Which way are you going?

“Behind every successful man there’s a lot of unsuccessful years” – Bob Brown

In my Friday post last week, (Leave the gray card at home…) I made a brief mention of successful failures that I would like to go more into detail about with this weeks article. Everyone who writes for Monsters vs Me uses it as a creative outlet to express what they are most passionate about. Not only do I have a passion for photography, but I’m also big on motivating people to live a positive and happy life. This week I will cover the art of the successful failure as I have come to know it.

I think the only way to do this, is to share some real life examples from my life. My hope with writing this article, is that you look back on those times in your life which you deemed as complete failures, and find a way to pull some positives out of it. I hope that despite the constant failure you think you may be experiencing in your current life, I can inspire you to keep on going.

I was born and raised in Canada so that means three things, I play hockey, drink beer and put maple syrup on everything. Sure, all are true with me, but one of those choices I did really well. Most of you who I have met in the past 8 – 10 years might think its beer, but I actually grew up playing competitive hockey until I was 17 years old. At the age of 10 people started telling my parents that I had quite the talent for the game. Before I keep going on, I just want to say that I am in no way trying to talk highly of my hockey skills. It all has a point.

FAILURE #1 – Hockey

Remember Cooper equipment? Apparently I really liked it

I started racking up the goals. I can remember one of my best seasons I had 88 goals and 77 assists in 53 games playing AAA hockey. As I got older, the stats continued to climb and so did my communication with scouts. At age 16 I was invited to Junior A and Junior B camps all over Ontario and was excited at the prospect of a career in hockey. I wasn’t the biggest guy in the world so my parent’s hired a personal trainer to put some muscle and weight on me. I can remember playing hockey, or doing hockey related training everyday of the week for years. It had consumed my life and I chose this. This was the hardest thing I had worked on in my life to date. I had a math teacher in high school (Mr. Parker for those of you that went to Newman), who was helping me study for the SATs. I would stay late and prepare in hopes of possibly getting a hockey scholarship to the States. My marks were there, my skills was there…. I was set, right? Then another piece of good news came. An invitation to the Under-17 Canadian National Team Camp. Good things were happening all over because of the hard work and dedication I put towards this sport.

Another year would go by and I was still playing competitive hockey, but wasn’t getting any bigger and talks with the scouts had slowed down. Long story short, I eventually ended up getting hurt; physically and emotionally. My competitive hockey career was over. The years and years I spent trying to reach my goal of a career in hockey had elapsed. For years I wondered why I wasted all that time. I missed out on so many family functions, time spent with friends and the little things because I was locked away in hockey areans. I failed. I didn’t reach my goal and it bothered me for a long time. I had let my parents down as well. The time and money they spent on me and I couldn’t repay them. The dream had died. How could this happen though? I gave everything I had. I guess they were wrong, hard work doesn’t pay off.

FAILURE #2 – Music

Playing Warped Tour in 2007

Ok, so I didn’t make it to the NHL. It’s really hard to do that anyways (excuses). So what next? Well I play guitar so lets start a band and try and become a famous rockstar. Done!

My next major venture would see me starting a rock band with some friends and pushing every ounce of energy I had into turning it into a successful career. We did some amazing things. Put out a record, toured Canada, toured with some of my favorite bands, played Warped Tour and met some amazing friends along the way. I made sure I didn’t get a full time job so I could put all my time and effort towards making this work. I was broke but it would get us to our goal that much faster. I took care of everything behind the scenes. Booked shows, organized practices, handled the money, made the websites, marketing, etc. We had interest from a lot of labels and things were looking up for us.

We started selling our record to places as far as Japan, Germany and Australia. We were featured in some major music magazines as “the next big band from Canada”. All the pieces were in place and it was about to happen for us.

Then within our fifth year, everything started spiraling down. Members were leaving and being replaced as well as some people stopped giving 100% commitment to the band. We were getting older and it was tough living on $100 a month. Our Holiday was ending. Well there goes another five years of my life down the drain. What a waste. All that hard work for nothing. All my friends around me were well into their full time jobs, buying houses, buying luxury cars and there was me, at ground zero, with absolutely nothing. So once again…. I failed! Really, who is this guy that says hard work pays off?

So for a long time I was really upset at how much time I had wasted putting all my effort into ventures that never worked. There I was, selling all my music gear cause I was broke and looking for some employment. I would continue to fail at everything I did. Why me? Growing up I seemed to be on a path for success. How was I ever going to pull any positives out of my failures?

Then one day it hit me. Did I make it to the NHL? No… Did I become a famous rockstar? No… But instead of looking at how bad I failed, I started to think about how to use my experiences positively.

While playing hockey for 12 years, I experienced things in life some people will only dream of. I learned more about teamwork and leadership from playing hockey than any week long leadership camp will teach you. It was these little things that I never realized. Learning how to socialize and interact with complete strangers when I was ten years old were the building blocks that I use today when I meet with clients and everyday social interaction. I don’t think I would be as social or friendly of a person today if it wasn’t for hockey. I learned the value of dedication. Dedication not only from me to the sport, but from my parents to their child. For years my mom spent her 5am Saturday mornings taking me to hockey practice and my dad getting off work early so he could drive me 2 hours to get me to my game on time. This may be the biggest positive I took from the game. If I one day have kids [insert joke here], and I’m even half of the parent that my Mom and Dad were, I’ll know that my successes were from emulating their dedication. Hockey also taught me how to lose. We didn’t win every game and just like life you won’t win every situation. Learning this at such a young age has definitely helped me cope with the struggles life presents us. I mean, its better to cry when you lose at 8 years old than it is to cry now, right? A big part of hockey is planning and strategy. You take it for granted how much prep you do before a game because it soon becomes second nature. I don’t think its a coincidence today that I’m always planning and strategizing before every meeting, before every shoot and pretty much everything I do. Would I do this if it wasn’t for hockey? Who knows, but I can honestly say that without those years of my life, I would be a much different and worse off person.

When you think of playing in a band, you instantly think playing live shows, partying and just having a fun time. For those who play in bands, you know this already, but there is more behind the scenes work than you realize. Did I become a rockstar? No.. but the business practices and entrepreneurial skills I picked up from playing in a band can be comparable to what some educational institutions teach. I was constantly dealing with promoters, on the phone and through email, trying to book shows and watching out for the shady people trying to take advantage of your band. I handled the money. Constantly going to banks, to deposit, withdrawal and meeting with bankers to set up accounts that would best suit our band. Again, all elements that I looked beyond because the initial goal wasn’t reached. We travelled all across Canada and amongst meeting new people, I got to experience how different the Canadian culture can be from city to city. Nova Scotia has some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The band meetings we had can now relate to the meetings I run and meetings I am called to. I designed all the websites we had, which led me to learn Photoshop and most Adobe programs. It definitely has helped with the progression of my photography today.

The biggest thing I picked up from the band life was marketing. I have never went to school for marketing nor read any books. Everything was hands on. The world of Myspace was my first real interaction with social media. Numerous times we were the most viewed band and had most plays in Canada according to the Myspace charts. I learned so much about the value of networking and how to do it properly to the point of where companies are hiring me to help them obtain a successful online presence in the world of social media as well as being featured on the cover of a Toronto based social media magazine. With all of that, how can I ever deem it as a failure now?

When pointing out all my accomplishments, I never want it to seem that I think I’m better than anyone. I’m only trying to use my life examples to show you where hard work and dedication can lead you. Sure, I never reached those goals but without trying, I wouldn’t have been as educated to reach life’s most important goal: To be happy. I’m sure most of us have seen the movie Apollo 13. This was one of the most covered successful failure stories ever. Did they complete their goal? No. But they now do things a lot different at NASA because of it. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

It’s Christmas Eve and the start of a great holiday season. I challenge you this weekend to look back at events in your life where you completely failed and try to look at the positives from it. If you can pick out at least one positive element, then you can deem it a successful failure. No matter what, you’re always going to fail at things you do in life, but it’s up to you how you take them. You can hang your head and give up, or learn from it and keep trying. I like to live my life by the motto of “mistakes only happen once”. Sure you can make a mistake, but if you do it a second time, well then you’re just an idiot. You didn’t learn anything.

If you’ve never failed, then you’ve never risked and without risk there’s no reward.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

I would love to hear your successful failure stories. If you would like, share them in the comments below or if they are too personal email them to me at jay@monstersvsme.com.