Libraries seem bigger when they’re empty.
The San Jose Public Library in northern California has big windows in their top floor, which gives a great view of the area away from downtown. Directly below was popular restaurant called Flames that was way too expensive for me.
I remember the raindrops on the window and the uncomfortable silence. The temperature was off too. A rainy day in a noisy city shouldn’t be warm and quiet, but it was.
Nothing was normal that day. I had woken up earlier than usual and stayed in bed staring at the ceiling and listening to the neighbor’s alarms go off. I didn’t want to be in San Jose. I knew I would have to spend hours searching for a place to sit, while awkwardly watching everyone else with their friends laughing about something in their cell phones. I didn’t know what my day was going to be like, but it almost always turned out extremely boring. I wanted to sleep so the day would go by faster, but even that didn’t help.
That particular day I happened to be in the library looking at a long list of orders totaling around $600 in products that I had to make and should have sent two days before. I wasn’t aware of it yet, but I was about to receive an email with a subject line saying, “Where’s my package?” in the next ten minutes and another two messages within that same hour. I had no money to invest in materials.
I was about to take the first step toward a series of hard learned lessons that would change my life forever.
One: You Make Your Own Definition of Failure.
School gives you a pretty standard definition of failure. If you don’t keep up and meet the standards, you’ll get an F and that means you failed.
I grew up thinking that this is what my life would be like, constantly being graded on what I do and disappointing people every once in a while… maybe getting an occasional “C” every once in a while, but mostly staying above average.
My idea of failure was not being able to be financially independent by the time I hit twenty two years old. After that didn’t work out, I felt that I was a failure if I didn’t receive my bachelor’s degree. Then if I didn’t have a girlfriend and have loose plans to start a family. Then if I didn’t go to grad school. That if my home-based business failed, I would be a failure.
There were many other things you probably consider would make you a failure. Things like not getting that promotion, disappointing your parents, or not having enough money to pay the bills. You know, those things you feel embarrassed to share with someone that seems to have it all together.
I failed every single thing I’ve listed so far in this blog post.
I was a failure. By all my predetermined definitions, I was not a success story.
So I gave it up.
I was done feeling like that and would take no more of it. I was going on a search to find out what I needed out of life in order to not feel that way anymore. The process wasn’t easy, but I managed to get my stuff together, leave San Jose, leave the United States and travel with no plans.
Failure started to gain a new meaning: failing means giving up. Don’t confuse my definition with not giving up on someone else’s dream for you. If that was the case, I’d still be trying hard to be an industrial engineer in an established firm, earning $70,000 per year because everyone told me to do it. I mean never stop searching for what you really want if you know that what you’re doing now isn’t it and if deep down you feel that there’s more to life than what you’re experiencing now.
Two: Plan For Larger Timeframes Other Than Just Today
They say to live for today. You read famous quotes stating that you have to enjoy the present, and you have teenagers telling you #YOLO (you only live once) as an excuse to go out and party every night or to serve as an excuse to do something majorly dumb.
Aside from things like having a savings account, or planning for retirement and other financial things and ideas about careers and stuff like that, make a commitment to your emotional stability. A person can only live under stress for so long before they start losing their hair and getting sick. Plan for something that will bring you joy a year or ten years from now.
Many people invest their time and money in improving their careers when they already hate it.
You may already be investing in things like that right now without even knowing it. Things like getting a dog or buying a Christmas tree do those things for a certain period of time. They make you feel better, but I’m thinking of something bigger. I’m talking about real change.
What I was doing wasn’t getting me any closer to what I really wanted out of life and I didn’t know it. I saw all of the signs of it and at one point considered those side effects as the main problems.
“Ugh, I can’t sleep well!”
“I can’t concentrate on this stuff!”
“I’m suddenly not interested in anything anymore.”
Those things weren’t the problems. They were the side effects of something much larger. Diet and exercise weren’t the solution, sorry guys.
Three: Never Underestimate the Importance of Getting Started
Knowledge doesn’t do much for us when we don’t take action.
After gobbling up ebook after ebook, course after course and blog post after blog post, I realized that I was just spinning my wheels and not going anywhere. A friend once saw my ebooks library and asked me if I had an online business. There’s no way anyone would read so much about a topic like that and call it a hobby, so I said I was thinking about starting one.
So I started one and failed. I didn’t plan things correctly. My first website looked like an excel file. I had no idea how to take product photos, nor how to integrate PayPal into my site.
I asked anyone who would give me the slightest amount of interest. I spoke with my professors, with blog authors, with an indian guy who was interested in a start up idea during my first day in college orientation… anyone.
The toughest thing was gaining the courage to start, the second hardest thing was accepting the idea of failures that get tangled with the process of learning.
I’m sure that I’ve embarrassed myself more times and have gotten more rejections than most people I know and now I consider it a skill that gets easier the more it happens.
Most people who come up to me to ask about starting their own business give me the same answer when I ask them “Why don’t you get started?”
It’s usually, “Well first I need to…”
And then they go about telling me an imaginary list of barriers. Some of these reasons are real and they need work, but every single excuse (yes, excuse) I’ve heard can be destroyed with a real life example of someone who succeeded with much less than what you have right now.
Redefine failure. Plan for yourself. Get started.
Thank you for reading!