Connect for Life

Be Thankful for Failure

Be Thankful For Failure


I entered the real world as a credit analyst at Texas American Bancshares, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. I met regularly with senior lenders and executives at the bank, learned how to analyze financial statements, and was exposed to a wide range of businesses and industries. Back then an analyst had to become a quick study on different business models and learn how to analyze the highlights quickly for the loan officers and then articulate those ideas well in a loan committee package. 


From a social perspective, I expanded my relationships and started making connections working in a youth program at a local church. As my relationships expanded, a parent of one of my church students asked me if I had any interest in becoming an entrepreneur. As a naïve young man, I said, “Of course! Do you have something in mind?” The father was the president of Sweetshop Candy Corporation in Fort Worth. He and one of his partners had invested in Sweet Shop and Pangburn Candy companies, and they had an interest in getting into the retail food business. I was in.


Entrepreneurial Adventure


We found a steakhouse franchise that was for sale in Burleson, Texas. After working through the details over a period of months, there I sat on a Friday afternoon at the closing dressed in my dark blue banker suit and white shirt. I left the closing and went down to the restaurant as a 10% owner and general manager of the store, knowing very little about the food business. The former owner informed the staff of the change in ownership, and my entrepreneurial adventure began. The next four years would find me working seven days a week, having the number of stores expand to four with one in Burleson, Texas, one in Cleburne, Texas, and two in different parts of Fort Worth. We went from one to four restaurants and back to one in about three years. It was my first encounter with failure. 


Seed of Passing on Gratitude


So, there I was at the age of 27, making $30,000 a year, recently married, and $250,000 in debt and I was totally burned out. If not for my relationship with my partners, I would have been totally wiped out. They saved me in more ways than they know. I was able to negotiate a sale of my remaining interest to one partner and paid back a much smaller amount than I owed, then parlayed that experience into a shot at graduate school at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. That one partner had given me a gift of debt forgiveness that I will never forget. It would not be the last favor that someone bestowed on me and planted in me the seed of passing that gratitude on to others. With that gift, he made a huge investment in me and became a life-long mentor and friend. 


Embrace Struggles & Failure


While your connections are critical to your own success, so is failure. All successful people whom I’ve come across in my life have experienced failure of some type. In his book The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday discusses this very thing. Often, we look back on the challenges we have overcome in life that were critical to our personal success. Holiday’s thesis is that we should embrace our struggles and failures and even be grateful for those struggles because they make us who we are. Examine your own journey and if you are not overcoming struggles and failure, ask yourself how you can succeed.

Discussion with John

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