Episode 226 - Featuring Lee Matthew Jackson
August 7, 2019
Do you feel like a failure? Is your agency not where you feel it should be? In this episode I share how we dealt with both failure and the feelings of failure in our agency. Be prepared to grab a notebook and to pause this episode at the appropriate moments because I want you to take some action today!
Lee Matthew Jackson: Welcome to The Agency Trailblazer Podcast. This is your host Lee and today it’s you and it’s me. I want to talk today about failure. Failure is a word that I think instils inside of us very negative emotions and something that I look back at over the years is this sense that I have been a failure or I have failed at so much and I look back and I start to feel this overwhelming sense of depression, of failure, of missing out on opportunities or not doing things right. It can be really, really overwhelming. So I just want to have an honest conversation I think with you today and just talk about what our relationship to failure is and how we all need to be shifting that.
So the first thing that I was thinking about is comparison. Comparison, I believe is one of the biggest contributors to my feeling of failure. Whenever I look at what I’m doing, if I’m comparing myself to other people, it’s so easy for us to look around, look at other agency owners, look at other people online who are quote on quote “living the dream”, running the successful agency. They’ve got the big office with the large team, with the glass walls, with the arcade machine and the pool table with the regular trips out and eating out and all of the cool stuff that just looks awesome. As an agency owner, we’re like, I want that. Why is my agency not like that? Why do I have an office here or why don’t I have an office in London? Why don’t I have those big clients, etc. So comparing ourselves to what’s going on in other people’s agencies, I believe is one of the biggest sources of our feeling of failure. If I look back over the years, I recognise that there are so many points in my life where I’ve looked at these other agencies.
So we were based in Bedford, which is just up from London and we’d so often be visiting our clients in London and we’d be competing against these big agencies, 50, 6,0 a hundred people in these agencies. They had those massive offices. They had that quote on quote lifestyle that everybody envies. We just had these offices up in Bedford. They were not great. We were stuck in a really long lease. It needed new carpet. It was basically a dump as far as I was concerned. There was just that feeling of complete, immense failure of dejection of why isn’t our agency like this? Why can’t we have that? So by comparing ourselves to other agencies and other people’s journeys, we were labelling ourselves as failures. We were beginning to believe that we were not successful, that we had not succeeded. And this in itself led to fear and that fear to bad decisions.
We were fearful that we were a failure, that we were not going to make it, that we had not achieved the sorts of dreams that we’d been talking about for many years and this fear led to taking on clients that were simply not right for us because we felt we had to get the income in and we had to start increasing the revenue. We had to start growing. We had to start adding to the team. We had to get ourselves into a position where we could afford the big office, where we could make the big move, where we could call ourselves a success because we had now made it. We had now achieved that beautiful office space. We had now had this large team. We could now go golfing and and be all of this that we really thought that we had to be. All of that, all of those dreams, all of those comparisons to other people’s journeys.
Were just creating just a rotten feeling inside a feeling that it was really hard to shift. So before I carry on, I just want to challenge you. If you feel like a failure or if your agency feels like it’s not up to scratch, you feel and maybe your team as well, feel like you’ve not yet made it. Just analyse why do you feel like that? Is it because you are comparing yourself with other people, with other people’s dreams, with other people’s journeys and I want to underline that aspect of other people’s journeys because we don’t know what’s going on in their lives. We don’t know what’s going on in their world. We even don’t know how they got to where they got to because they have had a completely different journey. Some of these agencies are actually bankrolled by huge companies and operate at a loss for a very long time before they can move things over.
Other agencies started with a massive cash injection and other agencies still have just had completely different journeys, so it’s not apples for apples. If we start to look at other people and go, but they’ve got it better than us, then we will feel that dejection we will feel that failure and it can lead to those bad decisions. So I challenge you right now, even stop this podcast for a bit and just have a think. Are you comparing yourself with other people? Are you comparing yourself with other journeys as well? Take a moment, write some of that stuff down, it is really cathartic. It’s something that we had to do to say what, what is it that is driving this feeling of dejection, of failure, of not wanting to come into the office everyday.
Now, one of the things that we recognised that we would doing is not acknowledging what we had. So we were comparing ourselves to other people, thus feeling like a failure, but we were not acknowledging what we had created. So for example, it came to a point many years ago when I had to sit down and go, what have we done? What are the good things that we have achieved? And if I looked at some of the facts, it actually changed how I felt about why we were at. So if I looked at my personal life, I could see that I had run an agency and I was able to pay my bills. I was able to meet my mortgage and bill commitments every single month. I was able to spend some time with the family. We had a car, we were able to go on holidays at least two or three holidays a year. I had friends, if we then looked at the business, we had an office space, so we had a place to go.
In fact, we even at one point had an office space down in London and one up in Bedford. So we had these two office spaces. We had a team of really cool people who actually accepted the surroundings that we had. Sure it needed a lick of paint. Sure it needed a new carpet, etc. But actually we had a team of some really lovely people and we could have a great laugh and we were all nearby so people could get to the office. It was convenient to get to as well as near all of the local amenities and that’s actually the same for both the London and for the Bedford office as well and that actually started to lift my spirits and it actually started to change the conversation I was having with my business partners as well. So if you think back to stage one, we’re comparing ourselves with other agencies and with other people’s journeys and starting to feel deflated, defeated and failures.
Then when we start to look at what we had actually achieved and looked at the positives with regards to what we already had, then we started to have that feeling of accomplishment and we could also look logically at what we had and had achieved already and actually start to make some real logical changes to the business as well. We were starting to feel that pride of, okay, we have actually created something here from completely nothing. This is ours. This is our journey. We have this now and yes, we do want to change things but change things for our benefit. No longer therefore are we looking to change things because we feel that we have to, but we’re actually changing things because we want to enhance and build on the success that we have already had. So we have this office location that is in a good area.
So what can we do now to make the most of what we have and start to make those sorts of decisions rather than us looking through the filter of other people’s lives and just constantly feeling dejected. So I guess this is step two for you is first of all we’ve said, acknowledge where you’re comparing yourself to other people and what that might look like. Then number two is acknowledge all of the successes. So I encourage you, again, maybe stop this podcast right now and make a list of both in your personal and in your business life. Acknowledge all of those successes that you’ve had. If you’ve built some phenomenal websites, acknowledge those successes. If you’ve developed some software, acknowledged that you know you’ve created something from nothing your business, have a think of your business as it stands. How did that business start? where are you now compared to then? So perhaps you had no money in the bank and you started selling your first website and now you have a business with maybe one or two staff. That is success. That is your journey. So take some time and write down what you feel have been your successes so that you can draw some positivity. from that I would then encourage you to say, where do you want to go? And that leads to the third point.
We did not have any real vision. So not only were we comparing ourselves with other people, not only were we not acknowledging the success that we already had, but we actually had no idea where we wanted to go in the future. We didn’t have this vision of what we wanted to create that would be good for us and be good for our family. SO this led to a conversation where we said, okay, for each member of this organisation, what do we want to achieve in one year, three years, and five years? What will our lives look like with our family and ourselves? So what will be our work life balance, etc, and what will this business look like? You see what that does is creates our vision and it creates our road-map, our journey of where we want to go as opposed to anyone else’s. That then allows us to start to build the stepping stones to achieve those visions, those ideals. So to illustrate that, I was having a look at my life, what did I want to create for myself, for my family, etc. Then I was able to share that with the team members and for me it was very much around, I wanted to be able to build another company alongside the one that we had together where I’d be able to help agency owners with their WordPress themes, etc.
This was one of my passions, one of my dreams. I also wanted to make sure that I had more time with my family. I wanted to make sure that I was able to go on holidays. We wanted to be able to travel to Florida and have some time together out there as well. We wanted to be able to do our home up because actually the home we have is absolutely perfectly fine. It just needed a lick of paint and a few things fixing to make it feel better. So I just started to create these, what are these short term dreams and what are these longer term dreams? And then started to have those conversations with my colleagues as well as with our team members and to encourage that sort of conversation. It also led therefore for us to close the London office and for one of our business partners to move up with the team up to Bedford so that we could create something special and something more unique here in the Bedford area, which was phenomenal. It meant that we actually had a better work life balance. We were able to access each other much more easily. Everything was much more convenient, etc.
So number one, stop comparing yourself to other people’s journeys. Number two, please acknowledge that success. Then number three, look to create a real vision of what you would like to do. What does your agency look like? What does your business look like? What does your life and your lifestyle look like and nobody else’s. Break that up into a one, two, three, four year plan, etc, and then start to make small, manageable changes to start to make those things happen. A very simple example was that we all decided that we were going to finish at five no matter what. That was one of the very first changes that we made based on us having these sorts of conversations where we wanted a vision for our business where we were not working until midnight because we were doing that a lot and it was very stressful.
So one of our first small achievable changes was to agree that we’ll all finish at five no matter what, and that actually gave us a target to wrap up our day. When you can actually work until 12 midnight, you actually are less efficient, I think can work slow. Whereas if you’ve got this cutoff point of we’re all accountable, here we are closing the doors at five o’clock then you work your butt off to make sure you close the doors at five o’clock because you also have a vision. That vision includes you having dinner at the dinner table with your family at home and then watching a movie or whatever that’s going to be. So this takes us to your relationship with failure. What is your relationship to failure? Is it to instantly feel defeat and to give in or is it to recognise that you need to make some sort of a change and try again?
With failure, very often we might have this exciting idea. Perhaps it’s an idea for a new product. Maybe we build it and we put it out there, get all excited. We put that product out there, we create the landing page, we do the videos, we invest in the advertisements, etc. Maybe spend quite a lot of money on a massive launch and then nobody buys the product. Well, that product probably feels like a pretty huge failure and I’m actually sharing that from the real world. I actually did this. I spent an awful lot of time and money in fact, months, if not years, developing some software that actually only one person ended up buying and I actually ended up refunding them in the end anyway, it was a WordPress plugin. It went nowhere and we invested a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money in this, and it didn’t work.
So my relationship to failure could therefore be defeat. I could have given in at that point and said, oh, I’ll throw it all in the bin. Forget about it. Let’s never talk about that again. However, for me, it just fired me even more. I wanted to make a success and learn the lessons of that failure. What had I done wrong? Well, the first thing I had done wrong was I had made an assumption about the market and I’d made an assumption that people wanted something and that I had created the ideal platform to solve the problem that I thought they all had. Except I was wrong. I didn’t actually validate that, I just made the assumption and I went for it. So one of the lessons I instantly learnt was validate your ideas before you start investing. So that in itself is a valuable lesson that I learned.
However, I was then able to take the code that we had developed that nobody ended up buying. Since it has become part of different products that we’ve created over the last few years, and it’s even formed the basis of social media tools that are now in use in other industries, which is phenomenal. So we’ve been able to take that code base that we did, invest all that time kind of needlessly. But then we’ve been able to repurpose it and it has actually paid for itself in the long run. But that’s because of our attitude towards failure. We tried something, it didn’t go right and then we were able to look back and say, all right, what would we have done differently next time if we would have done anything at all and what are the lessons that we can draw from this failure so that we will never do those things again and hopefully we can teach other people.
So have a think about this. What’s your relationship to failure? Maybe think of something that didn’t go right recently and then what was your reaction to it? Did you just give in at that point and feel dejected and move on? Or did you spend some time to recognise what went wrong and then either make some changes and try again? Or did you grab those lessons and use them for your future in no matter what you are working on? Now one of my favourite books on this planet is called Feel the fear and do it anyway. Really the premise is this: If you try something, it’s better to try it then to always wonder what if, and if you do try something, it doesn’t go as you planned other opportunities end up happening anyway as a result. So you might as well go ahead and try something and if it doesn’t happen the way you imagined it, that in itself is not failure because you have still learned some really valuable lessons from it.
It’s also not failure because there are going to be new opportunities. So let’s take that right back to the social media plugin that we created that we literally spent thousands of pounds on developing and one person bought that we refunded. Well we were able to repurpose all of that code. So we were able to take that and we had new opportunities when somebody approached us a couple of years later who said, I have this vision for a product that will do this. I’m like, well we already built that like two years ago, so let’s bring that code base into this and, and let’s use that. So we were actually able to use that and we won that project because we already had that data. We also want other projects in the events industry because we’ve developed so much code as a part of that that we were able to morph into our event products as well, so we had all of this stuff that we could repurpose and equally for myself, when I then launched my membership, which is agencytrailblazer.com I also launched my event, etc. I’d learnt the lesson of validation so I didn’t spend thousands upon thousands getting the event and the membership set up. I validated first by finding the lowest cost to entry and then found out whether there was a market for this and that was all born out of the lessons learned and the opportunities that that creates.
So I want to close this podcast just to remind you that failure is a learning opportunity and it’s a stepping stone to help you get to where you want to be for your journey. Let’s do a recap. Comparison, that is the killer. Stop comparing yourself to other people’s journeys and try and acknowledge where you have been doing that. Then number two, start acknowledging your successes and you can do that on a daily basis as well. Each day have a thankfulness journal. Gabrielle Trainer, she runs the calm mind club. She’s a big proponent of having some sort of thankfulness journal where you can acknowledge even daily successes to build you up, but acknowledge at least the success and acknowledge where you are and where your business is right now from where it was. Then make sure number three, that you actually have that vision. So what is your vision? Where do you want to be for you, for your family, for your team, for your Business? Then I encourage you, start to make steps to allow you to achieve those visions, those dreams that you have. Again, I want to underline that you have for your life, for your business and not what other people have. Let me give you one last example. So we have an office here in the village now. I used to have to travel about an hour every single day to go to the office that I worked at. And it was something that really wore me down there was lots of traffic. I did not enjoy that whatsoever. And one of my dreams was that I’d be able to walk to the office every single day. So we found a small location here in the same village and we’ve created a lifestyle for ourselves where we can walk, the team, everyone lives here in the same village, we can just walk to the office.
So it’s a small thing, but it’s actually massive for us. It’s a massive success for us. It is nothing like the old comparisons that I used to have where I was dreaming. We had our own building. We’re actually sharing this with somebody else and paying them. It doesn’t matter because we’ve actually created the lifestyle. So as I wrap up, remember create your vision, the business that you want to create, the lifestyle that you want to create. And then let’s wrap up reminding ourselves of what is our relationship to failure? Is it defeat? And to give in or is it to recognise that failure is an amazing or life lesson opportunity and it also opens up other opportunities that we may not have seen or may never have had the chance to be a part of. So maybe check out that book, Feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s a phenomenal book and I will make sure I put a link in the show notes.
Okay, folks, I hope this has been useful for you. This has been born out of our experiences and it’s a huge passion of mine. I’m definitely sick of seeing all of these advertisements online trying to sell people these lifestyles and these systems of becoming a millionaire. That’s all well and good, but I really want people just to be happy with what they already have and to put steps in place to improve and to have achievable dreams not to make do. I’m not saying don’t become a millionaire if that’s part of your dream, but to actually celebrate where your at right now and then build some achievable steps towards whatever future that you want to create for yourself. Please stop listening to those online gurus who are trying to sell you ridiculous dreams because the only people I believe that are getting rich out of those schemes are the guys and girls who are selling those schemes.
All right anyway, that’s enough of me moaning. Don’t forget we have a YouTube channel. If you can support the YouTube channel, please check that out. There is a link in the show notes or just type in Agency Trailblazer into YouTube and you’ll find it. We do three episodes a week. We have Motivation Monday where I try and give you something that’s going to fire what for the weekend for your team. So I think that’s essential watching every single Monday morning, 6:00 AM. We also have What’s Up Wednesday, that’s telling you what’s going on in the community as well as in the premium community and we give you some free advice during that as well. That’s from the premium community, so some nuggets of wisdom that you can apply to your business. Then finally we also have Frank Friday, that’s every single Friday where we just have a frank discussion. Pretty much like this episode. This has been a frank discussion. I’ve been an open book with you and I’m saying it as I see it. So we have a frank discussion every Friday, Frank Friday on Youtube. So please go ahead and like and subscribe on YouTube. Hit the notification icon I think is what YouTubers also say because I would really value a two way conversations. A lot of the time when you’re running a podcast you feel like you’re talking out there at two lots of imaginary people. So when you guys show up in the comments either in the Facebook group or on Youtube, that is just awesome for me as a podcaster and it actually helps steer the direction of this podcast and of the content that I create because I know what is on the mind of people and what people’s opinions and thoughts and questions are. So please do get involved over there on YouTube Agency Trailblazer in YouTube and also in our free Facebook group agencytrailblazer.com/group. Finally, if you want to be on a weekly call with myself or with one of the team here at agency trailblazer, then go ahead and check out agencytrailblazer.com.
I’m going to wrap this episode by hitting it home again. Stop comparing, do acknowledge your successes and do create some realistic vision for you, for your life and for your business that you want to achieve for yourself. If we don’t see you on YouTube, if we don’t see you in the community, we will see you in the next episode.
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