PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.
After the previous show’s confessions, Pete Williams and Dom Goucher discuss the topic of failure, and how to deal with it, where ever it occurs.
In this episode, Pete asks the question, “who was this?”:
Born into poverty.
Failed in business in 1831.
Ran for the state legislature and lost in 1832.
Failed in business again in 1833, and lost money that he had borrowed from friends.
Had a nervous breakdown in 1836.
Was defeated when running for Speaker in 1838.
Was defeated when running for Elector in 1840.
Was defeated running for Congress in 1843 and 1848.
Was defeated running for Senate in 1854 and 1858.
Was defeated running for Vice President in 1856.
Pete talks to Dom about dealing with failure wherever it occurs
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Pete Williams: Hello, Sir Dom.
Dom Goucher: Hello, Mr. Peter.
Pete: How are you, mate?
Dom: Good, good, good. Good. You’re all raring to go for another episode?
Pete: Mate, bring it on. I am so excited about today.
Dom: You are excited and I am going to tell you this is the ‘failure’ episode.
Pete: That’s alright, I’m excited about failure.
Dom: I can believe that, I really can.
Pete: It’s going to sound so motivational. I’m excited about failure. “Come on, people! Push through the barriers.”
Dom: Yeah. “Bring me some problems! Come on.”
Pete: “Get back up! If you get knocked down, get back up.”
Dom: And this came about from your experiences trying to get to Bali in the last show, and also trying to record the last show which also didn’t go so well. You said you’ve got quite a lot to talk about on the topic of failure and I’m intrigued by this.
Pete: Well, I think you actually mentioned it in a previous episode as well but I can’t remember what the context was unfortunately. I remember us talking about possibly doing a failure episode a few weeks back as well. I just thought it’s part of sharing. I sort of hate talking about this sort of stuff in a weird way particularly when I bring up myself, but I’ve been relatively successful with some stuff I’ve done and I’ve achieved some moderate success in various areas.
But at the same time, when I break it down, there have been some monumental screw-ups that I’ve done or some huge opportunities that I’ve missed. I thought it might be worth just having a conversation about that. We could talk around how I dealt with it and how I got myself back up and all of those cliché crap. But it’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t always hit home runs like how that whole ‘Michael Jordan has missed more shots than he’s taken’ saying goes.
There have been some awesome opportunities I’ve had that I’ve just completely blown and I thought it’s worth mentioning that just to give some listeners some perspective to a certain extent. Tell me if it sounds completely wonky and pointless, but I thought it could be good to discuss some of that stuff just to hopefully give some people some perspective for themselves if they have something that has gone wrong or they’ve missed this huge opportunity that another bus does come along.
This podcast episode is going to be full of clichés, I know. And I’m going to over-cliché it just to be a bit of a smartass. But I think it’s worth talking about some of the stuff that I’ve missed out on and potentially yourself, and we can give heaps of examples. I can pull a chapter out of my first book that talks about failure, some examples and stuff. It’s to give some perspective for other people so that they can go, “Well, okay, look, I’ve had some opportunities that I’ve lost that are bigger than this or some smaller than this.” But that’s no excuse not to keep trying.
Dom: Absolutely. Before we go on I should say, perhaps we should get a PreneurCast buzzword bingo card that we hand out with each edition so people can play along. But seriously now, semi-serious anyway, the last couple of shows we talked about — other than the Bali edition where you failed spectacularly, in general, we’re talking more about success. We talk about your success in business, your efficiency, your workflow. That’s what got me started wanting to do this show. First of all, I saw you at a bunch of conferences and your presentations just wowed me — your perspective and thinking and things like that. There I am blowing smoke again, and that’s a big part of what’s been going on in the last few shows is, “Oh, Pete’s great.”
A lot of people get a bit fed up with that stuff and get a bit despondent. I actually came across this, it’s slightly off topic but it’s agreeing with you in a way. I’ve been talking to people recently and a lot people have been starting out and they look forward when they’re starting out. So let’s say somebody who’s starting out in business or entrepreneurship, and they look at you and it’s great to have a role model, but they look at where they are and they look at you and they go, “Oh my God, look at the distance between me and him.”
You talked a couple of shows ago about having started at the age of 17, going to business conferences and stuff. People see that as a massive distance between them and you. I think it is great to find out that: (1) you are in fact human; (2) it does not in fact go dark when you sit down; and (3) from a mindset point of view, just how you do deal with these things because everybody is going to do it. There are a few of those motivational or inspirational phrases, “If you don’t fail, you’re not trying hard enough” kind of thing.
Pete: Absolutely. It’s all cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.
Dom: Definitely. I think that it’s a really great topic. We’ve had quite some few shows now, and it’s all been kind of ‘woo-hoo,’ ‘great,’ ‘all going really well.’ So let’s have a little bit of failure and see how we cope with that.
Pete: I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks since we first spoke about possibly doing an episode. There are probably four quick stories I can share and we can kind of just talk about some of the bigger opportunities that I’ve had that I screwed up on various levels, or left on the table, or whatever you want to refer to it, that might be worth just discussing and sharing.
The first one was actually back when I was about 16 or 17 is one example. My family, we were very much involved in the professional basketball leagues here in Australia with the club called the Geelong Supercats who’s no longer in the professional league. The league downsized a few years ago and it had quite a few problems, but that’s a whole another discussion and rant. We were quite involved with that team from a professional level. Originally when I was younger, I wanted to be an agent, like a sports agent. And this actually even prior to Jerry Maguire, the movie, coming out.
So that was my sort of original life plan, be an agent and be doing deals and all the stuff that comes along with that. I was able to get work experience at the company that I think at that time was called Advantage International, which then became Octagon Sports Management. I’m not quite sure what it is now because I think they changed their name again. It was one of the largest sports management firms around the world. They had an office here in Melbourne. I can’t remember how I was able to get some work experience there but they didn’t always take work-experience kids on. But somehow, I was able to get work experience there.
Again, I don’t know how it works around the world. But one of the things that you have to do when you’re around about Year 10, so what’s that, freshman or sophomore? When you’re the equivalent here in Australia of a sophomore in high school, you go off and do at least a week’s worth of work experience at a company. Basically, you go and work for about $20 the entire week. You lick envelopes and do really shitty work so you can experience what the real world is like. It’s the theory behind that, I think.
I was able to get this week’s worth of work experience at Advantage International and had an awesome week. And for whatever reason, I must have done well to a certain extent… And I remember her name Rochelle because that was like the first I’ve ever heard of someone’s name that sounded like Michelle but wasn’t Michelle, like Rochelle, that’s a weird name. So I’ve always remembered that. I remember her saying to me at that time, “If you ever want to come back for work experience during school holidays, we will happily have you back. You’ve been amazing. We don’t always take work-experience kids, but we will have you back every school holiday you ever have. As long as you want some work, you’ll always have it.
I walked away from that week going, “Holy crap, this is awesome. I’m going to go every school holidays and work.” Every school holidays and just learn the industry, know the people, and all that stuff. It was a huge opportunity for me. No one else my age has had that opportunity. They didn’t take work-experience kids and I was able to get my foot in the door. I had this opportunity to just open that door wide open for the future, throughout the rest of high school and college, and straight into a job, which was really, really cool.
I never went back, never called them, never went back. It’s probably the first thing there. And if you ask me why, I have no idea why I never went back. It was still my dream up until first year university or college when I decided that sports agent, management wasn’t my thing. It was still what I wanted to do when I finished high school. I started off with a part of a law degree. I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do, become an agent.” It wasn’t that the whole dreams stopped six weeks later. But for whatever reason, I had this huge opportunity and I didn’t follow through with it and basically just screwed it up, which is interesting. So that’s a bit of the story of a huge opportunity that I let go. But I didn’t let it define me is a part of lesson there.
Pete: It’s something that probably I’ve never shared before. Not that it’s really amazing or deep, but it’s something that probably not a lot of people know about.
Dom: That’s not that uncommon especially when you’re younger.
Pete: Oh, absolutely.
Dom: I’m actually going to tie this into something that we were talking about few shows ago because I’ve been listening to the other shows again for various reasons. It sounds irrelevant but it’s pretty much the same thing. Recently, I was listening to somebody else who’s talking about going to conferences and making the most out of going to conferences. The summary that they gave was that going to conferences is not about the things that you learn, it’s about the people that you meet.
And something that you said a few shows ago really resonated with me and it connects all these things together in a holistic manner — that’s my word for the minute, and it is that people go to conferences and they meet people, and it’s a great, great networking opportunity. You and I actually had our real first conversation at a conference.
Dom: And that made a big difference later on. It was few months later that you and I got to work together. But it made a big difference.
Pete: Yeah. That was London or San Diego?
Dom: That’s right, yeah. No, London.
Pete: So we met in San Diego, right?
Dom: Yeah, very briefly in San Diego and then again in London.
Pete: I was like, “Who’s that good looking man over the other side of the room?” I don’t want to talk to him, he makes me intimidated.
Dom: Yeah, I did think that but I just went ahead.
Pete: That was San Diego. Then London, I found the courage to stop and say hello, and meet you at the bar…
Dom: It must have been the jazzy new trainers that you got on.
Pete: No, I was intimidated by your good looks. That’s what I was saying.
Dom: Yeah, I’m just dodging that whole thing. I’m embarrassed.
Dom: But the thing is people get these opportunities whether they see them or not, whether it is as obvious as somebody saying, “Hey, come back whenever you want,” or subtle and less obvious as taking a business card of somebody at a conference. You actually have this thing that you do, which is as part of your daily process and you follow up on things like this. Whether it’s using Send Out Cards to contact a friend or a business acquaintance, to just drop them a line and say, “Hey, congratulations,” or you contact these people. But you make it actually part of your daily process to go through and stay in contact with people now, don’t you?
Pete: Yes, absolutely.
Dom: And that a big thing. It’s almost like a daily equivalence of your professional basketball league thing. When somebody gives you their card at a conference, it’s an opportunity for you to connect with that person, to build an ongoing relationship. It might just be a little touch here and a little touch there, an e-mail, a chat, “Hey, how’s it going?” But eventually, it can lead to a big thing. And yet, people don’t do it.
Pete: Absolutely, absolutely. But then the thing that disappoints me is that I see so many people let that one thing define them. I had this one opportunity once. I never followed through with it, so that means I’m going to have one opportunity in my life. They kind of just think that’s it. I’ve got tons of stories of opportunities that I’ve missed. To give you another example of something where I left some stuff on the table was back when I was 21, so at the same time I was doing the whole MCG project. Have we spoken about that whole project on the show at all?
Dom: No, we haven’t really talked about it on the show. That’s kind of a success topic. So maybe we’ll save that one for another show.
Pete: So the same time that whole MCG project was going down, I just moved back from America. Three things are going in my life at that stage. One, the girl that I had met and fell in love with at that time when I was living in the US was still in the US. She was American and I had to come home to Australia because my visa expired. I was trying to work out how to get my butt back to the US. Second, my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. So that was obviously, being an only child and in a small family, it was a bit of a shock to the system in dealing with that. She’s all fine now amazingly.
But that’s a whole another story about her and her being such a positive woman. It’s quite freaky. It could be worth a whole conversation at one point as well. But the third thing that was happening at the same time as well is an acquaintance at that time who’s now become a good friend of mine who is a huge name here in Australia in the property investing space, and is probably the leading expert and information marketer on property investing advice and tips, and has written some bestselling books now, Steve McKnight, was just starting a program that was called the MAP program.
The Millionaire Apprenticeship Program was what he called it. The whole idea was that he was going to mentor about eight people, I think it was from my memory, from zero to having a million-dollar worth of property under management within 12 months. It was going to become the content of his second book at that time. He chose a whole bunch of people — a husband and wife farmer, a young female, a young male, and just a very broad demographic range of ages, skill sets and financial backgrounds.
He was going to prove that you can get a million-dollar’s worth of property underneath your portfolio in 12 months. He had no financial investment in this at all except for having content for a book that he could sell. So it didn’t cost the participants a single cent. He was not getting a single cent of commission out of any of the deals. He wasn’t selling the finance. He wasn’t selling the properties. It was completely just free mentoring advice from a multimillionaire property investor himself and information marketer to give him good content for a book that he could obviously then leverage in his profile to sell more of his information products.
So it was a very, very open and genuine offer. I was actually lucky enough, able to be or whatever term you want to use, to be one of those eight participants. It was awesome. Very, very cool. It was such a good opportunity again. You’re thinking, you’re 21 years old, got the opportunity to have a million-dollar’s worth of property under management within 12 months’ time. Huge opportunity. For numerous reasons, far from an excuse and I don’t blame her on any level but primarily because my mom was sick and she was a very conservative woman, and still very is.
So obviously being sick, on top of the situation of what she was going through and how she is personality-wise, she was very nervous for me to do any sort of leverage stuff. For me to own a million-dollar’s worth of property would mean I have to have a million-dollar’s worth of loans. She was very, very worried about what the possibilities are of going wrong. So I didn’t fulfill that program. I actually ended up dropping out of that halfway through on my own personal accord because I said, “I don’t think I can do this right now because of the distractions with Mum.” I just wasn’t putting enough effort to do it because I felt that I shouldn’t be doing it because Mum felt nervous for me. With all that huge amount of internal conflicts and stories that were going around in my mind, I actually ended up pulling out of that program.
And I’ve gone on to invest in properties since and I’ve had a nice property portfolio. But I learned so much through that process around information marketing and investing property in general. That was a huge opportunity. To have a million-dollar’s worth of property in ownership within 12 months at the age of 21, that could have made an even bigger difference or a huge difference to the position that I would have been in at age 22, 23 or 30. And again, a lot of people would say, “Holy heck, that was a huge opportunity.” If you didn’t complete that, then what does that say about you, who you are?
Dom: Now that I completely disagree with. To me, that is a diametrically opposite example. The professional basketball league thing, the work experience as a sports agent, they offered you something and you just let it sit there. You literally left it on the table. You took no action, right?
Pete: Yeah, absolutely.
Dom: But the Steve McKnight thing is completely different to me. You took what was offered. And knowing you, you gave it everything you’ve got which is a side topic which I’ll come back to in a second about things of this nature. But you gave that everything you’ve got until you decided you couldn’t keep it going.
Pete: Yeah, you’re definitely right.
Dom: You didn’t tail off. You didn’t drop out. You didn’t just let it slide and it just faded away. So you didn’t fail in my mind. You didn’t fail to make the most of what you’ve got and what was offered. You made the most of it as long as you could.
Pete: And that’s the lesson. That’s exactly right. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m glad you saw that in that. That’s hopefully what a lot of our listeners really get out of these stories as well. It’s how you define the situation that makes it a success or a failure, or just an event. Things that had to be put into this success and failure bucket. Things can just be as they are.
Dom: Yeah. We used to have a joke. Back in my days of working at Xerox, we used to have a joke. We used to call things like that ‘an opportunity.’ It wasn’t a failure, it wasn’t a screw-up, or whatever. It’s an opportunity, an opportunity to learn in this case.
Dom: Sometimes it was a bit more sarcasm than this but you know… Let me contrast this from my own experience from people that I know. You took this opportunity. You say this guy put no money in. He just offered to mentor people and you kind of put your money on the table to take part. You’ve got to invest in a property. You’ve got to find the funds and take the loans and things, right?
Pete: Exactly right. You had to do it yourself. You had to find the funds if you didn’t have the cash. You had to find the deals. You had to do all the work yourself.
Dom: Let’s look at the important extra step that you didn’t have to do. You didn’t have to reach into your pocket and pay this man any money upfront to get started. In other words, it wasn’t like a paid mentoring or a training course or an info product or any of those things, right?
Pete: Correct. Just as a side not for those interested in real estate investing. He actually has gone on and turned that whole program into a program that you can actually join up and do the mentoring, which I do highly recommend but that’s a whole another thing.
Dom: Alright. I don’t doubt it in any way, shape or form. The guy’s strikes me as a very clever guy who gets other people to generate his content. Look at that for leverage. The thing is you didn’t pay this guy for anything but you still made the most of it. You actually took it for the opportunity that it was and did your best. But I know people that have paid moderate to incredible amounts of money for mentoring advice or information products. And everybody knows that, they paid the money and this information product is in the shrink wrap on the shelf.
Pete: That bugs me.
Dom: I know. What do they think? The knowledge will sip into them off the bookshelf? Or with mentoring, you pay the guy or the lady the money, and you attend the weekly course, and they tell you what to do. They’re not going to do it for you.
Pete: The thing that frustrates me even more than someone who buys a course, a program or a manual and doesn’t open it, is the person who does open it and then thinks he’s read it once and knows better than the teacher. And then he goes and tries to shortcut it, fast-track it, or do it differently. That’s just like, “Well, why did you buy the money?” I think the student should always become smarter than the master. If you’re a good teacher, the student should become smarter over time.
Pete: That’s exactly how evolution occurs; and evolution in everything, in particular, in education. But before you can actually, for lack of a better term, F with the system, you have to have gone through and internalized that system. So buy the course, shut the F up, and follow the steps. Then once you’ve done that, then by all means try to hack it and break it and refine it and do it better. But don’t get halfway through and think you can do it better. I just find that inconceivable. I don’t’ know, maybe it’s my personality or my mother being a math teacher. She’s taught me that as a student, be the student.
Dom: That in itself is a whole different topic. That is along the lines of… I have a little bit of a side interest in design and art and creativity. Something I was reading about recently, which is a very, very common topic is you learn the rules so you know what it is you’re breaking.
Dom: That’s a very big thing about design and art, and things like that.
Pete: I need to tie it back to whole failure conversation. If you’ve gone and bought an information marketing product — because I’m guessing a lot of people listening to this have invested in courses and programs, have you gone and actually implemented that stuff there? Because realistically, let’s cut all the bullshit aside, people who are listening to this have probably invested in some sort of marketing program at some point. I’m guessing that’s who will be inclined to this. I’m keen to get people’s comments, whether you leave comments on the blog or reviews. Comments on iTunes would be preferable, obviously, because it helps our ranking.
But I will be keen to hear people’s feedback around this because I think everyone knows enough right now to be making more money and be more “successful” than they are right now with the products and knowledge they already have if they just go and implement it. It’s not about going and buying the next course or the next program, it’s have you done and tested everything you can from the stuff you already know before you go and invest in something new?
Dom: Wow. You are just bringing up topic after topic, after topic for shows here. That is absolutely it, that is absolutely it. I couldn’t have said it better. My kind of wrap-up and bringing it back from that as well is something a lesser-known person whose email list I subscribe to. A guy called Paul Myers has a little quote on the bottom of every email that he sends out. He doesn’t send them out very often and they’re always interesting and always thoughtful. Right at the bottom of every email, he has a quote from Wayne Gretzky, the famous ice hockey player. You probably heard this one before but it is about the most relevant thing we can bring into this conversation. It says, “100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.”
Dom: And that’s exactly it. That, to me, is the difference between your two examples. Your work experience and the offer to return to that sport agent, it was there. It was in front of you. It was an open offer. A positive thing and an unusual thing as well. It was above and beyond because you knew these people, under normal circumstances, didn’t take work-experience people. So it was a more of an offer than just an average, “Yeah, just give us a call if you’ve got nothing to do” kind of thing. That one was definitely 100% left on the table.
But the Steve McKnight thing, you got something out of that. You got as much of that as you could. You took the opportunity. However limited you could make of it, you took it. I imagine the knowledge that you got from that, you carried on using it and really wringing the most out of it. So let’s say you’re only in the program for a week, but you’ve got a week’s worth of information and mentoring. And you probably used a lot of that knowledge ever since.
Pete: No doubt, no doubt at all.
Dom: Go on.
Pete: No, go ahead
Dom: I was going to say that to me it’s back to what you were saying. People are always looking for the next big thing. They think that an iPad 2 is going to make them more efficient than an iPad 1. They think this new piece of GTD software is going to make them more organized, and yeah, this next information product about this next arbitrage opportunity or big money-making whatever. What you said is absolutely right. If you’ve studied any information product and certainly in the marketing or business space, if you read The E-Myth, one of our favorite topics of conversation, The E-Myth book by Michael Gerber, okay, you’ve read it. But have you done it?
Pete: Exactly, exactly. This is similar to, to a certain extent, where we talked about trying to do new things and failure. I remember in one of the workshops that Steve gave, he said something that I’m going to try and paraphrase a little bit that really resonated with me. He basically stood there for about 10 minutes and fundamentally kept repeating the same statement. And the essence of the statement was realistically, if you take a shot at something, be it trying to go and buy some property, which was obviously the context that he was talking about, and you screw up, you can always get back to the position you’re in right now.
And if you really sit and think about it, and think about that at least that you agree with me, that if you stuff something up, you’ll just be going to get back to the position you’re in 99 times out of 100 — the same level of job, the same level of income. Realistically, it shouldn’t be that hard for you to get back to where you are right now. So what really do you have to lose?
That was the mindset I used with the whole MCG thing. I was able to say, “Hey, I’m 21 years old. What is my worst-case scenario? I go get a job.” But even now for people I see in my peer group, what is the worst thing that happened to them? They go back and get another job and to the same lifestyle. They might not have as many assets in the bank but realistically, their lifestyle from day to day they can get back to very, very quickly.
Dom: This is the kind of moving forward from failure. We’ve talked about two different kinds of failure there. And this now, to me, is moving forward from that which people are afraid to fail. I know this. I was.
Pete: It’s human nature.
Dom: It’s human nature. Danger, fear, all that stuff — it’s all human nature. Whether you’re aware of it or not, we try and stop ourselves from doing things that are going to cause us to fail. But I think that quote from Steve is really good. And I think it’s a good thing to end on as we close in, trying to keep to time. I failed quite a few times on a couple of shows, but it’s a good thing to end on. You’ve got to fail to learn, because you’ve got to try to learn. You’ve got to do something to move forward, so you’ve got to take the chance and risk failure. But yeah, Steve said if you have a go and you failed, you can always get back at least to where you are.
Pete: Absolutely, absolutely. I want to do something a bit quirky. I’m keen to get a bit of audience participation, if you can hear me. I want to run a bit of a quiz and I’m keen to hear people’s answers and suggestions on iTunes or on the blog, or email, or Twitter, or wherever these guys feel like it. I’d be keen to see who can get this answer.
This person was born into poverty in 1809. He started business and it failed in 1831. He ran for state legislature and lost in 1832. He founded a business again in 1833, and lost the money that he borrowed from friends to start that business. He then had a nervous breakdown, medically diagnosed nervous breakdown I believe, in 1836. He was defeated when running for Speaker in politics in 1838. He was defeated again when running for Elector in 1840. He was defeated when running for Congress in 1843 and 1848. He was defeated again when running for Senate in 1854 and 1858. And then he was also defeated when running for Vice President in 1856.
Who was this person that got knocked down and failed so many times? I’d be keen to see people shoot us some comments on the blog or preferably again as I said, on iTunes. Let us know who you think the answer is and we’ll reveal it in the next episode.
Dom: Cool. Look at that, we have audience participation and everything. We are a fully rounded show.
Pete: See you next week.
Dom: Ok, mate. See you soon.
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