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I failed. Stop telling me I didn’t.

I saw a sign outside a church recently, it said something to the effect of ‘it’s not failure to fall down, it’s failure to stay there.’ And something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. Each time I drove by, it would irritate me.

Nearly three years of counselling has taught me that if something is irritating, it may be time to do some reflection. So here it goes…

It’s been a year since I quietly walked away from a business I’d poured my heart into for nearly five years, first as an employee and then as an owner. And I really haven’t talked about it publicly because to this date, it’s my biggest failure. And with that comes so much shame.

When I started out, I was a part time sales employee for the magazine. I rocked it. I matched the sales of the full time staff. Then I was given more responsibilities and continued to thrive. When the opportunity came for me to move up to ownership, I jumped right in.

And for the first year things went relatively well. I made changes to support more local businesses. I increased our readership and our effectiveness. I planned events that blew people away. I paid my bills relatively on time. I was on cloud 9.

Then I got pregnant with our third and was diagnosed with perinatal depression. And with that, things started to go wrong. Quickly.

Anxiety set in, and soon I wasn’t making the sales as often. The anxiety got worse and I was too nervous to even call the people who owed me money. I started falling behind on my bills. Way behind.

I was in complete denial. Refusing to admit how bad it was. Angry at myself for not being able to keep going the way I had been before the pregnancy.

I spent quite a few sessions in Shirley’s office expressing my frustrations. But I still was not willing to admit that I needed help outside of her office. I had so much pride wrapped up in what I’d accomplished – all by myself.

The stresses of having three kids, renovating a house and trying to run a business were getting to me. The breaking point was hiring a new accountant. My husband and I met her together and it was the first time that he realized how bad the finances were.

We decided to hired a salesperson. He did a fabulous job and with his work, we kept things afloat. But the creditors were still calling, and some of them were local business owners. I started hating going into places I knew they frequented, afraid I’d run into them.

I just couldn’t do it anymore. The constant stress was exhausting. My personal life with three kids was taking away from the business, and the business was making me a stressed, impatient mom.

Finally, after a year of knowing – and fighting – that this wasn’t the right thing for me anymore, I started looking for a buyer. At this point, I was just hoping to sell it for enough to pay the debt. Things still looked pretty good on the outside and I was hopeful. But six months later and several failed attempts at selling, I made the decision to walk away.

It was the most humbling decision I’ve ever had to make. I had to admit that I didn’t have what it took to run a business. And the worst part, was knowing that my husband was going to have to help me pay the bills I had left.

You know that saying, “You didn’t fail if you learnt something.”?

I absolutely failed – and in spectacular fashion. I failed when I didn’t admit that the pregnancy was affecting my ability to do sales. I failed again when I wasn’t completely honest with my husband about the finances. I failed when I stopped answering creditors calls. I started failing the moment I let my pride get in the way of getting the help I needed.

Do you know what wasn’t a failure though? Walking away. I had to leave that dream, that part of me on the ground where it fell and keep moving forward. And I don’t see that as a failure at all.

I’m still paying those bills with the part time work I get, and I’m looking forward to the day I’m done. But I will never again say something trite about failure.

Admitting failure made me the person I am today. It moved me forward to a new career, a better relationship with my family, and a freer me. I wouldn’t change that for the world, much less a business to my name.

R.R.

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