When our son Nathan was six and his brother Nolan was four, they decided to open a lemonade stand for a day with their cousins in front of our home. It was an extremely hot and humid Texas day and I felt sorry for them as they stood patiently waiting for their first customer. Time dragged on, and the situation for turning a profit looked bleak. Sweat was pouring off their faces as they continued to wait for someone to come. I couldn't take it anymore, so I drove down to their "PaPa's," who lived down the street and explained their plight. A businessman himself, my father was very sensitive to their situation. He said he would come and buy something from them.
A short time later he pulled into our driveway right beside the lemonade stand. The kids were very excited since he was their first customer of the day. The boys were surprised when he ordered four glasses of lemonade from them. As he waited for them to pour his order, Nathan said, "PaPa you are going to have to move your truck out of our driveway." A little surprised he asked, "Why do I need to move?" Nathan continued, “Because we’re expecting a lot of business here any minute."
In reality, there was no rush of business to the lemonade stand after “PaPa” moved his truck as Nathan had anticipated. The boys did have a couple of customers stop by later in the day but were disappointed after having their hopes of getting rich shattered. Most of us have had multiple experiences when our “brilliant” ideas did not work out as we had hoped and planned. After experiencing a few failures many begin to look at life through a pessimistic lens.
Harry S. Truman once said: “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” So was the lemonade really a failure as a pessimist would view it? Not at all if viewed with the proper lens! That experience provided those boys with the opportunity to learn valuable lessons at an early age. For instance, the boys got to set up their own stand, which should have taught them some basic planning skills. They made their own signs and set their own price teaching them a little about advertising and marketing. They were able to talk business with a few adults teaching them valuable communication and sales skills. They also hopefully learned that a business location with very little traffic is usually not a good idea, even if they got a good deal on it. They also had the opportunity to learn that you would have to sell a lot of lemonade at 25 cents a glass to get rich. College students spend thousands of dollars in tuition money for the opportunity to learn the kind of lessons these boys learned that day. To go along with all the lessons learned, they were able to spend some quality time with their cousins and drink some cold lemonade on a hot day. And in the end, they both ended up working in the business world despite their initial failure.
Unfortunately, many fail to learn lessons and view these experiences as a waste of time because no money was made. Perhaps the reason you don’t see many successful pessimists is because they are convinced that nothing they try will work, so why try! They let their lemonade stand experiences of the past kill any desire to take risks in the future. If you are to be successful in life it will most likely not happen by sitting around being pessimistic. When failure does come, we should examine closely and ask not only why they failed but also what lessons we have learned from the experience.
A few years ago a friend named Steven shared an experience he had in high school that was life changing. The year was 1976, the 200th year of our country’s existence. His best friend Brad told him about auditions that were being held for a national bicentennial choir that would perform in Washington D.C. during the celebrations. The choir would consist of a few guys and girls from each of the 50 states, so competition would be stiff. Steven told him that he didn’t want to try out because they probably wouldn’t make it anyway. Brad comment had a dramatic effect on Steven that day and he never forgot the lesson. Brad said, “Steven we have already not made it. Let’s go try out and see if we can make it.” What an incredible powerful thought. Those ideas that you feel prompted to try as part of your mission in life have already failed if they are never tried. Why not see if they will work! As it turned out, both Steven and Brad were selected to participate in the choir and made a memory of a lifetime because they tried.
How many of us never open our lemonade stands because we are so afraid they will fail? Remember they have already failed if they remain in your head and are never tried! Why not try them to see if they will work. There is, of course, a possibility that your ideas will not work out exactly the way you had hoped. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen had their manuscript “Chicken Soup For the Soul” rejected by over 140 book publishers. That is not exactly what most people would call success. However, they took the optimistic approach because they were on a mission and persevered until a publisher took a chance on their book idea. The book ended up selling over eight million copies and was translated into 41 languages. Their idea started a series of self-help books that have now sold over 100 million copies. But what if no one had ever published the books? That certainly would not mean they were failures if they learned valuable lessons from their experience. Someone has said: “The optimist, as you probably know, is a person who, when he wears out his shoes, just figures he’s back on his feet.”
• Experiences that appear to be failures are not if you learn valuable lessons in the process.
• If you do not try those things you feel impressed to try they have already failed.
• When you actually try to accomplish your dreams they may actually work, so why not try!
• It always helps to stay positive even when you are sweating and things look bad.
• If you lose time or money trying ideas that you feel are part of your mission count it as tuition.
Make a list of the things that you feel you need to do in life. What are the risks involved in time, money etc. to implement them? Can you afford the cost of the tuition involved? Are there valuable lessons that could be learned if things didn’t work out the way you hoped?