9 Things I Learned About Myself From Being a Failure

Everyone shares success stories. How to make money, how to be a super-duper business woman/man, how to succeed here, there, everywhere! Well, this post is about failing. Being a failed business woman. THIS is not a success story or is it? It's more about me, finding myself, and learning from my trial and error. I will use the word failure more for dramatic purposes than anything else.


My story
I am an English teacher. In 2007 I opened my own language school in Crete, Greece. I had been teaching English for quite a while. I had also spent many years developing professionally. I had an MA and I was working on getting more teacher qualifications. I had worked for other English language schools and my previous employers were happy with my performance. My students loved me. Taking the next step (opening a business to teach English as a foreign language) seemed natural, expected even. So, I did, with my sister. In 2014 when bills and tax just kept piling up and the number of students remained the same and too low, we closed the business. It was not an easy decision. It was a very long thought-out process, but we decided it was time to pull the plug.
I was so sad. While people did not say it to me, I could feel it. They felt sorry for me. I had failed as a business owner. Why me though? Wasn't I good at teaching? Was I not a good teacher? A person? What did I not have? I spent months thinking about the things I could have changed. What would have happened if I had chosen X approach as opposed to Y? 7 years had gone down the drain or did they?

The present
Guess what? Two years later, the sad days are over. Today, I am doing a job I love and I have learned so much because of this experience. When you fail, you reflect. Reflection leads to finding yourself. So, what can you learn about yourself when you fail professionally? This is what I discovered.

I am strong(-er)

I put my heart, soul, and hours into something that did not work out. I went through mourning stages for a professional loss. There were days when I doubted my capabilities, but today I am fine. My world did not end. The world ends only when you die. You can handle everything else.

I cannot control everything

Yes, you can control things that are tangible, in your surroundings, but you cannot control everything. How was I supposed to know that in 2008, Greece was going to be struck by the biggest financial crisis it has ever faced? The control freak in me was shattered.

Better sorry than safe

I took a personal, professional, and financial risk that failed, but if I hadn't, I would always be wondering," What if..." Now, it's not a "what if" any more, it's a "been there, done that".

I am a fighter

I stuck to my guns for 7 years until it was time to let go.

I don't like letting go

I am a workaholic. I love my work. My language school was my "baby". I was hoping for better days. They did not come. Letting go is hard.

I take risks

There was a fifty-fifty chance of success. I didn't succeed, but I did take a risk. I wanted this and I did it. I tried and then came error.

I am a dreamer

I wanted to start my own business. I really wanted to. My emotions got in the way of my critical thinking. Our wants are not always our needs. What we want may not always go the way we want it to. Just because I wanted something to succeed so badly, doesn't mean it was going to.

I am not a girl boss

If you want to be a business woman, you got to take action when people/customers are not honoring your agreement. When someone does not pay, the service should be cut (In Greece you have to issue a receipt for a service even if you do not get paid that month. The government assumes that at some point you will get paid and that's why you get taxed). I cannot afford to be a softy. I was running a business not a charity!

I had to think outside the box

As I said, opening a school was something very common (in Greece). I was forced to look elsewhere and try to find work outside my comfort zone. What am I doing now? The web is my classroom and my students are in France. I teach English online!

So, I am not a failure

Just because I failed, doesn't mean I am a failure, and anyway, what is a failure? This is my "when one door closes, another one opens". I learned something about myself, my life and my priorities. So, instead of a failure, let's call me someone who learnt something. At this point, I am more like, "So you closed your language school? Eh! Big woop!"

If you ask me today," Do you regret opening a business that closed down?" I would say, "No". I found out so many things about myself. I put myself out there. I experienced. I won.