My $20K Lesson: Failure Sucks But It’s One Step Closer To Happiness

I’m not perfect.

I’ve screwed up and failed many times.

My biggest failure to date came with a $20K price tag.

I learned some valuable lessons  from this epic failure.

Still, a hefty price to pay.

You know what though, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve never been happier.


“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

~ Henry Ford ~

I’ve always loved business and entrepreneurship. There’s something sexy and unique about doing work you love, what you want to do, running your own show, and doing it your way.

As a kid, I dabbled with all different sorts of businesses. I owned and operated several different fitness studios, travel agencies, bike and skateboard shops. I would set up shop and operate all of these businesses right from my grandma’s living room or from our back yard and my only daily customer was my grandfather.

When I look back now at the businesses I created and operated as a kid, it’s obvious that they were all things that I enjoyed: fitness, travel, sports. Not much has changed these days. I still love all three.

It’s amazing how as kids, we create, we invent, we do things that make us happy, that we love, that we could spend an entire day doing and still not get enough of it. As kids, we weren’t looking at market data, what careers would make us the most money, or what niche made the most sense to focus our time and effort on. As kids, we kept it simple. We loved something, we did it.


Do What You Love. Love What You Do.



Fast forward to 2006 and my love for entrepreneurship was at an all time high. I had several business ideas I wanted to start but instead of making my decision based on what I loved and enjoyed doing, just as I had done so as a kid, I based it on what industry I thought made the most sense to get into and would make me the most money.

I decided to create a website where a home owner could post their home, apartment, or condo for rent and where people could go to find a place to rent. While there was and still is numerous other similar sites out there, Craigslist being one that comes immediately to mind, the difference between my site and all the other sites that already existed, including Craigslist, was that it would only have posts with pictures that accurately represent the unit for rent.

I thought the idea was a winner although I didn’t understand the first thing about real estate or the rental market and quite frankly, it didn’t excite me. It seemed like a great idea with the potential to generate lots of money so I decided to go for it.

Not knowing a thing about web development, I engaged a company to help me create the site. The proposal was $20K to have it created. I wasn’t going to let money, even though it was a lot of money, stop me. I pulled together money from my savings, credit cards, an investment from both my sister and a friend of mine, and I went for it. Big mistake.

To make a long story short, the site was developed. It was terrible, I didn’t like it, and was highly dissatisfied. The web developers stated they had delivered on what I had asked of them. I was anger, confused, and lost with no idea in which direction to turn. I had just invested $20K dollars into a business idea I wasn’t passionate about and an expensive website that was way overpriced and not good. I was in a state of shock for quite sometime and the website ended up laying stagnant for almost a year.

I beat myself up over this failure for 8 months before I decided to give it another shot and to make it work. I had the site redeveloped, this time for much less after a wonderful referral to a web development team I received from a colleague of mine. I invested a few thousand dollars more into the website and although I was very pleased with the new site and the traction it started to make, there was still one very important key element missing to make it a success which just wasn’t there…. me. My desire, my love, my passion, the commitment necessary to make it work. It just wasn’t there.


“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that serves the world and you.”

~ Richard Branson ~


I’m still making monthly payments for these lessons learned but I am neither bitter nor angry. In fact, it’s just the opposite, I am grateful and happy. It wasn’t my first failure and it sure won’t be my last.

Failures are opportunities to learn, to get better, to be better, to grow as individuals and to get us closer to happiness, the things we want, and the life we want to live.

Failure is never final unless we make it so.





Don’t Just Make A Dollar, Make A Difference

I have financial responsibilities as I’m sure you do as well. I understand we can’t just chase and do what we love without making money. We all need money to live. What I learned though is that it isn’t money that makes me happy, it definitely helps, but it’s not money itself that makes me happy. What makes me happy is making a positive difference in people’s lives by doing work that I love and believe in, work that makes me happy. Waking up every morning and going to bed every night excited, thinking about the community we’re creating together at The Wellness Bucket and most importantly, the positive difference we’re making together, in our own lives, in the lives of others, and most importantly, in the world. Follow your heart, follow your dreams, follow your passions. It is there where you will find true happiness.


Don’t Be A Victim

After paying a web developer to have my website business created, I felt deceived, robbed, taken advantage of. I was angry and resentful for some time. As tough as it was, I began to look at myself and took responsibility for my actions, my decisions, and my epic failure. Once I began doing this, I started thinking that if I had the ability to screw up this badly, I also had the ability to learn from it and try again. I was not a victim, I was doing what all other successful entrepreneurs have done on their way to success and happiness….failing, learning, and trying again until they got it right. Take responsibility for your actions, learn from them, and move forward. Keep moving forward.


Just Start

I’m not happy or proud of the fact that I failed big time and lost a huge chunk of money I am still paying for today. What I am happy about though is that I made the decision to act. I took action. I didn’t sit and think about the idea and theorize about how it may or may not work. I took action. Sure I failed but it’s given me confidence knowing that I can start, I can fail, and I have the ability to pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and go for it again. The only way I am going to learn is to get out there, give it a go, and see what happens. They say ships in a harbor are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. We as people are built for greatness and happiness but the only way to achieve them both is to get out there and start, explore, fail, learn, and then start again. Just start.


I don’t think anyone likes to or wants to fail, I know I don’t. I may not like it but I accept it. If I am taking action, giving it my all, learning, getting better, and becoming a better person as a result of my failures, I accept it.

We can apply the accepting-failure concept to any situation. Here’s just a few examples:

1. If you commit to losing weight and decide to take action by starting a new weight loss program, good for you! You’re already ahead of the game. Chances are along the way you will fall off track and that’s OK. Learn what’s working for you, what isn’t, make adjustments, and keep going. Keep moving forward.

2. If you’re in a career you’re unhappy with, take action and either find a new job or start a new business. If the new job or new business doesn’t work out, that’s OK. The fact is you weren’t happy at your first job or business to begin with so you acted upon it and now you also realize that this new job or business wasn’t for you either, therefore another step closer to finding what it is that you do love doing and makes you happy.

3. If you’ve suffered some set backs in relationships, whether it’s with family, a friend, or your significant other, that’s OK. Learn from the mistakes, make a commitment to understand how and what went wrong, what YOU, not the other person, but you can do to make it better the next time, because chances are, there will be a next time, and that’s OK. Just another opportunity to learn and get better.


It’s not about being perfect, it’s about making progress.


I don’t have all the answers and I never will. I’ve failed several times throughout my life and I’m sure there’s more to come. I say bring it on.

I believe in taking action, following our passions and what makes us happy, giving it our all and when we fail, learning how and why we failed, makes the necessary adjustments, and going for it again, and again, and again until we achieve the happiness and the life we want. If we are brave enough, which I know we all are because we’re all awesome, to follow these steps, the life and things we want all become a matter of when, not if.

PS – If you’re curious about the epic fail website and what the heck it looked like, here it is:


You Don’t Have To Be Great To Start, But You Must Start To Be Great.


If you’re comfortable enough to do so, please share with me some of your own failures have been and how and what you learned from them. How have they shaped you and what advice would you offer others?


Image Credit: One of several breathtaking sunsets I experienced during my travels to Mykonos, Greece. You can see more of the adventure here.

  • Hey Mike, Thanks for generously sharing your learning with all of us. Failures definitely provide some of the richest learning experiences.

    • My pleasure Ben, thanks for your comment. You’re spot on too, failures do provide us with some of the riches learning experiences, if we choose to make them so. Cheers!

  • Wow – such a great story, Mike! I love what you said about not allowing yourself to be a victim. Taking responsibility for your failures (and successes!) is an important key to happiness, in my opinion!

    • Thanks Meg, I appreciate your comment and your words. It’s easy to be the victim, it deflects all responsibility for the failure. It’s not always easy admitting we screwed up, we were wrong, and the ones responsible for the consequences but when we do take ownership of our failures, we’re also taking one gigantic step in the right direction towards our own happiness and success which we are ultimately responsible for and in control of.

  • Mike, now that is why I stick with you as my life coach!!!!!!!!!

    If you think its expensive to hire a professional, think how much it costs to hire an amateur.

    An amateur will think they have arrived – when it is the path that lets us be happy today, rather than the dream of tomorrow.

    My epic failure? Thinking I can still lift 70-80 pounds, year after year, and continue to injure my back. I continue to modify my behavior, expunge heavy objects from my home so they do not tempt me to move them. But then when adrenaline kicks in and I am having fun, I will be the “strong” one to lift that crab pot in Alaska.

    (Cause I am the stronger one).

    But that was misguided – I was the foolish one. Once again. Now I am on my second MRI in 2 weeks. Excitement, adrenaline, fun – it can cloud our thoughts for decision making.

    But you, my friend, keep me focused on try and modify, try and modify. I now decline to be the strong one, thank you very much.

    You are a professional.

    • Jen, you are awesome! Thanks so much for your comments and sharing your our experience with all of us. You are the epitome of perseverance. Try and modify, what an awesome phrase and so very appropriate, love it! Thanks Jen.

    • Thanks for your comment John, I appreciate it every single time. It’s people like you, your words, and your support that inspire me to keep going, especially after epic failures like this one. Thanks man!

  • I find that the most expensive lessons are the best lessons to learn. You can’t afford to make another one like it!

    • Thanks for your comment B. Expensive lessons are tough to swallow but like you said, usually the best lessons to learn and you’re right, certainly can’t afford to make many of them. Cheers!

    • Thanks Mauriel. I do still own it although I am exploring different options as far as how to transition it to someone who believes in it more than I do and could give it the time and effort it deserves if it’s to every become something of value to others.

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