Learning from Failure

I have failed!

I have failed in marriage, in my judgment, in business, and many other areas. I also have had those dark nights of the soul, wondering if I could do anything right. All I could do was to keep on going. But I have learned much from failure.

What I Have Learned from Failure: Tell the Truth!

The enormous social pressure to look successful leads many of us to pretend how successful we are in areas of life. People sometimes pretend how great their lives are, sometimes how great their personal relationships are, and sometimes how great their finances are. But everybody fails! Frankly, everybody fails a multitude of times in their life.

The more you can tell the truth about your failures, the more power you will have to get to the other side of them. The quicker you can face the demons that arise, the quicker you can move on.

The Power of Being Unstoppable!

Thomas Edison attempted over 8,000 experiments before he successfully invented the incandescent light bulb. But he didn’t stop. He went on to invent the phonograph and the first working motion picture camera. “By the time he died on October 18, 1931, Thomas Edison had amassed a record 1,093 patents: 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries, and 34 for the telephone” (Source: History.com).

George Ablah of Wichita, Kansas, failed several times in his real estate investing career. Yes, he failed, but that didn’t stop him. After one failure, he went on to buy Chrysler Realty along with his investor, Koch Oil, led by Charles Koch. They made over $100 million on that one deal! Later, he and his investors bought the real estate around the Texas Super-collider. It had lain vacant since being abandoned by the Federal government and then transferred to the State of Texas. He and his investors quickly turned that into a $7 million cash profit through creative marketing. George didn’t let failure slow him down. He just found another deal to do.

The Value of Extreme Due Diligence

I’ve learned due diligence the hard way. I bought a large property with seller financing once. The seller pledged the notes to three different lenders (two of the notes were photocopies he made). After declaring bankruptcy, he later killed himself. So, I added having any seller financing documents held by a neutral third party. At least then the photocopies wouldn’t be on me.

I had a partner who was literally crazy. He lied to subcontractors to start a project before we were able to secure a loan for the project. Therefore, there was not a “No Start” affidavit possible to obtain the mortgagee’s title report or the mortgage itself. He told us God told him to lie to people. Did I say he was crazy? So, I added partner background checks to my due diligence list.

I started with great due diligence checklists from others and have added the rest from my experience and the experience of others. You can learn it the easier way by listening to those with more experience than the textbook checklists show. But, be clear, there is no completely easy way. There will be due diligence surprises that we haven’t come up against. When you come up against them, add them to your own due diligence list.

The Power of Relationships!

It was in my darkest hours that the support from my friends and colleagues pulled me through my problems.  People supported my starting over again.

And then there are the failures of the body. When I had cancer, my colleagues and their partners reached out to offer their prayers and best wishes. When a skull injury left me with the most terrible headaches 24 hours a day, other people stepped up to complete projects for me. When one of our S.E.C. members had a heart attack, two other members flew in to run his business for two months while he recovered. Again, the power of relationships!  Relationships are the real currency of life!

Don’t be discouraged by your failures. The truth is, everybody fails. Tell the truth! Learn from your failures! Be unstoppable! Do your homework . . . and then some! And build relationships that last!


  1. Very good and important thoughts!

  2. Chuck,

    So enjoyed your article-Ain’t it the truth!

  3. Chuck,

    Thanks for the great article. You never fail to inspire by your example and your seemingly indefatigable courage. I’ve had the privilege of knowing you through many of the trials you mention and have always been impressed by your ability to persevere with grace under fire!


  4. Hi Chuck! I miss you guys! 🙂 Thank you for showing vulnerability in order to help others. I can relate to your article and have to chuckle about the “crazy” guy because, yes they are out there.

  5. Chuck: Not only is it hard to accept our failures, but it is more difficult to share them with others. It takes great courage and strength to reveal our own mistakes as you have done. This is the highest form of helping others.I have taken a keen interest in “failures” as a prerequisite for success. As you point out the only true failure is not picking yourself up when knocked down and charging forward with belief in yourself and a little help from friends. Great commentary.