Value of Life Lessons

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My father built a full sized, one room Victorian style playhouse for my girls when they were little. It was heated, adorned with Victorian style lights inside and a porch light outside, and had flower-filled boxes under each window. His craftsmanship showed in the hand build windows, front door, and wood floor. It was a true labor of love.

The girls loved it, and it was our little get-away. We spent many happy hours in that little house. I wondered, “Could this be a business? How many other children would love to have their own little house?”

I discussed my business idea with my father, and we launched a plan.  We located a builder, and applied to the big home and garden show in Seattle. We were accepted. I knew it would be the perfect place to test our idea, because we would obtain feedback from thousands of visitors in just a few days’ time. My father built a miniature replica of the house that could be displayed in our booth. We made a professional video, featuring happy children enjoying the house, and we had well designed fliers full of drawings and information on various styles offered. The booth was decorated with beautiful photos and samples that showed off the fine craftsmanship.

Thousands of people went through our booth, commenting on how wonderful the little houses were. We learned a great deal from that one show. Middle class mothers and grandmothers made comments such as, “Oh, I can just imagine my girls and I in that house.” However, they could not afford it, so they walked on. Others stated that the little houses we offered were beautiful, but they had nannies who entertained their children. They had no need for such a thing.

We had obtained valuable marketing information, just from one weekend. We learned that it would not make sense to go forward with the idea. People who appreciated it could not afford it, and those who could afford it did not appreciate it. The market test was a huge success, and we scrapped the idea.

Later, I explained our experience to a friend. She quickly said, “Oh, it’s too bad it was a failure, and you wasted all that time.”

“What an odd way to look at it,” I thought. I realized that, not being a business person, she did not understand that this was, in the end, a success.  We were interested in pursuing a business idea, so we worked very hard to test it out. We had created a very successful market test that prevented us from spending much more time and energy on a product that did not have a good market.

I have thought about my friend’s reaction often over the years. I realized that business people view things differently than many others. They are risk takers, yet manage the risk. They set aside self-doubt and fear. They work hard in their attempts to reach their goals; yet they can change the goals as they adapt to market changes. They do not give up. They may not meet all of their goals, but they love the challenge. A business person has resiliency.

Some things will be a success and others will not. Perhaps only one product out of ten tested will be a success. The 9 were not failures. They were part of the process.

This attitude is called “entrepreneurial spirit”. I believe this strong spirit can be applied to other areas of life. We all have bumps in the road.  Life is hard work, but worth every effort. The drive to succeed in meeting our goals is what keeps us heading in the right direction. Accomplishing small, individual goals along the way provides the nourishment needed to keep going.

Challenge yourself to meet your next goal. Understand that life provides valuable lessons, not failures.

Christina Sherrod

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