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Learning Through Failure

4 min

When I think about what makes me happy, it’s my family and accomplishment — from something simple like figuring out a tool to something as big as we just changed a major policy in our local government. Right now I’m pretty happy doing what I’m doing. It’s hard, but it gives me joy. And I’m always learning and growing.

Success Disguised as Failure

My most pivotal moments center around major changes in our organization. One time I hired somebody who I thought was perfect — and they turned out to be wrong in different ways. It was the first time that I’d really let go of a major part of something. I had a dream, and I brought this person in as a partner.

I realized slowly — but also suddenly — that this wasn’t going to work. I saw we weren’t communicating well with each other. I also saw the baggage this person was bringing to the table.

It was really hard because there was a lot of money associated with this project. We had saved up for six years to build a second organization. As somebody from an immigrant background — when you come from nothing and have to build up from nothing — there’s a trauma associated with losing all you’ve worked for.

Eventually, when we dug into it, we discovered there wasn’t a massive misuse of funds, but there’d been a lot of poor decision making.

It was painful because we’d lost all of our investment, and we didn’t have a nest egg to lean on after that. Plus, we had wasted a year and a half of time. But when we came out of that, what I realized was I learned so much about how to respond in the future. I think we took way too much time in trying to make something work. TI think there was a moment early on when I said to my husband, “I think we should stop this now, before it gets any further.”

What I learned, though, was how to rebuild. I’ve also gotten a little closer to an abundance mindset. And I think that’s because I feel like I really can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it and I’m truly passionate about it.

I’ve rebuilt that organization twice now, and each time it gets stronger, and each time I have better ideas, and each time I realize how to hire better, how to communicate better. I also have realized what I don’t want to do and what I will never be really good at.

Figuring It Out Through Failure

I’m close to 40 now, and I still am figuring it out every day. And it takes these kinds of failures to figure it out. My skills continue to improve through these kinds of painful experiences. I’ve learned to be a calmer individual. I still get fired up, but I can get back to my baseline a lot quicker.

I’ve always been moving forward. I’ve always wanted to learn more. And because I’ve always tried to learn more, I’ve had more clients, I’ve had more meetings, I’ve had to speak in public more. I’ve screwed up a lot more, and I’ve learned from it.

And I think that’s what women in general do really well at. It’s hard for us to take those steps, but we’re always conscious, we’re always watching and learning and trying to be better.

Success in the Midst of COVID-19

Through this pandemic, I’ve been reminded of the importance of building community and human relationships. We’ve always stood by that, but we haven’t actually been tested in such a very real way. We’ve always said that we want to get to know every single person who walks through our doors at CO+HOOTS — and that we care about every single person who walks through our doors.

And now in this time, as we’re tested, we are not only a physical space. We were expecting to lose all of our community. And this has been something that I have always feared.

We’re two months into a shutdown, and we’ve definitely lost. But our membership has stayed pretty strong. We polled why, and it’s because we offer more. We’ve activated our online community more so than before. We’re now launching our online incubator program. We are constantly advocating for entrepreneurs. And there’s value in that.

We expected losses because who pays for space if you can’t access it? But while we’ve lost all of our event revenue, 90% of our membership has stayed pretty strong. We’re grateful for that, and it’s a testament to our ability to think beyond the easy money and to create value.

Perspectives on Future Success

There will be a time when I feel like I’ve built up a big enough bench, staffing wise or partners wise, where I don’t need to be the one leading my business anymore. But until I find that person — someone who’s just as passionate as I am about this and who can drive it — I’m not sure I will be ready to let it go.

But when I do, I’m looking forward to more time with my daughter as I find other ways to support entrepreneurs. I would like to do that in the capacity perhaps of our nonprofit arm — for example, maybe creating a fund where we help invest in entrepreneurs. I’m also interested in working on policy and helping our community.

For now, though, I’m looking for ways to spend time with my daughter. I need less on my plate to be able to create space, to be fully engaged and focused and not feel exhausted while I’m playing with her. She’s getting into a really fun stage where she wants to learn about math, and she wants to explore new things. Those are the things that I have always dreamed of being a part of. This is a stage I want to definitely be available for.

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