How My Failure Was My Greatest Success: Guest Post by Bridgette Raes

Three years ago my business came to a crashing halt, like an 80-mph-slam-into-a- brick-wall-type halt. This is the story of how I managed to recover and see it, instead, as success.

In 2002, I threw all caution to the wind and left a successful fashion design career to start my style consulting company for women, the Bridgette Raes Style Group. Regardless of the ups and downs, my business had a steady growth and evolution to it. I maintained a consistent client base of women who hired me to help them revamp their style, booked regular speaking opportunities and started to establish myself as an expert in my field. This perfect progression evolved into the next opportunity to write a book that was released in January 2008.  That year wound up being this high-flying ride with no limits. I started doing paid television appearances as a spokesperson, my opinion (now that I had a book released) became more valuable in the media and suddenly people were seeking me out. It all seemed so blissful.

And then the economy crashed … and so did my business.

Basically, I was like a (wo)man without a country. Because I had consciously chosen to lessen the focus on my client work and more on my media endeavors, I didn’t have a strong enough foothold anywhere. Having drifted away from my client work, it was impossible to swim back to it for economic safety, not that there was much anyway; the economy affected everyone.

The next year became the darkest most dignity-crushing, depressing year of my life – but looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing. The lessons I learned about my career and myself are priceless. Here are some of the things I learned that may help you should you ever be faced with your own failure:

Patience

The best part of a failure is you’re really left with nothing after it happens. While it may sound depressing, it really is a do-over, a clean slate. You’re back at the beginning again, able to reassess your next move. However, that right next move sometimes takes time before it presents itself. When this happens, entrepreneurs feel inclined to want to make something happen, yet sometimes nothing is exactly what is needed; we need to accept that. If the next step doesn’t feel inspired or light you up, stay still. Instead of clogging the moment with action just for the sake of feeling productive, accept that sometimes the room is dark and it may take you a while to find the light switch. There is a big difference between activity and productivity. This time taught me that.

Say No

Part of the reason we become entrepreneurs is because we’re passionate about something … and then we get lost in the mire of being an entrepreneur. Suddenly we feel that in order to make money, get ahead or pay a bill we need to take on responsibilities that we don’t really want. We can easily begin to lose sight of why we started our own businesses in the first place. Certainly, there will always be tasks, duties and projects that aren’t our favorites, however, during my failure I learned that only saying yes to things that empowered me not only brought on successes but changed my attitude about myself. When you fail it is easy to personalize it. Yet, when you turn things down (even if it scares you or you feel you’re in no position to say no) you reclaim your own power and operate with a success mindset, even if that’s not how you feel at that moment. As the saying goes, “In order for great to enter, good has to stand aside.”

Learn to Measure Your Success Differently

Unfortunately, some failure in business is inevitable; but allowing yourself to feel like a failure is optional. After wallowing in my own self-pity until I was sick of myself, I picked myself up by looking at what I did have, not what I didn’t. As an entrepreneur you can’t just gauge our success on monetary gain or the success of big goals. In fact, I suggest, especially during a failure, that you put the money conversation aside entirely. I’m not saying that you skip a mortgage payment or stop paying your bills, but there is most likely a bigger reason than money that you decided to start working for yourself in the first place. It is important during a time of failure to reconnect with that. Perhaps you want to be a writer but can’t get a book deal or find a magazine that will publish your work. Yet, you became a writer because you want to write, period. During failure, pull back in the big goals and go back to the basics of why you decided to strike out on your own. If you’re a writer, write.. … I don’t care if it is in a journal. Want to be a great speaker and can’t get a big gig? Speak at your local library. The success you will feel by just doing what you love during times of setback will not only make you feel productive but will make you feel like you are moving forward.

Faith

I’m not a religious person but I am a spiritual person and my spirituality strengthened during this time of failure. When I failed, peace came when I stopped taking on the burden that wasn’t mine to take. While it may be psychological, giving away what I saw as burdens to something bigger than myself, changed in my life. This time of looking at my faith also showed me what little faith I had prior to failing. It’s not uncommon to bargain with God when we fail or to beg for the universe’s help to save us from failure because we don’t want to suffer. However, I realized that begging and bargaining is not what faith is all about. Faith is the knowing that you don’t have to beg because all is OK once you give it away; the knowing that if you let yourself fall backward someone will be there to catch you. It also teaches you to accept and trust the flow of life.

Yes, I could look back at that year of darkness as failure, but faith taught me that it happened exactly as it should have and was part of a bigger plan that I didn’t see at the time — my success.

Bridgette Raes is one of those people who inspires me every time our paths cross. She’s amazing. Bridgette is the founder and president of the Bridgette Raes Style Group where she shows woman just how beautiful they are, author of “Style Rx: Dressing the Body You Have to Create the Body You Want”, a blogger and creator and host of the radio show “Where You Going in That?” on Blogtalk Radio, also available on Stitcher. She is one wise woman. She dresses really well, too. – LF

Self-Scanning Technique Helps You Look Inside Your Heart and Your Head

When my kids were little, each night at the dinner table I would ask them for their highlight and “lowlight” of the day. This was one of my ways of getting them to talk and getting a temperature reading on what was really going on in those little heads and hearts. It was fun and it worked. So I’ve decided to use the same technique on myself to get a head/heart perspective as I move ahead on my new employme life.

Here we go: The highlight of the week was that the radio show I’ve been working on with another awesome woman entrepreneur is moving forward. It looks like we will launch in September on a local San Francisco talk station. Stand by! The lowlight was that I have so much going on I worry that I’m running in circles. Right now I’m just going to trust that the circles sort themselves out and it will all make sense in the coming months.

Do you self-scan? Share how you gauge your own state of affairs.

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Tales of a New Entrepreneur

This morning I watered my six tomato plants just as I have done every day for the last couple of months. But this morning was different. This morning I realized that I was experiencing a cluster – Get it? Like a cluster of tomatoes? icon smile Its Not Easy Being Green: <br> Tales of a New Entrepreneur –  of emotions.  Here’s what I was feeling:

Impatience – When the hell are these things going to be ripe already?

Amazement – How can there be so many tomatoes!?

Excitement – Those green things are going to burst off the vines! I created life!

Anticipation – I cannot wait to taste the first one.

Trepidation – What am I going to do with a million ripe tomatoes?

Self-doubt – Why are there no tomatoes on that one plant? What did I do wrong?

Resolve – Next year I’m going to space the plants better and put in a drip system so I’m not standing here hand watering for the rest of my life.

Then It Hit Me

I went into the house, washed my hands, drank some water and got back to work on my computer. Hands on keys, it instantly hit me that those are the exact emotions I am feeling about my new journey to entrepreneurship and my new life. Here’s what I am  feeling using that filter:

Impatience – When oh when are all my plans and hard work going to pay off?

Amazement– Wow, I finally took that big step out on my own.

Excitement -There are so many great things going on all at once!

Anticipation – I cannot wait to see where this all leads.

Trepidation – What am I going to do if everything I have in the hopper comes to fruition?

Self-doubt – I hope I’m making the right decisions.

Resolve – I’m going to plan better and pace myself better going forward.

Iknow gardening metaphors are a dime a dozen, I do. But this is a true story. Anyone have any good tomato recipes to share? I’m collecting them now so I’m ready.

A Career Built on Sliding-Door Moments

My career has always been more kismet than strategic, a “Sliding Doors” adventure. Remember that movie where the woman’s life is drastically different depending on whether she does or doesn’t make the train? That’s me, sans the infidelity, death and dark intrigue. From my first day as a college intern when the city editor at the Bridgewater Courier News assigned me to cover a murder until now, chance has been my friend. Don’t get me wrong. I have goals and work hard to achieve them, but somehow or other the most amazing work experiences have been the ones that find me. The sliding doors.

That traumatizing but exhilarating night in the newsroom was Day 1 of an 18-year newspaper career in which I had all kinds of interesting run-ins with my buddy Mr. Chance. Like the day the food editor, who sat right near me, quit in a huff and I – organizer of gourmet dinners and avid reader of every foodie magazine on the newsstand – went right into the editor in charge and told him he had found his next food editor. That was a fun job.

Or the time the powers that be at the newspaper decided they wanted to combine the editing staffs of seven lifestyle sections and that I was the one who had to figure it out. I kicked, I screamed but ultimately I had no choice. The editors who had been happily nestled, all tucked in their beds in their travel sections, their style sections, their home and garden sections were so pissed off at me because they thought I was working for the man. I gathered them all in a conference room and I told them, “Look, either we figure this out together and create a new system that works as best as it can for us, or management will figure out a system that doesn’t.” Those editors cooperated, and the whole experience made me realize that I really had a knack for managing people and creating process and systems. Another sliding door.

The Wild, Wild Web

One day I had lunch with an old newspaper friend I hadn’t seen in years and told him I thought it was time I took a clue and got out of the business. Like the Ghost of Future Jobs he pointed me to my next career move– the Net, as we called it in the day. It was an ezine – remember those? – and our goal was to write about every website on the planet. I was the deluded executive editor who did not realize at the time that this was ridiculous, but I had stepped up to my neck into the exciting wild, wild web and a whole new world. That’s all that mattered.

A bit down the road I entered the will-code-for-food, logo-T-shirted, Birkenstock-footed world of search engines when Yahoo was just a twinkle and Google did not yet exist. A straight up technology company was not what I had in mind, but I went for the job anyway. This was the time when content and technology circled each other warily. There I learned that editorial people are from Mars and technology people are from Venus. We need each other but we sure have different views of the world. You either get that about the digital world or you don’t make it. That search engine sliding door taught me a lot.

In between jobs, I met a women who used to work for me at said search engine and she introduced me to her sister, who worked for cable TV giant Scripps Networks. Before you know it, I’m launching the digital portion of a new cable network. Sliding doors, I tell you. There were other jobs in cable, ecommerce and startup land, and then one day I reconnected with a woman I knew casually back in the code-for-food days. She just so happened to be Ms. Honcho of a big social media company, and you can guess the rest of the story. Honestly, I didn’t plan any of this, just a bunch of sliding doors every step of the way.

Hang On, It’s a Bumpy Ride

I have to admit it’s taken a tolerance for vertigo to ride this roller coaster. And let’s not even go into the bumps, bruises and ego-wracking twists and turns along the way. Many people look at me and say, “Mercy, mercy, you have really been through it.” It’s true, I have. Given a do-over, however, I wouldn’t do it any other way. It’s been a blast and the reason I’ve been able to do all sorts of things like move five times, travel through India, raise two daughters and throw myself into a new entrepreneurial world, brought on, I might add, by that sliding door called a layoff.

These days I am far more aware of those sliding door moments right in front of my nose. We just wink at each other and I take the next step.

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way! – Dr. Seuss

I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Ihad been single for more or less 9 years for no good reason that I or anyone in my life could fathom. True, there had been a few multi-state moves and job changes, plus my girls’ final laps through high school and college, but still. Nine years!? How can that be, friends asked. You’re kidding, strangers marveled. This is ridiculous, I thought.

Was I paying for something I had done in the past? I was raised Catholic, after all, so that would make total sense. And there was that time in 10th grade when I broke poor Henry Hannity’s heart. But surely I had done enough work on myself to annihilate any residual demons in this lifetime and the next two. Was I too impatient? My expectations too high?  Whadya? I knew one thing for sure: I was a completely self-sufficient woman, capable of handling anything life threw my way, and I was sick to death of it. I knew one more thing: I would make a great partner, if I ever got the chance again.

I decided I was going to get married one snowy North Carolina night as I sat in my car outside the restaurant making final arrangements to move back to San Francisco, the place I knew was my real home. “I have an announcement,” I said to Terri and Jamie as I sat across from them and scanned the pasta-packed menu.  “I’m getting married.”  “Wow. Do you have anyone in mind??” Terri asked.

A few weeks later I picked up my laptop from one of the stacks of boxes yet to be unpacked in my new home and posted my profile on Match. I was way too busy with my new job and getting settled in to think seriously about finding my man, but I thought I should at least get things started. After all, there was a wedding to be planned.

One night as I was about to walk out the door to meet friends for dinner I read a Match email. It was from Jim: “You’re home on a Friday night, I’m home on a Friday night. We live close. Why not meet for a glass of wine?” A quick look at his profile, which showed a handsome, seemingly down to earth guy, and I did the unthinkable. I emailed him right back. “You know, if I didn’t already have plans I may well take you up on that.” “How about Sunday?” he shot back. “Sounds good,”  I replied.

I remember getting ready for the date. I looked in the mirror, mascara wand in hand, wondering why I was even bothering. Jesus, I would just have to wash this stuff off in a little while and, shit, I could be watching “60 Minutes” and relaxing before a grueling work week. … I fell in love with him on a hot afternoon about six weeks later as he tinkered with a broken fan that I had dragged from move to move. I watched him as he screwed this tighter, re-adjusted that and concentrated on the job at hand.  I tried really hard not to make a sound when the tears came, but he looked up at me. “Are you crying?” he asked. He just couldn’t believe it. Neither could I.

He sleeps beside me as I type away, two and a half years later. He opens his right eye once in a while to take a peek, and then sinks back down into sleep. In a minute I will turn off my laptop and wrap myself around him, grateful and awed about where life has lead me. Right where I belong.