Some time ago, I spoke at Nordic Business Forum’s side event about the secrets of success. During that same week, I was invited to speak at a new kind of event called “Fucked Up Friday”, this time about my failures.
So am I successful or a failure? Sure, I’ve had some success in my life. But I’ve also had time to fail just beyond recognition.
The idea for this blog arose thanks to an internet troll (thank you). During Klever’s issue of shares, a bitter individual from a management team member’s history found his way to our investor forum. He questioned Klever’s prospects of success because some of our team members have previously been parts of failed enterprises.
Ugh. I’m usually a patient person. I’m happy to explain, communicate, and inform others. In my role as a communications manager, that is my core task. But for some reason, the arguments of the troll started bugging me.
Why? Not because the person raised the failures of our team as a topic of conversation on the forum. As a matter of fact, I think the greatest strength of our team is our experience in both success and failure. And that’s what I want to talk about now.
We’re constantly surrounded by success stories, while our failures are far less discussed. However, inspired by these events, I will discuss them now. I want to tell you what it feels like to fail so hard it leaves you breathless. And why I am grateful that it happened to me.
I went from becoming a millionaire to near-bankruptcy in one week
I was sitting in a bank meeting room with an unsigned million-euro contract in front of me. The bank had placed a bid for my company Balancion, and I felt like I was inches away from reaching my goal.
Spoiler: I never signed that deal. Instead, by the next week, I was sitting across that same room anxiously trying to arrange my economy. This time the bank was collecting vast amounts of my money as the largest guarantor of Balancion’s debts.
That was the worst week of my life. Not only did I find out that I wouldn’t become a millionaire, but I would also face a financial disaster instead. And as if that were not enough, my relationship ended. Even though bankruptcy was ultimately avoided, it was like going from a millionaire to bankruptcy in one week. I was free-falling.
Eventually, the people around me caught me. It was marvellous to notice how one after the other showed their support, both friends and business contacts. “Hi Jussi, we have this kind of a firm, will you become our country leader?”, someone would call and ask. My phone kept ringing, and I was offered really good positions, and I could not understand why. Why are you calling me?
I’m the one who screwed it all up. The answer was, hey, at least you had the balls to try.
“You’re starting to sound like a human being”
In my recent blog, I mentioned how a talk with Jari Sarasvuo reminded me of how my failure had turned me into a better person.
I was not the person I am now before my failure with Balancion. Frankly, I don’t think I was particularly warm, empathetic or easily approachable before travelling that road.
After failing, I was able to understand that people don’t evaluate each other directly through success or failure. I realised that if you’re a warm, helpful, and good person, your failures don’t define your worth or dignity.
Having realised this, I’ve become better at opening up to others. Today it’s easier for me to share my own feelings and experiences with the people around me.
In the midst of those difficulties, I spoke to Jari on the phone. I told him straight up that everything had gone to hell. He replied, “That’s great, I’m happy this happened to you Jussi. You’re starting to sound like a human being.”
All success guides tell you to face your fears. But how many of us want to go bankrupt? Or fail in relationships? In that sense, you could say that it’s fortunate to be unlucky. Otherwise, you can’t learn from the worst moments of your life.
Hype is good, execution is everything
This beloved troll claimed in Klever’s investor forum that the history of failure is bound to repeat itself. He attacked our technology manager Jyrki because of his experiences with a defeat. I will say it at this point – Jyrki is undoubtedly one of the best colleagues I’ve ever had.
In hyped startup companies, the mission of the company can begin to resemble a religion-like high. At this point, everyone is your friend and wants to play with you. Being the centre of attention, the team can get overly ecstatic over their own work without even noticing it.
It’s immensely useful that some members of the management team have already experienced this ecstatic hype during their career. They understand that hype alone doesn’t get the job done. They know things can change quickly. They are humble every single day.
During this spring Klever has had large contracts on the table. I noticed that many of the team members seemed satisfied with the good phase the deals were in. I couldn’t have cared less about the “good phase” they were in. I knew from experience that a “good phase” doesn’t mean anything. Thanks to my experience of contracts disappearing so close to the finish line, I focused on getting signatures on the paper.
Even though gloating can seem fun at times, modesty is more important. Every company should hype themselves, but the hype is not execution. It is essential to recognise the difference between high-fives-and-a-wow-great-awesome-time, and really pushing those deals, acquiring those customers and earning every single euro on your account.
When you recognise the difference, your head stays in the game. Hype is good, but the execution is everything.
This blog by Jussi Muurikainen was originally published in Finnish on Bonfire.fi.