Anyone who claims to have built something of lasting value--be it a business, personal relationship or a body of critical knowledge--without suffering serious pain and disappointment is either a liar or dangerously naïve. At some point on your journey, you will stumble and fall.
How to bounce back from failure
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Teen celebrity entrepreneurs
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Entrepreneurs especially know about failure. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about two-thirds of all start-ups live to see their second birthdays, and just 45% make it to their fourth. What separates the best from the rest--cue the Rocky theme song--is the strength to get back up, again and again.
Good news is there are myriad methods for tapping those reserves. Andrea Ridout, host of CNN 1190 AM radio shows "Ask Andrea" and "energizeGreen" in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, overcame the lowest point in her life with a little pet therapy. "After my 25-year marriage ended, I couldn't even get out of bed," she recalls. "My home improvement radio show, "Ask Andrea," fell from 300 stations to fewer than a dozen before I just quit all together. I stopped making TV appearances and was barely able to complete the book I was signed on to write for Harper Collins. I fought deep depression and feelings of hopelessness everyday."
Ridout's road to recovery began with regular visits to a friend who owned a cattle ranch in Clifton, Texas, about 20 miles away. "This one cow--ironically, named Faith--started following me around like a pet," says Ridout. "When I heard that Faith and two calves were about to be sold for slaughter, I knew I needed to buy them. I found a place to keep my three cows [bought for $800] just down the road from my home. Their companionship saved me: They gave me back a feeling of empowerment because I was able to save them from ending up in someone's freezer. Three years later, my new show, energizeGreen, is syndicated through CNN and the USA Radio Network."
Al Weatherhead, chief executive of Weatherchem, maker of plastic closures for food and pharmaceutical products, endured a double whammy in 1965 when his father died of pancreatic cancer and the board of his company, where son Al had risen to prominence, chose someone else to run the show. "It was a huge blow to my plan, my ego and my whole being," says Weatherhead.
But Weatherhead didn't sit and stew. "I ran away to California for 10 days to clear my head," he says. "Then, a friend called to say there was a small tool-and-die company called Akheny in Twinsburg, Ohio, that had put itself up for sale. I came home, took out a $750,000 bank loan and bought the [Weatherchem] business. Almost 40 years later, the business does $50 million in revenue."
Demolishing something can do wonders for a bruised ego too. That's what Steve Conine, co-founder of CSN Stores, an online home-furnishing company, did when his software outfit--which helped companies save money on their mobile phone bills by evaluating the costs of different plans--took a tumble.
In early 2001, Conine and partner Niraj Shah landed their first big client, Merrill Lynch, located near the World Trade Towers in lower Manhattan. Months later, faced with moving 30,000 employees after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Merrill no longer cared about how much it was spending on mobile phones, so the pair had to shut down the company the following March.
"I turned to housework to take out my aggression," Conine told Forbes last year. "I demolished my kitchen and rebuilt it, which was really therapeutic." It also led him to his current entrepreneurial venture.
Another failure-healing tactic: meditation. Back in January 2006, Chris Reed, founder of REED'S, maker of Reed's Ginger Brew, had just started working with bankers on an initial public offering when he got slapped with a $2.7 million lawsuit. Another soda marketer that had contracted with Reed alleged that the soda from Reed's plant had caused at least one personal injury. "When I found out about it, I felt like it was the end of my career," Reed recalled last year.
He responded by spending a week meditating and eating light vegetarian meals on a retreat sponsored by the Art of Living Foundation. "I wiped my mind clean and clear of the problem and came back with some clarity," he said. "A lot of times, I find problems aren't as bad as I think they are, but my reaction to them is horrendous at first. It's the hardest thing in the world to walk away."
Reed eventually paid $450,000 to settle the lawsuit, and his firm went public. Current market cap: $20 million.
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