Thursday, May 9, 2019 8:43 am
Let’s Talk About Failure
By Bayo Adeyinka
The interview was somewhere around Palmgrove, Lagos State. I wore my best suit. If I recall correctly, it was circa 2006. I thought I was well prepared. I’d rehearsed and I had a script for different questions I expected to be asked. I prayed under my breath as I sat down with other candidates. No one spoke to the other person. It was almost like the silence of the graveyard. So much tension and anxiety written on our faces.
When it was my turn, I knocked slightly and entered the room. I came face to face with a slightly built man who had a frown on his face. He waved me to a seat. And that was how my trauma started. Apart from introducing myself, there was no other question I could answer. It got to a point, my response to the interviewer was ‘I’m sorry but I don’t know’ to which he responded ‘Fair enough’. The man punctured every confidence I thought I had. I was deflated by every question he asked. He didn’t let my misery end so easily as he kept throwing even more technical questions at me. It was as if he wanted to prove to me that I was a dunce. He really did rub it in. I knew I flunked it even before I left the room.
That was what I remembered last recently when I interviewed a young lady. I could see her tensed up. Her hands were clenched together and she couldn’t rest her back on her seat. Her voice shook with stage fright. She could hardly maintain eye contact. I asked her to relax and cracked a joke with her. I saw she was even afraid to smile. I asked her to breathe in and out. An interview is not a death sentence. I told her to imagine it’s a conversation and she should just flow. I asked if it was her first interview and she responded in the affirmative. She finished her NYSC in March.
Don’t be afraid to fail. You will flunk some interviews. I flunked many. You will fail at certain things in life. I failed at not a few. Business failure. Academic failure. Financial failure. Moral failure. Career failure. Even heartbreaks. But don’t let that failure define you. We don’t often talk about our failures. Many people see the glitters and the stars but believe me, there are many shatters and not a few scars. For every interview I passed, I can share with you about an interview I failed- some spectacularly.
So, don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail. For every ‘yes’, there will be several ‘Nos’. A ‘no’ just means you should try again. It doesn’t mean you’re no good. Learn your lessons and move on. Failure is a good teacher if you allow it. Failure strengthens you. Failure makes you understand that you’re human after all. Failure makes you draw closer to the One that can never fail.
Don’t build a tabernacle around a single event of failure, however. One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Develop a thick skin. If you don’t give up, soon enough, you’ll get your ‘yes’.
Success Is Moving From Failure To Failure Until You Succeed
I decided to drive my car as ‘kabu kabu’ (cab) after all the drivers I hired fleeced me. Rather than ‘delivering’ to me, I ‘delivered’ to them. On one ocassion, a driver who took my car by 5am in the morning, came to my office around 5pm in the evening to inform me police impounded my car. He wanted me to give him money to ‘bail’ the car. He claimed he carried ‘overload’ on another route different from the one I registered for (I was a registered cabman on Ashi-Bodija route in Ibadan). When I asked him how much he had made that day, he claimed he just bought fuel when he was arrested. He asked for N1,000 to bail the car and I gave him N700. I told him to beg the police. He left and returned an hour later with my car. Then the clincher- he said I should bring N300 so he can go and collect my jack. The police insisted he had to pay N1,000 so he borrowed N300 from a fellow cab driver who took my jack as security. I sat on the floor- drenched of any energy to even fight. I borrowed N300 from a colleague and gave him. He brought my car jack an hour later. Meanwhile, full day ‘delivery’ at that time was N700. That was 2001/2002.
That was the last time I hired a driver to drive my cab. That particular guy was either the 5th or 6th over the few months I experimented. I decided to drive it myself. I was a banker who just wanted a side hustle because my wedding was coming up and I needed money. I didn’t think having a personal car was just a luxury- the car would just be at the car park from morning till I closed- so I borrowed myself brain. Get my asset to work for me. Anyway, I drove the cab once I closed by 6pm. I changed my route from Ashi-Bodija to Sango-Apete. I drove from 6pm to 11pm on weekdays before I retired for the night. I took off my jacket and tie, put them in the glove compartment and put on a fez cap so people would not recognize me as a banker. On Saturdays, I took long haul trips with customers to Ilesha, Ife and other destinations. I drove personally. My Volvo 340 DL was a very good car. I did this for months until my strength and health couldn’t take it.
“Failure has taught me over the years what cannot work. Failure has taught me what I’m not wired to do. I’ve discovered by failing how to do some things better or how to do them right. There are certain things I wouldn’t have learnt if I didn’t fail at them. Failure is a better teacher than success- if you allow it and are humble enough to learn the lessons. Through failure, I learnt about processes. I learnt that I had to develop capacity. I learnt to put in checks and balances. Failure taught me what no business school ever would. Failure is like working out- it helped me to develop mental muscles. I’m a better judge of people because failure taught me. My guts feeling was enhanced by failure. Now, I can smell danger from a distance. Failure sharpened my senses.”
I started a video club business with my wife. It was a cute business then. Colours Video Club stocked the latest American movies on VHS and CDs. It was a very popular video club in Ashi, Ibadan. I still remember calling many customers to return the movies they borrowed. The pile of unpaid late fees. Having to cope with staff that would also be doing his own side hustle using our films. Having to cope with a shylock landlord. We later gave out the business when we moved away from the area.
My wife started an ‘ajo’ contribution/money lending business in UCH. We got some money together and gave it out as micro credits to people who needed not more than 20k. She got someone to go round and collect daily contributions of about N500 from them. She designed contribution cards for each borrower which was signed off daily. I remember how some started defaulting after some time. The intial capital was eroded. She left the business. Then, she worked as a church administrator and later as a school teacher.
I partnered with a friend and together we bought an acre of land each for farming. We were excited. That was around 2003/2004. It was an elderly man whom we took as a father on the street where we lived that introduced us to the seller of the land. Later, the seller- a very old man- called us and told us he was bothered by his conscience. He confessed to us that the man who brought us fleeced us- he seriously inflated the purchase price of the land. I was infuriated. We got to the land only to discover the elderly man had ‘loaned’ out the land we just bought to palmwine tappers for a fee. Those ones refused to quit until they were done. I wasn’t ready to fight after the initial confrontation we had. That was the last time I went to that land till today.
I started another farm with a friend- a yam and pineapple farm. My first harvest was great. I sold off the yams to a trader in Bodija market. And then, I discovered thieves entered my farm and stole mounds of yam. They stole more than I harvested. Later, I caught three of them and got them arrested by the police. The whole village came to beg me to leave them. Meanwhile, two of them worked on my farm for pay while I sponsored one of their children at a nearby public school I adopted. I asked the police to release them after getting their confessional statements and undertaking to be responsible for anything stolen in future. I also took their pictures. The village head came to me later that day, pleading that the police insisted on collecting something from them before their release and they couldn’t afford it. I paid for their bail. I abandoned the farm for now.
I started a snail farm at another location. At a point, I had well over a thousand snails- very big ones. That was about two years ago. One Saturday, I got a call. The security at the farm saw soldier ants and he wanted to save the snails. He sprayed the snails with petrol. I lost about a thousand snails in a single day. It took the intervention of Victor Fasakin Aduragbemi to help me rescue a few.
A few years ago, I invested a tidy sum in a startup online market place business similar to Jumia and Konga. It was meant to be a runaway success or so we thought. I held weekly meetings with the two younger partners who brought the idea. Long story short, it collapsed. I lost all the money I invested. But I’ve not given up. I’m pressing forward.
Failure has taught me over the years what cannot work. Failure has taught me what I’m not wired to do. I’ve discovered by failing how to do some things better or how to do them right. There are certain things I wouldn’t have learnt if I didn’t fail at them. Failure is a better teacher than success- if you allow it and are humble enough to learn the lessons. Through failure, I learnt about processes. I learnt that I had to develop capacity. I learnt to put in checks and balances. Failure taught me what no business school ever would. Failure is like working out- it helped me to develop mental muscles. I’m a better judge of people because failure taught me. My guts feeling was enhanced by failure. Now, I can smell danger from a distance. Failure sharpened my senses.
Failure is not meant to kill you but to prepare and equip you adequately for the runaway success you will be in future. This is why you must never give up. You have to learn your lessons and be like Paul in Phillipians 3:13 who said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (AMP)
There is victory ahead- if you don’t give up.
• (Bayo Adeyinka is the author of 30 Career Lessons I Learnt Along The Way and 40 Lessons I Learnt Along The Way. Both books are available on Jumia and Amazon)