Fear and Failure

At the recent S.E.C. Cincinnati Marketing Meeting in May, I was honored to be on a panel discussion with Mr. Steve Barker and Ms. Vicki Yeomans.

The question, “What advice would you give to the 25-year-old you?” was posed to me. The three of us could have each spent all day articulating our thoughts, but the greatest answer expounded by all three was the theme of pressing past fear and overcoming failure.

Embracing fear and failures leads to growth.

Many years ago, as an athlete, my theme song had the following lyrics: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” The lyrics, combined with the shared advice to continuously push past fear and failure, are more relevant now than ever. Over the past 18 months, we have persevered through a deadly virus, economic and physical lockdown, death, cessation of landlords’ rights, political turmoil, mass riots and civil unrest, rocketing construction costs, and more. How much more can we take? How many additional unknowns are we to be encumbered to solve? No one knows.

I do know that the SEC is composed of smart, ethical, capable, proven opportunists who have made great wealth-solving problems. To be clear, often I do not want to solve yet another problem. Yet, here I stand. Here we all stand. In the meeting room, and, one on one, we define the problem, develop solutions, and create value.

We are close to the finish line in this unique chapter of our economic history, and we are not quite through it. With cautious optimism, fortitude, selectivity, and skill, we can be what the SEC aspires: ethical problem solvers who create prosperity, get deals done, and help others.

To solve problems, overcome fear, and learn from our failures, we need the following:

  1. Time
  2. The wisdom shared by others
  3. Loss of ego to accurately analyze failures and improve
  4. The ability to access equity and debt when the solution from problem to opportunity is found
  5. Fortitude

Time is our most precious of commodities, especially now when our skills are needed the most. We should choose our time wisely as we press on through these tumultuous times, overcoming fear and growing from failure. Crafting time-saving tools—and often saying no—are key to being efficient with our precious nonrenewable resource of time. Tackling the “big frog” first during the day, versus email, TV, and so on, is critical to accomplishing the most with our scarce time resources.

Wisdom shared by others requires understanding the problem and asking quality questions. The saying, “If you want a better answer, ask a better question” resounds true when asking others to invest their time and wisdom with you. What can you answer on your own before capitalizing on the wisdom of others? What are you offering in exchange? Do not waste the time of others! Much of the wisdom you can garner is available instantly online. Invest your time to learn and increase your own wisdom.

Loss of ego is essential to learning from failure. We often use the easier method of regurgitating past stories alongside finger pointing of others to keep the more painful and more accurate analysis at arms-length. Reflection of our failures is where we learn and improve. Free after-action report forms can be found online to help guide this exercise of learning from failure. Failing is fine when it pushes growth and learning. Fear will encompass you with the pain of your failure. Learning and knowing what to do different the next time will override the fear caused from failure. Driving forward, after failure, will separate you from the rest who succumb and choose another path—a path perhaps not as painful and also not as rewarding. When you fail, shout “Thank you!” and improve.

The ability to access debt and equity is critical at all times. Not having a track record, not having your own capital (and similar stories) are excuses. If the deal is good enough, you will have the capital. If you press on and can describe what you learned from your failures, all the better as you will be an improved custodian of the equity and debt. When others fail and feel fear, you have opportunity! As always, compromising your value, integrity, and ethics (VIE) are scars you will not easily overcome when soliciting debt and equity. You can fail and overcome fear while not compromising your VIE.

Fortitude is essential for overcoming fear and failure. Real estate is fraught with challenges, and it is worth it. You will have battles you win and those you lose. Do not relent. You are stronger than you think you are. When you believe you have no more capacity for additional failure, consider these words: “Understand that the enemy always fights the hardest when he knows you are closest to your breakthrough. He’d leave you alone if he thought you were going to live in mediocrity. If you keep pressing on toward your promise, through faith and patience, you will get there.” – Joel Osteen.

There is something else I would tell the 25-year-old me, something we all need to remind ourselves: have fun and enjoy the ride. We are entrepreneurs—fruitful, challenging, exciting, terrifying, and often on a very lonely path. Do not lose sight of tomorrow and remember to just have some fun!

I wish us all many failures (learning opportunities) and fearful moments (risk with great reward) as we continue pushing forward, succeeding, and growing!

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