Failure is Part of the Process of Succeeding

Failure is Part of the Process of Succeeding

Phoenix Normand 13/01/2021 8
Failure is Part of the Process of Succeeding

This is my official mea culpa.

After almost 4 years of floundering following what seemed to be some great, potentially lucrative ideas that eventually landed like lead balloons I've made the decision to quit. Everything. At least everything that doesn't align with my passions in this life and what I innately do best.

I'll admit it. Once COVID broke out and my original source of income (traveling 30+ weeks per year to teach and speak around the world) was snatched off the table, like many others, I scrambled to pivot my current business and find other projects to make up the difference financially. I watched every YouTube get-rich-quick scheme on offer and set my sights on several so that I could join that illustrious multiple revenue source club and show the world how easy it is to create wealth in non-traditional ways. Well, what I didn't realize or foresee was the requirement of selling your soul a bit, checking your morals, and engaging in some practices that go completely against what my momma taught me as a child. Those of you who follow me on LinkedIn know the insane number of plates I keep spinning at one time. And I will admit, some of the projects were showing promise and I was making some okay money pursuing them. But it came at a tremendous cost that became blindingly clear to me several days ago.


So, I had a multi-car accident a few days ago. My very first car accident in 51 years on this planet. I can't cop to my life flashing before my eyes or any of that shit. As it was happening I was more annoyed that my recently replaced, expensive-ass, Porsche brakes, and 4 brand new tires were just not stopping my car fast enough to keep from hitting the car in front of me in full lock-up. I watched my car hit the car in front, accordion my hood, and I immediately looked in my rearview mirror to see a big blue SUV swing out to try and avoid my car, also in full lock, and tag the back right-hand side of my car. Worse, is that my new Assistant was in the car with me and this was our, like, 3rd day together. 

No one was injured. No airbags deployed. We were all able to drive safely off of the freeway and begin the process of assessing damage, exchanging info, filing a police report, and calling tow trucks. Luckily, my Assistant had been in far more and far worse accidents than my fender bender so he was cool as a cucumber and made sure I was okay throughout and hung with me all day as I navigated the labyrinth of car crash aftermath. The day was exhausting and endless, but finally, everything that needed to get accomplished got accomplished. Claims got filed. Rental car got procured. Next steps firmly in hand. Now, breathe.

And then you start thinking. Too much. What if I had hit the brakes a split second later and hit the car in front of me at a higher speed? What if the SUV behind me had hit me squarely in the rear vs. just taken out a corner of a fender? My tennis racquets were in the trunk...could my Assistant and I have been impaled by the newly-released Roger Federer Pro Staffs I just purchased? My life didn't flash before my eyes as I'd said, but my mind certainly went into dark scenario mode and I couldn't help but do a thorough audit of my life as it stands right now. And in the space of a day, I went from being a happy-go-lucky, mad optimistic, grinder/wantrepreneur to a level of depression so deep and immediate that it actually scared me a little. What if we had been seriously injured or even died in that crash under different circumstances? Would I be proud of all I had accomplished to this point? Based solely on the events of this last year the answer was a resounding, "Nope."

The Process of Auditing Life

For several days afterward I dealt with insurance people and claims adjusters. I also found myself falling deeper and deeper into depression which is an extremely unfamiliar place for me. I believe the depression was brought on by the fact that I was having to figure out the financial ramifications of this car crash. Full disclosure, one of the projects I had been working on the entirety of last year turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of my professional career. It showed such promise and actually grossed over $300,000 in 2020. Unfortunately, due to a plethora of those "you don't know until you know" learnings and a few, poor decisions, I didn't see a dime from any of those efforts. Imagine working really, REALLY hard for 10 straight months and have zero dollars in the bank to show for it. Keep in mind, I also had to leverage all those other projects in tandem (read: long-ass hours) just to pay my rent, health insurance, and eat essentially like a college student. I was stuck with an expensive-ass car I'd bought to commemorate 50 years on this planet, expecting that I would be able to afford repairs, maybe even level-up to a newer model in a few years because I was convinced all of my projects would eventually catch fire and obliterate my financial goals for this decade. In the blink of an eye on a Tuesday morning, it all became clear. I'd failed. At pretty much everything.

The process of auditing life is a difficult one. It requires a deep evaluation of your actions and motivations. It requires you to remove all the ego and get to the basics of what you actually hold dear. As I lay awake swimming in insomnia for 4 straight days I really gave in to the process. Why am I here? What am I actually passionate about? Why am I so unhappy? Is this living my best life? Sadly, those questions didn't have any conspicuously positive responses. And that made me really sad. I'm the type of person who loves motivating others and helping them realize their potential. And, typically, that was because I, too, am highly motivated, optimistic, curious, and willing to try new things to stay fresh, sharp, and excited about life and the future. But, I was flat. I hated all the projects I was involved in. I became resentful of everyone asking me to be a part of their projects but feeling as though my personal wellbeing and aspirations took a backseat to theirs. I hated the fact that people wanted me to do the work and then jump on when it was convenient for them, knowing that the hard work had already been done. And, truthfully, it kinda pissed me off.

In my life audit, I realized that I had actually relinquished control of my life and happiness. I had chased some rather shiny objects only to find that they were Fool's Gold and provided little if any value to the pursuit of my own passions. I also realized that many of the relationships I'd developed in these pursuits weren't genuine relationships at all. And that's the part that hurt the most. Being seen as a means to an end for someone else's dream vs. a human being with real feelings, real needs, and real aspirations of your own and not treated with the same care and reciprocity you offer really, really sucks. It was a harsh lesson to learn in a very short amount of time. Especially under such duress. But I'm so much wiser for it and quickly found my feet, my resolve, and the strength to grab those big-ass scissors off the shelf and start cutting projects and people out of my life.


The danger of being public with your intentions is the pressure to see them through. Once you speak your intentions into the social media aether you set the expectation and are held to it until it happens...or doesn't. One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year in social media is that people will say pretty much anything to exact the result they are looking to achieve. The one thing I will never do is lie to people to make a buck or expect anyone to work for me for free. I just can't do it. It goes against every fiber in my body. Plus, Miss Karma is one ruthless, crazy-ass chick that I have zero desire to tangle with. I feel one of my strengths is my relationship with the power of mea culpa. While I'm great at certain things I know I absolutely suck at others. And I'm never shy to admit to it. However, social media often provides an opportunity for people to blow you up or put you on pedestals you never agreed to be on. I've experienced this a ton on LinkedIn and I've never been comfortable with it. Sure, I know a lot. Sure, I'm fearless with my opinions to a degree. Sure, I'm seen as an expert in certain circles, and yes, I position myself as an expert in those circles in my marketing. But, I also understand the value of authenticity and humility. This article, for instance, is a glowing example of that.

I'm experiencing a huge dose of humility right now. I'm happy to admit that the last year of my life has been a complete trainwreck. Everything I ventured to do sucked, made me fat and depressed, ruined a few personal relationships, but has now opened the door for me to make some sweeping changes to set myself up much differently for 2021. I've realized that I really don't like being a CEO and most importantly, I'm actually not that good at it. I do love all of the choreography, moving parts, and ideation but I know for a fact that I never received enough specific mentorship at that level to do it effectively and actually succeed at it. Sure, I cobbled together enough of a plan to make it kinda work, but only kinda. But, I've realized that my superpower and my innate passion is actually to help CEOs be incredible CEOs. Having supported them for decades at the highest level, I've mastered running operations and their brands on their behalf and rallying their teams allowing them to focus on growing the business unfettered. Humility led me back to what actually fulfills me as a business professional. Some might see it as a failure. I see it as a correction. A long overdue one.

Get the Lesson

This confession of my failure to truly crack the CEO code is one many others need to do for themselves. I know many CEOs out there who are struggling even more than me. They're failing hardcore in the shadows and are more concerned with maintaining a successful public perception than they are about what it's doing to their mental and physical health and relationships. Maintaining bravado and managing perception over self-care and self-awareness never ends well. If 2020 taught us anything it's that life is fleeting. Fortunes are fleeting. And what we value most must align with our actions and intentions or our integrity and authenticity will be called into question. And newsflash: once your integrity and authenticity are called into question in the court of public opinion, it's a tremendous uphill battle to right that perception. A battle most never win.

So, I'm quitting. Pretty much everything. And returning to my superpower. Helping CEOs and their teams succeed. I'm currently exploring/entertaining Chief of Staff roles because I honestly believe the best Chiefs of Staff are failed CEOs. They understand what needs to be done, but may lack that one or two traits to do it as effectively as a CEO. They know how to rally the team, keep the train on the tracks, hit markers consistently, inspire greatness, and have the confidence and experience to do it, just not as the CEO, but in full support. They're team players who relish the role of superglue vs. HBIC. This entire past year and especially the last couple of weeks has made me realize this is who I am professionally and what actually fulfills me. So, it's now the goal.

Failure is Part of the Process of Succeeding

It's okay to admit that something just didn't work. It's even more okay to admit it and move on. In fact, it's one of the wisest, most self-aware things to do from a business perspective. Tapping out when you innately know something just isn't working or isn't for you isn't failure at all. It's following your intuition, a gift that's far greater than any amount of money you could ever make. Failure is part of the process of succeeding. The lessons you learn from actually failing at something are learnings you can then apply as wisdom to your next endeavors. I've learned a ton from my failures over the past year and I know they've made me so much wiser and more aware of the pitfalls and potholes I can help my future CEOs and teams avoid in a support capacity. Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. That's the kind of stuff that is and has always made me a unicorn as a support professional. All of the lumps I've taken over my career, and my insane curiosity, has allowed me to become a juggernaut in the C-suite because I've literally seen and experienced it all. And failed forward enough times to help others go around.

In Conclusion

Like many, 2020 and even 2021 is unlike anything I've ever experienced. While I'm incredibly underwhelmed by both years at this point, I'm insanely grateful for what they've taught me. I'm excited for this new adventure, especially the fact that it's a return to my superpowers. And I know I'll have even more resolve to employ them at a level that's exponentially more informed. I'm excited to focus on my trīb, share all I've learned, and continue my quest to help EAs learn, earn, achieve, and contribute far beyond the role. For the first time in about 16 months I'm excited about life and my future. It feels really good to admit that.

Be authentic. Be honest with yourself. Make the tough calls. Grab the scissors and make the big cuts. And get back to what you instinctively know makes you happy vs. what society or peer pressure or YouTube deems as being successful. Success in your life is a definition only you can create. No one else. Never relinquish that power. The grass actually isn't greener on the other side of the fence. Water and tend to your lawn with full confidence that it's the best damn lawn on the block.


If you're looking for a Chief of Staff with just the right sets of skills, comprehensive business acumen, analytical prowess, fearlessness, and healed bumps and bruises from numerous, failed CEO attempts...who is also a published author, graphic designer, public speaker, and brand manager, and can hit the ground sprinting, hit me up! I can go toe-to-toe with any of these MBA kids likely with far more relevant experience, a sick global network, and the overwhelming desire to create a "W" after all these "L's". Check my recommendations on LinkedIn. I'm pure, positive ROI.

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  • Abhishek Singh

    Your motivation and willingness to succeed is admirable and exceptional.

  • Jordan Jenkinson

    Covid was brutal for those who didn't have savings.

  • Anthony Cavanagh

    You are a survivor !!

  • Darren Baker

    I tried podcasting and it failed miserably.

  • Scott Andrews

    Excellent read

  • Jason Hopson

    I wish I could afford to buy a Porsche !

  • Paul Smith

    What if I told you that God wanted to test you and that you managed to pass this tough period with flying colours.

  • John Spencer

    Such a bright spark, if only I had your authenticity and courage to face life.

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Phoenix Normand

Society Expert

Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.


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