How to Fail in Business Series
My first attempt at business was back in 2008 – I stumbled upon a book by Robert “Bob” Bly: Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More. This introduced me to a world of copywriting. I wanted to be a successful freelance copywriter.
Over the months – and eventually years – I poured my efforts to setting up the business, but barely working on the business. Yes, I had projects from clients. In fact, among my earlier clients was a boutique agency based in Johor Bahru. They services the property development market in Iskandar Malaysia. For about three years, I served them remotely. I only met them 8 months after starting when they required me to work on-site from their office in JB’s Taman Molek.
Let’s return to the point of this post, i.e. Not Seeing the Bigger Picture.
I was too worried about little details like how my website looked, or how my email signature appeared, that I ignored the bigger picture to the enterprise’s peril. My first copywriting practice was not exactly a failure. Neither was it a success. This continued to my next venture: Converging Spheres Sdn Bhd and my three-year stint as a unit trust consultant.
Why was this so?
As I reflect upon it today, it probably was driven by the fear of rejection. Seeing the details meant that I was always in control: whether the logo was 3 arrow clicks to the left or to the right. Or whether my site’s plugins are updated. Or wondering whether this theme looks more professional than the last one.
Allow me to back track a bit. In 2008, I dropped out of law school in my final year. Since then, I’ve always seen myself as ‘never good enough’ despite various feedback from clients, friends, and family that I have the knack for it. Even until this day I find it uncomfortable to be praised by others. My first response is to always deflect the praise to others: be it my colleagues, the praise-giver, or luck. When there is a mistake, I would brood on it for days. Sometimes I caught myself taking responsibility of circumstance rather than just the actual causes!
I had this illusion: where I am in control, I cannot reject myself. But when I involve other parties, the probability of rejection, and mistakes, increase tremendously. By the way, I know this is not true because I am my own worse critic.
It is ironic as when it comes to other areas, rejection and mistakes are not foreign to me. I made so many errors in life that I made sure I learn from them. Otherwise these are opportunities lost! In the end, I lose them when I fail to pen them down.
As entrepreneurs – especially as employers – the stress compounds itself. When I established my building materials supply business, I had one personnel working in the company for the longest time. Suddenly I need to worry about my staff’s well-being – not just the website, or email signature, office feng shui or logo colour.
At the same time, my pride of not wanting to be rejected established a self-defence mechanism which helped me not see the bigger picture: going to the office from dawn and returning late at night without accomplishing anything. There were ‘productive’ days, mostly it was an attempt to feel busy. All because it felt safe and right. The venture is now in dormancy.
My pride also held me back from asking for advice and help. By the time I did, it was too late to save the business. The director and I agreed to keep the private entity in dormancy until we could find a use for it. Borrowing Brian Tracy’s phrase, ‘knowing what I now know’ the need for the company will come. Which is why I named it Converging Spheres.
Holding true to the motto of my alma mater, SRB St. Joseph’s Miri, Forward Forever. Mistakes should not hold us back – as a person or an entrepreneur. More importantly we need to learn, unlearn, and relearn how to approach and handle mistakes. Personally, I feel that this is among many of life’s skills which we need to re-master.
How to Fail in Business is a collection of weekly articles where I revisit and reflect various points along my entrepreneurial journey as I embark on the current one. You may find this article posted on my LinkedIn (, Facebook Page (, and at