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10 Hidden Blessings in Rejection, Losing, & Failure

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Rejection. Losing. Failure.

Nobody strives for them. No athlete sets out to lose, no entrepreneur’s goal is bankruptcy.

But as if an act of divine mercy, there’s positives to be found in the negatives. In fact, it’s almost gospel the extent we hear successful people preaching the value in failing and lessons in losing.

Many are familiar with Michael Jordan’s quote, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Denis Waitley said it well, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Indeed, the mark of a successful person lies in their response to negative situations—in licking their wounds they never leave the battlefield, they turn their scars into strengths.

In approaching rejection, losing, and failure, here are 10 hidden blessings:

1. You’ll Clarify Your Passions.

Many of us struggle with decision making. Folks with creative energy typically have their hand in multiple pies. But even a jack-of-all-trades knows there’s a limit to how thin you can spread yourself.

Often, failure and losing result from diminished passion. You realise you weren’t as passionate about that project as first thought. The pruning effect is a positive. As you clear your plate a little, the things that are left are what really gets you excited, and you direct your energy toward them. Focused energy is when you’re most effective, failure gets rid of fluff.

2. You’ll Uncover New Skills.

Remember when George Bush nimbly dodged that shoe destined for his head? Nobody thought he had the skill to do that. And I suspect neither did he. Until that moment.

Facing challenges and enduring a loss causes us to gather up resources and develop skills beyond our arsenal. In cases of “hysterical strength,” where folks lift vehicles off someone trapped, it’s the negative situation that produces the surge of adrenaline and an act beyond one’s capability.

Negative experiences cause us to respond in ways beyond what we thought possible. The obstacle beckons to be overcome. In order to rise to the occasion, there needs to be an occasion.

3. You’ll Find Out Who Your Friends Are.

Take a spill and you’ll see who emerges out of the Facebook crowd to lift you up. Sure, everyone’s busy, but we make time for the things we value and care about. “I’m too busy” can be translated, “It’s not that important.”

Relationships are key in all areas of life. And they take a lot of work, a lot of time invested. You certainly don’t want to be investing in bad stock. Of course friendships aren’t to be boiled down to a shallow transaction, but unfortunately, some folks see them that way—a lot of taking without any giving. It’s these relationships that need severing. There’s no honour, or sense, in helping others when you’re hurting yourself.

Hitting rock bottom has a way of uncovering the healthy genuine relationships from the detrimental. You’ll want to keep investing in those who are nursing your wounds, and distancing yourself from the silent and nowhere to be seen.

4. You’ll Check Your Blind Spots.

It only takes one accident for a driver never to forget checking their blind spot again. A harsh way to learn, but some changes in behaviour only happen with such shocks to the system.

While there are habits and skills we haven’t yet acquired, failures remind us of habits and skills we do possess, but simply lazy in implementing. After suffering a robbery, you’ll never forget to lock the screen door again.

5. You’ll Burn Away Pride and Arrogance.

Nobody is immune to pride and arrogance. To say you’re beyond pride and arrogance is a little…well…prideful and arrogant. Losing is the glass of water for that bitter pill of pride. But that unpleasant process gives birth to humility. Which is perhaps the most attractive and profitable virtue anyone can possess.

As the well known proverb goes, pride goeth before the fall; rejection and loss exchanges pride for humility, and may be the saviour that prevents your fall.

6. You’ll Grow Elephant Skin.

The shins of Muay Thai fighters can break baseball bats. The micro-fractures from hours upon hours of kicking heavy bags are filled with calcium, resulting in abnormal bone density. It’s just as muscle fibres grow as a result of micro-tears in the gym.

The old adage rings true, it’s the pain that brings the gain. The healing of a fracture carries a gift. 101-advice for anyone stepping out to pursue their dream is prepare for rejection, criticism and haters. And with each punch thrown your way, you’ll realise that you can’t please everyone, and the impact will start to soften. You’ll even learn to bob and weave, realizing the issue lies more with them than with you.

 7. You’ll Never Wonder “What If?” Again.

The question of “what if?” can cause hours on end staring out the window. When that curiosity is pursued only to find you’ve boarded the wrong plane, failure is the blessing that pulls you right off. You’ll no longer be kept up at night wondering about that other option.

Curiosity can cripple our consciousness and distracts from the work we should be doing. But sometimes engaging your own nagging is the only way to silence it.

Seeing his father drink beer, a teenage Tony Robbins begged his mother to let him try. Not only did she let him try, she gave him a whole 6-pack, and wouldn’t let him leave until he drank every drop. Tony has never touched alcohol since. The taste of his own vomit may have something to do with that.

8. You’ll Finally Ask For Help.

Anyone with passion and ambition is tragically plagued with superhero-syndrome, which is both helpful, and harmful; particularly when the candle is burning at both ends, and you’re drifting toward burnout.

When the word “help” disappears from our vocabulary, it’s found when we crash and burn. We realise the skill of delegation is critical for our health and progress. We need to move away from viewing help negatively as a form of weakness, to positively—that our success is growing beyond our own capacity.

9. You’ll Go To The Drawing Board.

And you’ll engage in iteration. The process of reevaluating and refining, which produces a better end-result. As the saying goes, Why fix it if it ain’t broke? Some things need fixing, but reevaluation doesn’t happen if something doesn’t break.

No doubt one of the greatest human achievements: 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. The only individual in the world to accomplish that feat—64-year old Diana Nyad. She was on her fifth attempt, her first attempt back in 1978, and three other attempts from 2011 – 2012.

One major reason her last attempt was cut short was jellyfish stings that left her face face puffy and swollen. This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, and a mask at night—when jellyfish rise to the surface.

She failed, went back to the drawing board, made iterations, and succeeded.

10. You’ll Appreciate Your Success.

Value and meaning become heightened in the face of difficulty. The greatest celebrations come from the toughest battles. You’ll realise the dream isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. And when the journey includes getting back on your feet and dusting yourself off, you’ll be more inclined to stop when you see roses, and express a little more gratitude and appreciation at the finish line.

Among the 14 “Eight-Thousanders” on earth, few recognise Kangchenjunga—while Everest is a household name. There’s only 262 meters separating the two mountains, but it’s the failures and deaths on Everest that make it the most respected and celebrated climb.

The bitterness of every failure adds sweetness to every victory.

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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