Top Menu

The Power of Failure (or not making any dough)

I answered the phone just after midnight and heard the panicked voice of my business partner on the other end of the line.

“If you want anything from the restaurant, you’d better come get it now,” Frank said. “They’re kicking us out of the building tomorrow morning.”

“What?!” I practically yelled into the phone. “We’re being evicted? How did that happen? When did you find out about this?”

“I can’t talk now,” Frank replied. “But I’ll meet you down there in an hour, and I’ll explain everything then.”

I knew things had not been going well, but I didn’t know things had gotten this bad. As I drove to our soon-to-be-former restaurant location, I reviewed the past six months. I had met Frank through a friend during the winter of 1987. Frank had enthusiastically pitched me on his new pizza restaurant that he had recently opened. He was looking for investment partners, and I was flush with cash from a recent insurance settlement.

A fool and his money, huh?

I couldn’t have been more unprepared for Frank. I was in my mid-twenties and had never seen a business proposal until I saw his. I had no idea what one was or how to read it. Frank talked a good game, though, and soon I was handing over a check for the better portion of my savings account. After only knowing him for a few weeks, Frank and I were in business together.

As I got to know Frank and saw how he ran his business, I gradually came to realize I had made a mistake. I started helping out around the restaurant in any way I could in my spare time. I learned to make pizza. I waited tables. I even delivered pizzas a couple of times. Anything to help out. I was a free, highly motivated labor source.

When the phone’s not ringing and no one is coming in the door, desperate entrepreneurs often start making desperate decisions. I saw Frank begin to make wild, Hail Mary marketing moves. One local printer offered to print ten-thousand fliers and personally distribute them to every student on campus at a local college. Frank jumped at the proposal, only to later find out that instead of delivering the fliers, the printer left stacks of them in dormitory lobbies and considered his obligation fulfilled. We got about a half-dozen orders from the effort, but lost too much money in the process.

Things went from bad to worse. Frank told our employees that there was no money to pay them, and begged them to stay on, hinting at big rewards when things picked up. Suppliers went unpaid and bills stacked up.

Even so, I somehow managed to hold on to a shred of hope that I would see my money again, until I got his call notifying me of the eviction. When I got to the restaurant, Frank told me everything in the restaurant was going to be gone the next day, so I could take whatever I wanted. He also told me there would be no recovery of my investment.

I loaded up my car with cooking utensils, plants, and boxes of napkins, and drove away. I kept all of that stuff for years as my most valuable possessions. I would kid with my wife years later, saying, “That’s all that’s left of my investment, honey, so that plant by the couch is worth about a thousand dollars…that one over in the corner is worth a thousand dollars…this pizza cutter is worth another thousand dollars…” It helped ease my pain a bit to joke about the loss, but underneath the jokes, the loss still stung.

For years I looked back at that time in my life with regret and shame. How could I have been so stupid to throw away all that money? But then I realized something that forever changed my perspective of that incident.

I realized that I was in a small, elite club consisting of people in this world who dare to try. My goal was to own my own business, to be my own boss. The problem was that I had no idea how to go about it. So I tried something, got beaten up financially, learned a few things, and then tried again.

This process is the Power of Failure. The mastery of this power is one of the principle differences between the successful and the mediocre.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like failing. No winner does. But people who are successful in their careers, relationships, and business ventures recognize failure for what it is: A stern tutor who raps your knuckles with a ruler until you learn your lesson and get it right.

The mediocre of this world seek to avoid failure at all costs. They would rather do anything than suffer the heartache, embarrassment, and grief of falling on their face. They point to others’ failure as proof of their wisdom in choosing not to venture. They make it their ambition to seek a life of safety.

But there is no such thing as safety. The world is a dangerous place. If your goal is to be safe, then you’re chasing a mirage.

Only when you abandon the idea of safety, can you begin your growth journey.

© 2021 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at


, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply