3 Stories That Put Failure in Its Place, and Led to My Success Don't let the fear of failure deter you from your rightful progress. Your path to success isn't going to be perfect, but you'll get there with enough drive.

By Chris Estey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the 1980s, my wife, two business partners and I grew a company to earn over $2 million in annual sales. Not Bill Gates money, but not bad for two kids in their early twenties (one of whom didn't have a high school diploma — me). It was something to be proud of. Unfortunately, the four of us weren't experienced enough to handle the internal conflict that came with rapid growth. Combined with the stress of having our first child, my wife and I decided it was a good time to make a necessary change.

1. The initial reset

Not only did we fail to work things out with our business partners, but we also failed to successfully negotiate for a settlement when we left. In the end, we walked away with little more than the shirts on our back and about $2000 in savings. We drove an old vehicle (that broke down about a dozen times) across the country and went to stay with my grandparents in Michigan until after our baby's birth.

From there, we started all over again from scratch. With perseverance and a bit of luck, I stumbled into a position with a struggling consulting busines that desperately needed an enthusiastic young talented executive. After a year or so and several promotions, I was the Senior Vice President of what turned into an Inc. 500 company. Our earlier business failures seemed like a distant memory by then, and only in hindsight would I realize how they'd paved the way for those future opportunities. I wasn't done failing yet, though.

2. A fresh start

With more experience under my belt, I started another business in 1995. After a few years, things were going well. Really well. By our sixth year, we were on target for $20 million in annual revenue and in negotiations with several Wall Street firms regarding an IPO. The company's valuation was set potentially as high as $100 million. Then, everything changed on September 11, 2001.

This was a very hard fall from on high. Once again, we found ourselves packing up and starting over. Yes, it was my best success thus far — I'd built a massively successful business. In another sense, it was certainly my biggest failure yet. I didn't know how to pivot or how to steer the company through the post-9/11 disruption. I dropped the ball as the CEO of the company and let down my employees, my family and my business associates.

Related: Why Failure is Necessary in Order to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

This time we retreated to Florida with barely enough money to put a down payment on a house half the size as the one we had been living in. Back at square one, I decided to try something new: real estate. I networked, persevered and got lucky (2002-2006 was one of the best times ever in real estate). In three years, I owned $30 million worth of property in the area. My previous business's utter and devastating failure had — yet again — turned out to be a stepping stone.

3. The final chapter

I have more stories about failing in business (everyone knows about the great real estate meltdown of 2008), but I think a more relatable tale might be the one of my failed first marriage. My wife and I had done a lot together: we'd run businesses and raised children. I didn't understand why we couldn't make it work. And as hard as marriage can be, divorce was harder. I hated it.

I told myself one thing: I won't get stuck here, replaying all the fights and feeling sorry for myself. By this time, I'd learned that there was always something else up ahead, and I made up my mind to focus on my future as well as my children's future and on finding it. I succeeded, eventually meeting and marrying someone with whom I found an even deeper level of fulfillment. Failing hurt. A lot. But what came next more than made up for it.

There are bumps and potholes on every road to success

The idea of failing your way to success isn't a new one — plenty of better writers than me have tackled it. "Fail fast and fail often" is a defining trait of many companies' culture and ethos. At the risk of stating the obvious, it's not failure that does the trick. Failing alone cannot magically propel us to success. Instead, it's our attitude toward the future as well as how many times you get back on the horse and try again that makes the difference.

When you fail (it's inevitable to some degree), start by looking at exactly what you did wrong. And then, don't do it again! It doesn't have to be a dead-end. Better to be viewed as just another bump in the road. I have learned to look back at my failures with a sort of admiration; that is admiring the adventure and the hard-won lessons. Why would you quit? You would never get to see what happens at the end of the story.

Related: The Fine Line Between Success And Failure Is Positive Mindset

Chris Estey

Founder & CEO of Private Label Skincare Florida

A serial entrepreneur and business expert with over 40 years of experience across industries, Chris Estey is Founder and CEO of Private Label Skincare Florida, one of the largest and fastest-growing manufacturers of organic skin and hair care products in the U.S.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

'It's Getting Worse By the Week': Kevin O'Leary Issues Grave Warning About Commercial Real Estate Industry

The "Shark Tank" star spoke to impending devaluation of stocks in the industry on FOX Business' "Varney & Co."

Business News

Katy Perry Is Fighting the Founder of 1-800-Flowers for a $15 Million California Mansion He Doesn't Want to Sell Her

The eight-bedroom, 11-bathroom estate sits on nearly nine acres in the Santa Ynez foothills in Montecito.

Business News

These Great-Grandparents Booked 51 Back-to-Back Cruises Because It's 'Cheaper Than a Retirement Home'

Retirees Marty and Jess Ansen hopped on a cruise ship nearly two years ago and never left.

Business News

Walgreens' Battle Over High-Tech Cooler Doors Heats Up

The lawsuit, initially filed in June, is seeking $200 million in damages.

Business News

'Beware': Tom Hanks Warns of AI Danger After Advertisement Uses His Likeness Without Permission

The actor shared a screenshot of the false advertisement to his 9.5 million Instagram followers.


5 Essential Tips on How to Be a Great Manager

Here are five key tips that will help you become an effective and successful manager.