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‘Happier’ With Dave Flynn

‘Happier’

The constructive side of failure 

What does failure have to do with feeling happier? 

As I sit on a plane travelling home after a busy couple of days in London I reflect on the subtle opportunity within failure. Failure is an interesting thing, perceived as a destination of sorts yet I see it more like feedback and information on a journey toward anything worthwhile. It is a core part of the human experience. Failure has taught me more than success. At times, it is a cruel teacher. One that dents pride and ego. I have found that failure has helped me strip away, leaving a more authentic and aligned version of who I am. 

FAILURE CAN BE A HELPFUL GUIDE 

Failure is an essential step on the journey to accomplish anything of meaning. In 2008, we had a sprout farm as part of The Happy Pear that grew wheatgrass and sprouts like alfalfa. At the time, there was a highly publicized E. coli outbreak linked to sprouts in Germany (which later turned out to be unfounded). As a result, our entire sprout business collapsed virtually overnight. We were devastated and unsure of what to do next.

At the time, Steve had a great sundried tomato recipe that mom used to make 10 tubs of a week that we sold in our veg shop. With the sprout business stagnant, our brother Darragh, who was running that operation, decided to try selling the pesto to local shops instead. The pesto turned out to be a lifeline and the rest, as they say, is history. This failure ultimately led to the birth of our thriving food products business, which has since sold over 15 million products. This experience taught us the invaluable lesson that failure, while painful in the moment, can sometimes be the catalyst for unexpected success and growth. 

FAILURE IS ONLY FAILURE WHEN YOU STOP

Thomas Edison, on his journey to inventing the lightbulb, said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” James Dyson’s journey to creating his iconic Dyson vacuum exemplifies the power of this perspective. Over 15 years, he created 5,127 unsuccessful prototypes, amassing a whopping £15m in personal debt before landing on the final breakthrough model. But Dyson’s willingness to learn from each “dead end”, reframing them as essential steps, ultimately paid off in 1993 when he launched the first Dyson vacuum, a huge commercial success.

This year,I reflect on our 20 year long journey of The Happy Pear and it has not been linear – While it might appear so looking back over 20 years, our perspective from the driver’s seat is that it has been a squiggly path of two steps forward and one or two steps back. 

Cultivating persistence and becoming comfortable in the face of setbacks has been critical. True failure only occurs when you stop trying and cease learning from your experiences.

Reframing failure as feedback and an opportunity to grow, rather than a dead end, is a mindset that Steve and I do our very best to embody. This perspective has ensured we’ve been able to stay the course for over 20 years since starting The Happy Pear, even through the often tough and challenging times. 

THE SILVER LINING OF FAILURE

There is a silver lining in Failure. However, one must be open-minded and willing to see past the initial perception of failure. Failure offers the same opportunity for metamorphosis as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly which inevitably is painful. Like Dyson and Edisson, some of the greatest inventions and most successful endeavours are usually built upon the foundations of past failures. It is frequently these stumbles along the way that put pioneers on a different, yet more meaningful path than they had initially anticipated.

Let’s come back to The Happy Pear: The very impetus for our business only came after Steve and I had lost our way. We were 21 and went through a really challenging metamorphosis, a period of rediscovery that shook us to our core. We both gave up alcohol (which at the time was only for 2 weeks, a habit that has now lasted over 20 years). At the same time, we adopted a plant based diet, got interested in yoga and meditation and let go of our old identity of self proclaimed meat eating jocks and in the process, we lost what we had in common with our old friend group. 

It was only on our journey to support our new lifestyle and find a new tribe that we found the inspiration and impetus to create The Happy Pear. It emerged out of necessity in a sense. We needed support to continue on our new lifestyle. It was a total identity crisis in which even our parents and community thought we had lost our way. However it became the greatest catalyst for purposeful work and fulfilment that we could have imagined. 

To me, the silver lining in failure lies in its power to propel us towards our truest selves and most fulfilling ventures, if we have the courage to sit with the discomfort and face it head-on. It is a crucible from which the phoenix of our dreams can rise anew.

Let me know your thoughts on failure? It is often a tough teacher. What is your relationship with it? Apologies if this is a sensitive topic, I am sharing my experience and views on it. I would love to hear from you in the comments if you feel like sharing. Also thanks for reading this Happier Column, I greatly appreciate your support. 

Thanks,

Dave

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3 responses to “The constructive side of failure ”

  1. Sally says:

    Thanks Dave. This is just a great reminder for me as someone who is so scared of “not doing it right” in case of failure and then just not doing the thing I want to do. Reframing the word failure as feedback for what didn’t work in this moment in time is helpful.
    The causes and conditions weren’t right in that moment. That makes it less personal too which is helpful. Nothing manifests alone, so many elements are needed to come together for the timing to be optimum. Best wishes.

  2. Sheri says:

    This is such a great reminder. Thank you, Dave. And thank you for offering examples from your own business. In this era of online hype and social media, it is very useful to hear about “squiggly” paths. It allows me to have perspective. I think about my novel writing and my sourdough! My first novel won tons of prizes but will my second? Who knows! I just have to keep writing. The start of my sourdough journey was a sorry mess. Now my family can’t wait for summer to end so I can bake again. Embracing the possibility of failure as a positive is a great perspective. Thank you!

  3. Rita says:

    I first started my business in April 2009 I taught at the time I was too old to be starting a business I was 56 I had been working in the sewing industry for a long time and knew a lot about what I was doing my mam had died and she had left my sisters and brothers some money we decided to help our son who had split with his girlfriend. I decided what I had left I would give it a go as I have said it started in 2009 it was a very hard the first year I made a decided to pack it in I spoke to the landlord and he asked if I would stay if he drop my rent I agreed there was another business around the corner who does the same as I did this helped me go straight through the roof I was able to take on staff I moved shop and was doing really well. I never taught my journey was a failure when I stared I gave it a go and I did succeed. Love your blog.

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