My big fat failure.

Updated: Nov 30, 2019


Out of my own colossal failures, my purpose and passion for helping entrepreneurs create business success and personal achievement was born.


In my first decade as an entrepreneur and creative professional, I worked with single-minded determination to "arrive", and become a “made man” in my profession. I was going to be a success and failure never entered my mind.


Through hard work I was successful by all measure earning the respect of my employees, partners, clients and competitors. I was also married raising my family, living in a beautiful house on the right side of town. I was the picture of worldly success I had always dreamed of being and worked so hard to achieve.


I was making money. I was a success!


I’m not exactly sure when it began for me–the awareness of a distant voice and feeling telling me I had other work to do in life and was in the wrong place and doing the wrong work in the wrong business. I did not understand what was happening to me at that time. All I recall is doing all I could to ignore this distant voice beckoning me towards who knows what?


Despite all my outward success, I felt empty, unsatisfied, yearning, with a nagging feeling of aimlessness and meaninglessness.  I never felt complete or whole about who I was, nor my real reason for being. I was never satisfied with the quality of the work I did for my clients, nor did I appreciate the good things that happened to me. I felt completely lost, but I trudged on, unwilling to be open to anything other than the  "make money, be successful in the world" value system I had thus far based my entire life on.


I was in my early 40s when I first drummed up enough courage to follow a really crazy idea.

With growing apathy for my design business, I found myself being pulled back to music (a love since childhood). I began to write songs. Then I performed them, and recorded them. After a couple of years experimenting with this crazy idea, I opened a recording studio and design office in Nashville.  I was going to be a successful songwriter and creative impresario. At long last, I was going to create a successful business doing what I really loved! For the first time in my life I choose to follow my bliss.


Many of my closest friends and colleagues, and especially my family, thought I was completely nuts. Many admired the "gutsy, bold move" but they still advised I was crazy taking such a big risk doing something that had little chance for success. Deep down inside I believed them.


Despite my best game face, I was scared shitless the whole time... constantly worrying I wasn't good enough, didn't have the right connections, not enough money, and a deep belief that I was just kidding myself, the whole adventure was folly and I should be sensible and get back to my practical business that made money and kept everyone else who depended on me happy.


After a year or so, operating with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake, I finally pulled up stakes and left the Nashville adventure with my tail between my legs.


For the first time I had experienced real devastating failure.


In the process I lost a ton of money, and more importantly, my belief and confidence in my ability to create what I wanted. I believed in my failure and it defined me for the next decade.


Afraid to admit a change in my approach to life and business was necessary, I trudged on in my marketing communications and design business for several more years going through the motions, feeling resentment, pissed off and lame.


My heart was no longer in my business, but I was still making good money, which seemed to placate me enough to stay stuck in my confusion and misery, safe inside my little comfort zone.


Then came the financial meltdown of the economy in the summer of 2007, Granted few entrepreneurs saw it coming. I was completely unprepared for such a devastating occurrence.


In its aftermath, I nearly went out of business, lost all of my retirement savings, my home was underwater, and I had accumulated significant debt keeping my business alive and helping my twin daughters get through college. I felt like Biblical Job, bewildered in a perfect storm of personal and economic calamity, asking in my righteousness "why me?”


Like my Nashville debacle, the financial crisis was just more evidence I was a failure– a victim of circumstance, powerless to create the success I truly desired.


I was 55 years old with a lifetime of hard work and not a thing to show for it. My entire life seemed like nothing more than a reflection of decades of failed half-assed schemes, lost money and bad timing.


Finally, I reached my bottom.

More out of necessity rather than wisdom, there was nowhere for me to look but up–and that’s exactly what I did. In 2008, amidst unprecedented uncertainty, I made an irrevocable decision to never again allow “failure” to diminish my belief and capability to create new opportunity.


In the several years since that defining moment in my life, I made the commitment to elevate my creative thinking and strategic direction. I’ve spent the past few years re-learning, experimenting, and investing in new knowledge. From the inside out, I began to rebuild my self-esteem and confidence. I would never again beat myself at my own game.


Reframing my inner beliefs about my value and contribution, I was once again determined to pursue new business ideas–engaged in what mattered to me and would serve the good of others. The White Hot Center is but one expression of that commitment and creative reinvention.


I continue to face challenges. There are obstacles. My resolve is tested daily. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, but I have learned much from my so-called failures and I am grateful for their teachings:


Your current circumstances are the effect and result of a previous mindset.

In my case, I believed in lack and limitation and was afraid to claim my right to pursue my ideas powered by my natural gifts and talents. Never let any failure define the level of your belief and confidence in yourself to create value in the world. Facts are far less important than the quality of your mindset.


Failure is fiction.

There is no such thing as failure. It’s all in your head. Challenges will always present themselves and through them the path forward is revealed. Things sometimes don’t work out as planned. The winds of change will blow constant in every direction. There will never be the right time, the right idea, the right partner, or the right amount of resources. As long as you are alive and able to use all your mental faculties, there is only learning and growing. The entire universe operates on this principle.


True success is an inner game.

There is no success outside yourself that can satisfy your inner thirst for meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment and contribution. Success is an attitude and a way of being in the world that enables you to use your natural gifts and talents to increase the good of others. When your focus is on the increase of others, your life experience increases in equal measure. No amount of outer success can overcome an inner belief of lack and limitation.


Embrace risk like a lover.

Growth and expansion requires risking your safety and security. The price of any accomplishment, achievement and attainment will always include risking something you would rather not lose. Do it anyway. Whatever happens it will only serve your growth and advancement.


As Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher and general said two thousand years ago, “what stands in the way becomes the way”.


My big fat failures were my greatest gifts.

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thomson@whitehotcenter.com

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