of using the line, I switched phone providers. I failed to realize that I also had to claim and re-route the 800 number with the new provider. Unbeknownst to me, my phone number had been given to another company.
A few weeks after the switch, I was mortified to discover that my toll-free number had been assigned to a phone s-x service. Instead of reaching my office, callers would hear breathy eroticism. (Even after all these years, I still cringe as I laugh.) I scrambled to remove the number from my website and marketing materials. Hundreds of promotional tote bags hit the dumpster.
It was a painful and costly mistake. And now, a memorable story.
Keep the story perspective
As solopreneurs, we know that stumbles and failures are part of the journey. They teach us valuable lessons. We course-correct. We pick ourselves up and move on.
Emotionally, however, it’s not easy being in the thick of a fail, whether minor or epic. The embarrassing, painful, and costly consequences can wear us down.
So the next time you face the frustration of failure, listen for that small voice that says, “This will make a great story someday.”
It may take some of the sting out of the loss.
Because epic failures provide material for epic stories.