The Express Train to Hong Kong Airport: A Story About Failure
A quote had popped up on my Facebook feed: Never let anybody dull your sparkle.
And there I was, at 39, staring at myself in the mirror. Normally rushing to get ready to run off to a meeting or an activity for my children, I decided to stop and look at myself. What looked back at me was an exhausted, overwhelmed woman who had lost her confidence. It marked the end of my first decade of entrepreneurship. I had lost my sparkle.
To the outside world, I was a Super Mum juggling children, career and social life with seeming ease and an upbeat appearance. However, that could not have been further from the reality. If I were to describe that decade in two words, the words would be ‘black hole’. My energy, optimism and good health was sucked in by the black hole that was my 30s, and I did not know how to bring it back.
At 30, I birthed three beautiful babies in quick succession and tried unsuccessfully to build a business around the needs of my children. My husband was travelling abroad for his work two weeks each month, leaving me holding too many forts with too few resources. My physical health had suffered as a result of complicated pregnancies and labours. A combination of insulin resistance, prolapse and a thyroid disorder left me 18kgs overweight, depressed and with little energy to do anything effectively. I felt like a failure.
At 37 years old, my husband and I made the decision to relocate our family to Singapore for his job. Yet another significant and stressful life change. While life in Singapore afforded us a luxurious lifestyle, regular island vacations and a full-time housekeeper, none of this made me feel better on the inside.
Women are natural collaborators. We spend our lives helping, supporting and lifting others. It’s what we do.
However, the constant lifting and putting myself last had taken its toll on my health and my confidence. I had tried to be all things to all people. I was a full-time mother and a full-time business woman. I was juggling so many things that I wasn’t doing anything to the high standards that I expected of myself. I felt sub-standard as a mother, a wife, a daughter and an entrepreneur.
As my 40th birthday approached, I was consumed with anxiety, self-loathing and doubt. I simply could not face another decade feeling so dreadful.
Experiencing so many ups and downs has taught me 3 things:
1. Never Celebrate Failure
No one wants to fail. Failure sucks. Failure ages you.
As entrepreneurs we approach life with optimism and assume that everything will work out. So when it doesn’t, it really hits hard. We shouldn’t celebrate failure,
We should celebrate our resilience to overcome it and our ability to learn from our stuff ups.
I made huge mistakes with my first two business, and lost over $100k of our family savings making these mistakes. And guess what? I continue to make mistakes in my current business. The major difference is that these mistakes are new ones. I have learnt from my past mistakes and will never make them again.
That is what I celebrate – the learnings – not the failures.
2. Keep Trying
If one failure eliminates your sparkle, then you need to toughen up.
Dust off the stress, humiliation and shame and get back up. There are dozens of well-publicised examples of female entrepreneurs, from JK Rowling to Oprah, who have faced rejection after rejection and have just kept going. Be confident in your vision for your life. Gather people around you that can help you get there. Never give up. This is a wonderful interview with Mel Robbins that I highly encourage you to watch.
3. Find Your Bath
If you are overwhelmed and over-busy, you will not be able to create the space in your brain for breakthroughs.
Breakthroughs come when you are relaxed. My business breakthroughs always come to me in the bath. My bath is my happy place. I take a bath at least 4 times a week ( Before you flip out, I live in Singapore, where it rains all the time, and the Government recycles water – so I am not wilfully wasting a precious resource, yet am very aware that this is an indulgence). It is during those moments of utter peace and relaxation that my biggest business ideas, solutions and innovations have come to me.
Find your bath. It could be a walk in nature or twenty minutes meditating quietly in your bedroom. Make relaxation practices a priority and you will be rewarded in more ways than one.
So, what does all this have to do with the airport express train to Hong Kong Airport?
When you step foot on the Hong Kong Airport Express Train you are presented with a cabin where half the seats face one direction and the other half face the opposite direction. You sit down and the train heads off on its 45-minute ride.
The seat you choose gives you a very different experience. Face one way and you travel backwards only seeing out the window everything you have left behind. Face forward and you see what is coming up as you approach the Airport.
It got me thinking. Which perspective would I prefer to view my life? Sitting backwards, heading into my future with a constant eye on my past? Or turning around and facing in the direction of where I am heading?
I choose to face forwards. If I think back to my time of overwhelm and disappointment, it fills me with great sadness. Do I want to spend my life thinking that I could have done it all better and questioning why I kept pushing in the direction of failure? Heck no!
Everyone on the Hong Kong Express Train is going to the same airport. But the direction they choose to face to get there will determine the experience of their journeys.
I choose to leave the past behind, pack what I learnt into my bag and head towards my future, facing forwards.
Building a business is all-consuming. After I hit rock bottom, I identified my core values and prioritised them: Health, Family, Business – in that order. I needed to put myself and my wellbeing at the top of the list.
As business owners, we all have a fire in our bellies and a grand vision that guides us. To take the pressure off, I have chosen to adopt a decade-long approach to build a business that makes a global impact. That business is bizzi.co. My 3rd business venture. An online collaboration platform for the world’s small business owners. Our vision is to enable collaborations that solve the world’s greatest challenges.
I have taken all my learnings (good and bad) and am forging forward. So, when the time comes to look in the mirror at 49, it will be a confident and vibrant woman that looks back at me. One that is exceptionally proud and humbled by the impact she and her team have made.
Don’t dwell. Dust off your disappointments. Stand tall and move towards your future – facing forwards.
A born collaborator, Miriam has spent 20 years building strong relationships globally and helping small businesses come together to learn, share and grow. To fulfill her vision to build a business that makes a global impact, Miriam has co-founded bizzi. bizzi is where the world’s small businesses come to collaborate. Miriam is a collector of art who loves people, animals and architecture.