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I sold books door-to-door.Yep. Needless to say, it was a rough job. Not only was I selling ancient encyclopedias over a decade after online research became the norm, but I was also knocking on people’s home doors to do it. Sometimes I knocked, a person answered and they actually spoke to me. And on very rare occasions, they’d get out their checkbook and make a purchase.
Somewhere inside the whirling emotions of failure, it became clear that failure vs. success is a numbers game. It was by no means the norm, but a sale was inevitable. The more doors I knocked on, the closer I got to the next sale. But let’s not kid ourselves. The inevitable sale was not always the glowing focus that kept all other worries at bay. The numbers game can be easy to lose sight of when you’re tired, distraught, and haven’t tasted success in a long while. In the book world, each day was tough. I could say I was always positive and the “no’s” just bounced right off, but then I’d be a liar, wouldn’t I? Selling books was the first time in my life where people automatically distrusted me, and in some cases even feared me. It was such a bizarre roll to be in as a 20-something-year-old female college student walking around the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Rapid glances between curtains, dogs let loose to chase me away, and calls to the police were just a few parts of my glamorous book selling life.
So when a grueling eight hour day went by without a single sale, it was to say the least, discouraging. On the instances when multiple days went by without a sale it was borderline maddening. The idea of the numbers game became blurry. It was like with each failure I took a step away from the game until it was so small I could no longer bring it into focus. So I got a sheet of paper and I tallied. I marked every failure clearly with a tick. I added each failure up, knowing that they would eventually add up to a sale.
I realized that with every ‘x’ amount of failures, I had one success. The slammed doors, the looks of disdain, and the outright “no’s” were merely stepping stones. I coached myself not to dwell on the failures because they weren’t failures at all. They were just part of getting to the next success. This is what I like to call, learning how to fail. What’s the fastest way to learn how to do something? Repetition. I learned how to fail in that job very quickly because I “failed” over and over again. The thing is, staying positive and working toward your goals is tough.
Maybe you can’t exactly relate to selling books door-to-door, but whatever situation you are in, you must learn how to turn failures into stepping stones. Otherwise your next failure might land you in a dark pool of doubt, discouragement, and worry with little hope of finding the surface. Currently in the startup world, I’m happy to say I don’t have that strange feeling that the person standing next to me is physically afraid of me, but I do have the occasionally debilitating thought that I was not cut out for this world of creative, intelligent, and determined people. I slip into thoughts of being an imposter pretending that I have a brilliant idea that’s going to change the world… But then I have a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur and I am reminded that we face a lot of the same struggles. They too have had to muster the courage to keep moving from stone to stone.
Learning how to fail completely changes the game. Learn it and love it because failure vs. success is a numbers game that you can always win. You will fail. We all will. But you will never be a failure if you get up and go again. Successes are inevitable, you just have to be willing to reach out and knock.