When I was a brash and self-assured 21-year-old, I announced at a family dinner with my aunt and cousin that I would be a millionaire by the time I was 30. I had found investors and had just started a business.
I thought I was invincible, living in the big city, and figured I could take on the world and set it on fire with my new products.
It would have been a great story to be able to tell you that over the next nine years I built an empire through my hard work and ingenuity, lived lavishly and saved the world by eliminating poverty with my earnings.
However, the truth was much different. Within two years, I was back living with my parents, trying to scrape two dimes together to put gas in my car and stressing about how I was going to pay back my investors.
I was teased about my million-dollar brag by my aunt and cousin for years to come.
“You are always telling on yourself, I don’t get it,” said a regular reader of my column after reading my article that explained my failure to listen and subsequently losing a sale. I think I could finish his thoughts like this: “Aren’t you supposed to be some big business expert who is all successful?”
To many I would be considered successful. I built and sold a multimillion-dollar business, I’m happily married and have a beautiful family, with three wonderful daughters and a son. I live in a nice house in a good neighbourhood, drive nice cars and have money in the bank. I’ve written a book and continue to work for myself doing what I love, which is helping people reduce their stress and earn money with their businesses.
I could tell stories about how I had a great year, how our firm tripled our sales in a concerted effort over 90 days, how we successfully on-boarded staff. I might even brag about how some of our clients were staggeringly successful.
However, the reality is that I too had sleepless nights worrying about my business; that I made mistakes in hiring; that some of my clients didn’t have a stellar year.
It’s hard for people to relate to us if they think we’re perfect.
Our kids don’t want to hear that we never made mistakes when we were teenagers; that we weren’t lost as young adults; that we were perfect parents; that we made a million, or a billion, or a trillion dollars by the time we were 30 and never even broke a sweat.
Our friends, co-workers and staff don’t want us telling them that we know everything; that our lives are perfect; that we have it all together and that they’re losers.
The human condition is one of brokenness. When we can relate to a friend or a colleague, employee, a business leader or even our children, letting them know that we understand what they’re going through because we had a similar experience and can share their pain, it makes us more human to them.
It would be nice if we could read a story and automatically learn not to repeat the same blunder, but it doesn’t always happen that way. In business and in life, we all make errors in judgment and it’s through these mistakes that we’re able to learn and hopefully grow.
It’s the honesty in saying “I made a mistake, I’m not perfect,” that keeps us humble and able to relate to others.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Made your first million by the time you were 30? Or Not? Dave would love to hear your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org