You can jump even higher than you think. But you may have to take a few steps back first.
Last year I made the hard decision to walk away from a business I loved and had helped create. On the day I chose to leave, someone posted this picture and quote on LinkedIn:
It is a quote from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the well-known scientist, writer and educator who served as President of India from 2002-2007. I liked it so much that I copied it into an email and immediately sent it to myself. I needed a reminder to look at my “end” not as an epic fail, but as a F.A.I.L. – a “First Attempt in Learning.” I needed a reminder that E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies” and N.O. means “Next Opportunity.”
So for the last few months, I’ve begun getting ready for my “next opportunity.” Here’s how I’ve been doing it: I stopped and regrouped. Then I took a step back and started again.
Stop and regroup
After a F.A.I.L., it’s important to refocus and re-center before you keep moving forward. For me, that has meant getting my feet under me financially again. But it’s also meant regaining my focus: Committing to not giving up, remembering why I believe certain kinds of businesses are so important for the future, and keeping the door firmly open to the next opportunity to build an exciting, purpose-filled business that will help usher in that future.
I moved away from something that didn’t feel right; now I will focus on moving toward what does feel right. Trusting my gut. That is hard for me – I’m more of a thinking person. But I’m learning.
As I regroup, I’ve got a sense that – even though I may have missed the last hurdle – this is a process of taking a step back to jump an even higher hurdle in front of me to even greater success in the future.
Step back and start again
You don’t just regroup after a F.A.I.L; you also take a step back. For me, that has meant deciphering what it is I learned through my first attempt at building a business. I’ve been looking at the things I did really well, and I’ve been looking at mistakes I made.
Here’s what I’ve learned I’m really good at:
- Formulating a valuable business idea
- “Crafting” that idea through market analysis
- Developing the entire business plan
- Communicating the idea to others
- Forming the company
- Identifying opportunities
- Negotiating business partner agreements
These are strengths I’ve found in myself that I’ll bring again to my Next Opportunity.
Here are mistakes I think I made:
- I didn’t insist that all business operating agreements be signed before moving forward.
- I didn’t have agreement with my partners on what collaboration means and what it would look like for us. Collaboration should mean there is a “felt experience of mutual caring about achieving each other’s goals” (Stephen Willis, PhD).
- I wasn’t clear about each of my business partners’ goals. Were our objectives really the same at the outset, or not?
- I wasn’t clear about whether founding partners were willing to put the company and team ahead of themselves.
My biggest mistake was to focus on the “doing,” without making sure the “being” was all in place first. I ASSUMED it was in place based on all the talking and building that had been done – honesty, integrity, shared goals, true collaboration, same vision, same values. I didn’t make sure.
What would I do differently next time? I’m still working that out. It is going to be a matter of being willing to have those deep conversations to confirm understanding, agreement, and alignment (or not). It would be nice to not make the same mistakes on the Next Opportunity. It would be nice, having taken these few steps back, to be able to jump even higher.