Turning Failure into Fuel

Screw it, I just need to write this down, so maybe I can continue on and read this every time I’m thinking about it. I’ll warn you in advance, I’m going to drop some F-Bombs in this post.

I’m currently blasting Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” while writing this, if that tells you anything.

I’m very emotionally attached to development, as some of you may already know from reading my previous post “How I Got 2200 Pre-Signups for my SaaS, then Failed Hard.”

I live in Milwaukee, WI. It’s not a small city, but we’re not as technologically advanced as many other large cities in the United States. You can probably count on one hand how many companies here use technologies such as AngularJS in their production environments (the one I work at being one of them).

I have “Anything is Possible” permanently tattooed on my arm. If I put my mind to something, I get it done. I don’t fail. I’ve gotten an offer from every single job I’ve ever interviewed at, hell, I’ve gotten job offers to run entire retail stores while I was working at a McDonalds drive-thru.

Why? Because I don’t fail, I get it done, “Anything Is Possible.”

And I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I believe that every individual on this earth can be whatever they want to be, they can get whatever they want to get as long as they put their mind to it.

You just need to get off your ass and get it done.

You need to fight, you need to look at the people that tell you that you can’t do it, and tell them to fuck off. You don’t need them.

But the truth of the matter is, there will always be that “one time.” And I need to wake up, ’cause guess what? That “one time” happens more than once.

A few months ago I was flown down to San Francisco to interview at a company that I really look up to (sorry I’m not mentioning who it was, and if it’s you and your reading this, I still love you guys, and have absolutely no hard feelings at all).

I was in SF for three days, I walked over 20 miles during those three days poking my head into random startups, hanging out at bars drinking the best Whiskey Sour I ever had with the lead distributor of the actual Whiskey I was drinking. I walked down to the beach and just looked off into the distance. The whole thing was fucking beautiful, hell, here’s a picture I took during the plane ride:


How can you not be pumped after experiencing that? There is a sea of freakin’ clouds with a mountain popping out of it next to a sunrise.

I was on my “A” game.

The last full day I was there, I had interviews scheduled at the company from noon to six with everyone from HR, to the CEOs, to my would-be team lead to the entire development team.

Sure, I was nervous. These were the people that built a company with their bare hands that I looked up to everyday. But when I get nervous, no one knows, because nervousness fuels my desire to get it done. Nervousness is just that nagging feeling that you’re not good enough, but you need to look inside and realize that, fuck it, you are good enough.

Walking the 2 miles from my hotel to their office, I felt like I was on top of the world. After all, they had flown me all the way out from little ‘ol Milwaukee, so they must like me.

I walked into the office, had lunch with the team, and started off my interviews.

I had already had drinks with my would-be team lead the night before, and I thought that went great. The interview with him was pretty much a continuation of our discussion the night before. I was so passionately in love with this company, that the interviews felt like cake to me.

Hell, I was so enthusiastic, it would probably be scary to anyone that doesn’t live in the startup world.

In only one out of the 5 or 6 interviews did I feel like I might have answered one or two questions “wrong.” And during the technical evaluation, they went over code that I had written solving a test problem about two weeks earlier, and told me that I was one of the best submissions they had.

Fuck. Yes.

I was told that I would hear back that night since I was leaving at 6AM the next morning. I stayed up until 11 waiting for that call.


But I trucked on. I made it to the airport in the morning, read some inspirational books on the plane ride and landed in Milwaukee, land of the beers.

As I was standing waiting for my luggage, the call came from the team-lead. My heart instantly dropped.

“Hey Matt, how’re you?”

“I’m doing great, just landing, you?”

“I’m doing well. Hey, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to come out to San Francisco, myself and the entire team really liked you.”

“Thanks for having me, it was definitely a lot of fun.”

“No problem. I just wanted to call and let you know that we really liked your passion, but I think at this time we can’t offer you a position. We’re looking for someone with a little more actual [the position] experience.”

Screw dropping, my heart stopped. I had no idea what to say. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I said absolutely nothing for at least 10 seconds. All I could finally muster was: “No problem, I understand.”

“Well hey, I hope you have a great day.”

“Ok.” That’s it. I didn’t even know what to say, my mind was going a million miles an hour, and I was about ready to cry. I couldn’t even get out the words “Thanks, you too.” About another 10 seconds went by, and then I just hung up. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t even know what to feel.

My wife came and picked me up from the airport, I don’t think I talked the entire way home. “On the upside, at least we don’t have to move all the way to San Francisco.” She was right, at least there was that.

The next day the CEO of the company called me. Long story short, just about the same conversation happened. We loved you, everyone on the team liked you, we love your passion, but no cigar, etc.

I had half a mind to just tell him “No. I’m not taking no for an answer.” But in my heart, I knew that the only thing that would accomplish would be starting off the relationship on the wrong foot.

How could this happen to me? Newsflash, self, it happens to everyone, get the fuck over it.

Your life is your life, you have to take it by the horns, ride the bull, and make it what you want it to be. I have absolutely no hard feelings for this company, and to this day I still look up to them and respect them.

If there is anything that I learned from this entire experience, and that I want you to take away, it’s this:

You HAVE to believe in yourself, you HAVE to believe “Anything Is Possible,” but when it doesn’t go your way, you have to power through, grab your life by the balls, and move on. The feelings I had during the “you didn’t get the job” phone calls were feelings of passion.

If you feel that strongly about something, you have to take that passion, take that failure, and turn it into fuel.

In today’s world, passion is hard to come by. We’re used to the 40 hour work week, get that paycheck, and pay the bills. If you’re this pissed off about something (let’s be real, I just wrote a 1300+ word blog post about it), you need to take that passion and apply all of it to YOU.

I’ve got a great new job at an awesome company, I started this blog and am pumping out at least 1 blog post a day if not more, I’m working on a book and I’m spending more time with my 6-month old, wife and two pups. I’m happy.

You don’t fail, you get it done, “Anything Is Possible.”

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