What I Learned From My Worst Mistake

Failure is a great teacher, and I think when you make mistakes, and you recover from them, and you treat them as valuable learning experiences, then you’ve got something to share.

What do you do when you make mistakes? Do you take responsibility for your errors and move on? … or do you make excuses, complain, and never learn from your mistakes?

Marcus Cicero, the great Roman orator, said….“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his errors.”

I have been making mistakes all my life.  some mistakes were of little consequence… And also made big mistakes that I wish I had not made.

When you make a big whopping mistake like the one, I am about to share… two things happen…the first thing is the pain that comes with it. Yes!  You feel pain… the second thing is that you will learn something that will make you better…or if you choose not to learn from your mistake, you keep making the same mistakes repeatedly.

I made one of the worst financial mistakes early in my business career… I want to share my story.

Shortly after I graduated from Med school…I had decided that I would become an entrepreneur because I realized early enough in my teen years that …. The fastest route to wealth was to be a successful investor or business owner.

Yes, it’s true… Dr. Thomas Stanley found that most millionaires were business owners or successful investors in his book, The Millionaire Next Door. A tiny minority of professionals become wealthy…if they own an extensive successful practice or have invested their income wisely.

I quickly set out on a plan to start my first business venture: photocopying, resume, and project writing business… which serviced the groups of science, med students, resident doctors, and postgrad students at my medical school.

I was so excited about the prospects of becoming a millionaire at an early age that I skipped so many steps to starting a business …

“What could go wrong? This business is a no-brainer,” …I told myself, standing in the mirror every morning…I had some fantastic dreams about myself …traveling the world…living the life of a millionaire…I had my head in the sky.

I decided to fund the business with my first three months’ salary because I did not want anyone to talk me out of it…and I earned extra income from doing a side job at weekends.

My junior brother wanted to be my partner but had no means. He brought a photocopier that he got as a gift from my cousin as his equity capital. I agreed to bring him on board as a partner.

Accepting my brother’s “equity” (a broken photocopier) proved the business’s most expensive mistake and the doom from the get-go.

Broken photocopiers

Why? Because the photocopier that was supposed to be the cash cow for my business turned out to be a liability.

The photocopier was of a different brand from the one popularly available in my area…and was an obsolete model!

Instead of earning income, I spent my hard-earned money fixing this machine. To make matters worse, I advertised and marketed the business to many of my friends on campus…but I could not fulfill my orders. As a last resort, I turned over my customers to my competitors, and my losses piled on and on…until I pulled the plug on the business.

By the time I had closed the business, I had lost over $900. This was financially depressing because my net income was $365 per month. 


By the time I had closed the business, I had lost over $900. This was financially depressing because my net income was $365 per month.

My loss affected my well-being because I had no furniture and slept on the carpet in a hot bachelor’s suite …while my colleagues lived in tastefully furnished air-conditioned rooms.

My saving grace from financial ruin was the extra income I earned from my weekend job. I was ashamed of myself and beat myself up in the days after I had lost my first business. It took almost two years to overcome the loss, but I moved on. I have moved on from my first business failure to launch other successful ventures.

How was I able to move on from my past failure?

I was able to bounce back from my mistake by doing two things…first, I never took the loss of my business personally… I learned from my mistakes and committed to doing better in my next venture.

Rich Schefren, the founder of Strategic Profits, said,

Resilience – the ability to bounce back quickly from a setback and put disappointments behind you – is critical for business success and in most areas of life.

The moral of Schefren’s statement is that you don’t have to allow making mistakes to stop you from taking a risk.

Another important thing I learned from the mistakes that led to the failure of my first business was…it allowed me to develop the right attitude and character to become a successful entrepreneur.

Why? Because I found that building wealth boils down to the results, you are producing. If your business is successful, it will show in your profits. On the flip side, if your business fails, it will show in the losses you pile up.

It takes a particular character and mindset to succeed in business or any industry or profession…Unless you have the traits for success, you are going to lose.

I learned this harsh reality when I started in the business after failing in my first venture. What changed things for me was how I responded to my mistake. I chose to face the truth and ask myself these questions:

Do I want to make excuses for my mistakes? …or Do I want to learn the lessons from my mistakes and move on?

I chose to take responsibility for my mistakes…and move on.

How about you, my friend? Are you willing to learn from your mistakes and move on to other things in your life? Or you want to keep on whining and making excuses for why you failed.

It may sound easier said than done…to take responsibility for your mistakes and move on. It is the right thing to do because a gem of learning comes with every mistake you make.

W Clement Stone once said,

“Every great man, every successful man, no matter what the field of endeavor, has known the magic that lies in these words: every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

The moral of what Clement Stone is saying is that making mistakes is not bad… They are great opportunities to become a better person.

In conclusion, you should not be afraid of the word “mistake” because it’s neutral unless you add emotion to it. So, if you say you’ve made mistakes, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong or should feel bad. Instead, see mistakes as opportunities to learn from and improve next time.

Here’s to doing better!