A Failure Isn’t Always A Failure

In that article I talked about how, after five years of being a solo entrepreneur, I felt like it was, well, time for a change. I had been given an opportunity to join the amazing team at Lift UX as Director of Product. My role was going to be leading the charge on a new family of products related to the the company’s acquisition of Churchthemes.net.

There were a number of terms to the deal, including the acquisition of some of my products and a partnership in the company. Since we had been attempting to build very similar products in our spare time, I decided, along with Chris Wallace and Brad Miller (the co-founders and owners of Lift), that it made a lot of sense for us to join forces.

However, after a short two months together, we have decided to end our official relationship. I still respect the hell out of Chris and Brad and the team at Lift. They are doing some amazing things and I hope I was able to help start what Churchthemes will eventually become.

Nevertheless, it became clear to me over the past few weeks that my vision for Churchthemes and my role in that vision differed in some significant ways from Chris’s and Brad’s. There are no hard feeling between us and we parted ways amicably.

However, I’m still tempted to look at this experience as a failure, even though it wasn’t. And it has taken several days of clearing my head and writing down my thoughts to figure out why. My hope is that sharing this with you may be of some benefit as you examine your own experiences and decision-making-process in regard to employment, freelancing, entrepreneurship, etc.

So here goes…

I realized very quickly that there was a reason I have been self-employed for so long. I LOVE working for myself. I just do. It’s in my blood. The freedom and flexibility that comes with self-employment is something I knew I valued, but didn’t realize just how much I valued until I didn’t have it anymore.

Sure, there are myriad stressors involved with self-employment:

  • Work/life balance is hard to achieve.
  • You have to wear many hats and be good at a lot of things besides your main craft.
  • An often irregular income can be very hard to deal with and lead to mountains of stress.
  • You must have a high tolerance for risk and the ability to stay calm and productive in the face of lots of uncertainty.

But, the truth is, I never minded those pressures. At times, like any normal human being, they would get to me and I would find myself overwhelmed. However, those “risks” are also part of the thrill. There’s a thrill to waking up every morning and knowing you are the master of your domain. You can make this day anything you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a wide-eyed, whole-hearted dreamer. And I’m ok with that. I embrace it as part of who I am and find no shame it.

In addition to the control over my schedule, I love being able to choose the projects and/or products I work on. And I found that losing that freedom took a greater toll on my well-being and general happiness than any of the stresses of being self-employed.

You may not agree. Maybe for you, a steady paycheck and the sense of security that a job and a regular schedule brings is where you thrive. And that’s completely fine. We’re all different.

But for me, I found the wind quickly drained from my sails. I realized that the job I thought I’d been hired for and the job I actually ended up doing weren’t exactly the same and my path to partnership in the company was not as clear as it had appeared.

Again, this is not a criticism of Chris and Brad. If I were to choose to be employed at any time again in the future, it would be with those guys. They are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of working for.

But that’s just it. I don’t want to work for anyone. As I said above, I just plain love working for myself. And that isn’t something on which I can put a price tag.

So, why wasn’t this experience a failure? After all, it would be easy to look at that way, since it only lasted for two months before I decided to move on.

First, I learned a lot about working with a team. It was a huge struggle for me, but I now have a much greater understanding of exactly what it takes to run a successful team.

Second, I learned a lot about myself. I discovered the things that are truly important to me in my work. When I agreed to take the position, I viewed is as an experiment. An experiment that I hoped would be successful, but an experiment nonetheless. I had never been employed in the web industry other than a short stint with an agency when I first started out that I don’t think was a good representation of a modern web shop. So I had no idea what it would be like. There was a chance that I would love it. It was something new. But, as I’ve been saying in the last 900 words or so, I discovered that it just wasn’t for me. I am happiest and at my best when I am working for myself.

Third, I learned that decisions (even big ones) aren’t irreversible. I’m a baptized, grade-A over-thinker. I tend to obsess over even the tiniest decision as if my entire future depended on making the right choice. But this simply isn’t true. And this kind of over-thinking often leads to doing nothing out out fear of making the wrong choice. I have missed out on many opportunities because of this fear. But I hope this experience has helped me see the error of my ways, at least a little. I tried something and found that it wasn’t for me. There’s nothing wrong with that. I hope I will now have an easier time trying new things, knowing that if I change my mind, the world will not collapse around me.

So What Now

As of this week, I’m back to my freelancing ways. I have five or six products that I really want to launch, as well as some client work to wrap up. In addition, I’m looking for new projects, so if you know of anything, I would appreciate any referrals you send my way. My focus is on WordPress design and development, custom WordPress themes and responsive website builds.

I plan to take a small sabbatical to plan out the next six months and the paths to version 1 releases of several new products. In addition, I am doing lots of podcasting and have several new shows in the works (one of which is being prepped for public radio distribution through PRX, which I am beyond excited about). Another of my new show ideas is about relaunching a freelance career and all the sweat and thought and strategy that goes into that. I have a lot of plans to do things differently this time around. If you think you’d be interested in a podcast like that, please let me know. If I get enough interest, I will definitely make that show a reality.

A few things to keep an eye on:

I am super excited about my immediate future. I feel like I’ve rediscovered, in some ways, who I am and what I truly value. I don’t know what the next few months hold or where exactly the work will come from, but I’m going to be doing the work I want and in the way I want. A blessing for which I’m truly thankful.

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W. Clement Stone on Integrity