As 2022 comes to a close, those of us in the ecommerce industry have more questions than answers: Where can you find hope in the midst of failure? What are the constants in a deeply unpredictable world? And is there really such a thing as being a failure? This week, Richard, Taylor, and former Ecommerce Playbook Podcast host Andrew Faris look back on a difficult year and reflect on what they’ve learned from it.
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[00:00:23] Richard: Hey everyone, welcome to the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. To cap off a year, that was really tough for a lot of people in our industry. We wanted to take a moment to reflect on something that's part of every entrepreneur's life, and that's failure to help us do that. We're talking to someone who should be familiar to a lot of you, Andrew Ferris.
The former e-commerce playbook host and current host of the Andrew Ferris podcast. If you enjoy this episode, go subscribe to a show. It's really good. It's a nitty gritty breakdown of the everyday struggles that go into e-commerce growth. Check it out, you'll really like it. We hope our conversation is helpful to you as you launched into 2023, and I wanted to take an opportunity to wish you guys a happy new year, and here's toit going better than 2022. All right, let's get to my conversation with Taylor and Andrew.
It's really exciting to be here. We got a, crossover episode of the E-Commerce Playbook podcast and the Andrew J Ferris podcast. Is it Andrew J Ferris? Is your middle initial in there?
[00:01:17] Andrew: That is my middle initial, but that's not what the podcast is called, it's just the Andrew Ferris podcast, which actually after creating that, I've discovered that there was another Andrew Ferris show, so maybe I should have gone with Andrew J Ferris.
Same spelling now that Andrew Ferris has not released an episode for a long time and I have not gone to see what the content is. So he had not published for long enough that I thought I was on safe ground. Take me into Ferris podcast, and now jokes on him if he tries to run it back again, cause he's gonna be competing with yours truly and my massive reach.
[00:01:47] Taylor: Well, me and my trademark lawyer, they're gonna be representing him shortly. In the claiming, it's the podcast.
[00:01:54] Richard: It's squatter's rights, Andrew. It's yours now, I'm pretty sure.
We have host of the E-Commerce Playbook podcast both past and future. I was trying to think of a metaphor for this and I was like one of those episodes when the different Star Trek captains, do a mission together.
That's like how I feel with the vibe, but anyway, that's good. The reason we're all gathered here, is to reflect it's the end of the year, it's the end of a difficult year. And yeah, I think we can, as we were talking before we hit record, this has been like a real hard thing about hard things type of year for everybody, and especially for those, in our industry and e-commerce especially coming off of a couple of banner years.
This one was really, really hard and a lot of people had really, really tough times. so obviously Taylor and Andrew, you guys have been talking about this. About some of your own failures and how to feel about them or how you relate to them. So maybe I'll kick it off, this discussion about the relationship between failure and growth with the question is, what is it about this year for you that has you reflecting on failure? We can start with you, Andrew, if
[00:02:55] Andrew: you want.
Okay, go ahead Taylor.
[00:02:57] Taylor: Yeah. No, it's been, look, you said it, Richard. It's been, I would say, I was thinking about this the other day. I think this in 11 years of doing CTC,, this was my hardest year. Like by a pretty wide margin, I would say. We had a round of layoffs at CTC,. We had been in this crazy hyper growth coming out of Covid, and everything else.
And Q3 in particular was the hardest three months in 11 years of doing this for sure. And I think it's because it probably is the first macroeconomic recession we've been a part of. It's the first time that our customers have really suffered in ways that like hard to really sort through and alter.
And because the organization had gotten so big, like we have, 120 variable contracts, which is awesome until they all go backwards suddenly in ways that are hard to predict and just managing so many people and nuanced problems. And I think when your customers are suffering alongside you too, there's just this like constant.
Everybody just feels bad all the time. And it felt like every conversation for lots of months and weeks was about how things were going wrong and nobody was winning. And it was just this like perpetual state of things.
[00:04:06] Andrew: And doing all of it, fully remote.
[00:04:11] Taylor: Yeah, being alone and feeling very alone is a huge part of that, I totally agree. And then recently we're reaching the end of the year and, I've had a number of different entrepreneurs, including I had a really close friend call me and a buddy in tears, basically the discovery that he was insolvent and not knowing what he was gonna do and that his home was on the line and that it was like really scary.
And then I got an email from a longtime admission member saying that he thinks he's gonna be shutting his business down and, it just there's an era of realization that this was a really challenging year for the e-commerce industry. My stocks are down a ton, that's another thing. My Shopify stock tells me that this has not been great.
[00:04:53] Andrew: Yeah, to say nothing of your Bitcoin. I don't know if that was just in the air or what, but then, what I noticed that happened is that I was Marco Polo-ing you Taylor about something related to that. And I was just going through some period of imposter syndrome and it is funny, like I actually have had a great year for me in terms of business.
Like it's been really good, starting my own thing has been great. There's been some things that I miss about other things, but like in terms of just the pure economics and business-wise, it's been really good. But nonetheless I was having some moment where i was, I think what was happening for me was I was seeing actually some successes out there and just going like, how come I couldn't do that when I ran four by 400?
How come like I wasn't able to create those kinds of outcomes? And the thought that I had from there literally was, do I actually know anything about e-commerce? And like, of course I do, right? That's silly, like I've spent a lot of time thinking about this now, and I've had plenty of successes along with the failures and that's the reality of it.
But there are just times when I, was just reflective one day or didn't sleep enough or what, but, I just was like feeling that. And what I noticed though was when I sent you that message, like I do a lot of times with you, just not really. I wasn't like in a necessarily super dark place, but you end up being a sounding board for some of those thoughts, sometimes it's just like a safe place to air it out.
And it feels, you and I both know that these feelings can be sometimes passing too and so it's just good to voice 'em and. As I sent you that, what I noticed is how much you jumped on it and you were like, oh yeah, here's my thoughts on that issue.
Like they, they resonated with you in some kind of way, maybe cause of what you just described, so anyway, it just seemed like both of us were experiencing in some way or another, maybe from different perspectives, but still seeing things going not the way that we had hoped on some stuff and wondering what was going on.
[00:06:32] Taylor: It's a very interesting experience. Oh, go ahead Richard.
[00:06:35] Richard: No, I was just gonna reflect on what both of you guys have said, which is, in a sense, it sounds like, Taylor, you're currently in it right now? Yeah. Andrew, you've been in it in the past, particularly as it relates to four by four, 400, and now you have a little bit of perspective with a little bit of distance.
Yeah. So you're not in failure, so to speak, or in the feeling around failure right now. But anyway, we can maybe speak to that in a second about, what the relationship between failure and learning is, but yeah.
[00:07:03] Taylor: Well I think that there's this really interesting dynamic, which is, and this is the imposter syndrome thing, Andrew, that I think comes out a little, is that it can be simultaneously true that I know more now about being an AGS and CEO than I could have ever known before, and I still constantly feel like I don't know what I'm doing. And that sort of simultaneous feeling is really weird. It's like, wait, I've been doing this 11 years. And when I talk to a new agency owner, I'm reminded of like how much I know relative to their present state, but of the thing I'm doing right now, I'm still very much trying to figure it out at the same time.
[00:07:46] Andrew: And what I'll do is I'll see somebody running an aggregator or just any of the pathways that I've gone down and just be like, wait, is the aggregator model broken like I think or was I just bad at it? And was I just not skilled enough? And the truth is there's probably both, right?
Like there's probably some people who are better suited for that model than I would've been and yeah, we don't need to like play back that. There's an episode of the e-commerce playbook, you can go back to and listen to us do that ad nauseum, but the point is that, it's that same thing.
It's the back and forth of the two of them. For me, I experience it as I think of those moments and have the imposter syndrome moments, and then at the same time I'm trying to sell my services and it's like a really weird disconnect going, sometimes I have that self-doubt. And then sometimes I'm also like telling an e-commerce entrepreneur, here's how I can help you.
And, I really believe I can help them. Like the, both of those feelings are true at moments that I have them. It's not like I'm faking it entirely, but they're just like, they're just a weird back and forth on that.
[00:08:43] Taylor: And I remember, you said on your website, sorry Richard, just cause one of the things you said in the Marco Polo thing was that when you initially wrote your copy for your website, was you actually, highlighted how much you had failed as the value proposition and then you's kinda went, maybe I don't wanna do that. But that was like your thought.
[00:09:01] Andrew: But this completely highlights what we're getting at here. Which is, I believe when my actual most rational assessment of it is that I am a million times better at this stuff than I was when I ran before Fortune 400, which is not that long ago. Especially early in that time, and that's because, precisely because of the things that went wrong at Fortune 400, that like those things were there.
And so I had this inclination on my website to then go Lead with that as a sales tactic, as marketing basically partly to stand out cause everybody else just trumpets their wins all the time. And I like being able to say something authentic and be different. Chat GPT would never come up with that but what I realized was actually the stuff that gets engagement on Twitter and all that stuff is wins. It's Ws, and so I thought actually I probably shouldn't lead with so much of this stuff, even though I think it's true just because it's probably not a good sales tactic. but in my mind, what I think is actually one of the reasons people should hire me is because I've failed in significant ways and that's like will allow me to, I have then viscerally experienced some things that I don't want them to experience and would hope to be able to keep them from.
[00:10:02] Richard: I was gonna say, it's amazing to me, I've seen the theme in what you've both have said, but amazing to me how much you need outside perspective to understand how far you've come and to reflect on your own failure. Because I think like one sort of phenomenon that I see happening in myself, and it sounds like in you guys too, is that the more that you know, this is like the classic, it's like the Socrates thing or something.
The more you know, the more you understand that you don't know, and yeah, the more you see how granular and how much deeper you could go in becoming an expert at your craft and all of a sudden it's, oh, there's like an infinite, the ceiling is infinitely high and I'm not even close.
[00:10:38] Taylor: The other thing about selling, so I gotta think about this like right now, I've gotten some feedback that I have been saying too often, if we don't do this, we may die. As an imperative for why we need to do something with this specific sense of urgency that I want. And the funny thing about that is if I'm right that if we didn't do it, you'll die, you'll never know.
And so the actual saving of someone from death is not an experience that they actually feel, but taking them somewhere specific is so from the ad copy standpoint saying, I'll save you from problems, well, how do I actually know if I would've had the problem? And so it's like you, the idea of going somewhere always sounds better than like the wisdom to keep you from pain but, how important is it to not die?
[00:11:30] Andrew: Yeah, If you're selling a fire extinguisher, start with the fire. For that to work, you really have to make people feel the fire, otherwise it does not work to sell them that stuff if you cannot really make that fire feel, yeah, and it's just really hard to feel that, and for a lot of people, a lot of the time.
[00:11:47] Taylor: And I've thought about this, so one of the things we talk about a lot of media buying, right? Every media buyer has the story of how they spent too much money sometime. And the night you left the ad on, or you wrote one too many zeros or you meant to say lifetime budget and became a daily budget, whatever, and the feeling.
[00:12:03] Andrew: Can I tell my ad?
[00:12:04] Taylor: Yeah, tell yours. When was it?
[00:12:05] Andrew: Okay. It was at Klo and I was a new media buyer and my boss was Taylor Holiday, and I remember. It probably was like five grand or something that like, was like not a crazy version of this, but it was still like a lot of money. And I also knew that I could hide it if like I thought, like this actually won't show up that much in the metrics.
And I think I could probably not say anything about it, but I thought, ooh, but that would be worse for sure if like it was discovered that way and I had just been like lying about it. So I remember calling you and then I think you didn't answer Taylor. And then I was like idly shooting shots on a basketball court and just like screwing around at the park and you called back and I was like, okay, here we go.
And so your response to it. I'll hold back for a second because I don't know if you want to get, I think that's part of the issue here but I remember just being like, my heart sunk cause, the thing is there's nothing you could do to get it back. Like it was just, that money is gone and it wasn't my money and it was totally my fault.
[00:13:02] Taylor: Here's a really interesting philosophical question, it's the one I'm getting at. Do you have a better media buyer before or after it happens?
[00:13:09] Andrew: Yeah, for me it was after, for sure. It was because I put in one too many zeros, I just press the button wrong, basically the typo and then I just didn't check it. And then afterwards, for me, at least for a while now, I think these kinds of feelings wear off. But at least probably for the next six months, I was double checking everything.
[00:13:22] Taylor: That's right, and so when I think about wisdom or errors, like the email I got from the entrepreneur that's winding things down, he leads with, I was listening to the podcast about the genetic attributes, a brand, and the reality is I'm at 50% gross margin and I think it's gonna be really hard to win at that number, and I just can't get there. And so what I would say is the express knowledge of why he's failing equips him to be in a better position to not fail next time.
In the same way, like what you described, I noticed this with media buyers too. You can tell a media buyer, it's gonna feel terrible if you spend somebody's money, but until you feel that terrible. That's a really hard thing to inject into somebody with words and knowledge, but who they are on the other side is generally has a much greater attention to detail because they know they can actually feel the thing that they're risking.
And so that question of, is that wisdom, more valuable. And does that make better people? Does that make, will you be, Andrew, in your next CEO role, more cognizant of cash than ever before? Yeah, I think those things are very true. Now the question is like, how much does each individual take that and learn? How quickly does it fade? All those things are real, but I think that is the wisdom that I think we were trying to trade ideas about.
[00:14:35] Richard: Yeah, I was gonna say there's, I think there's an element of, it's basically like the old adage about learning from your mistakes and it's almost a thing of where you don't know what mistakes can even be made until you do make them.
And at that point you have knowledge that can't possibly be gained any other way except for failing in that specific way. So with that in mind, let's pivot to, maybe we can talk specifics if you want to in terms of what failure, have you learned the most from this year? Maybe I'll start with you that they're Andrew, because it sounds like you've had a little space to reflect on the failures of yesterday year. But what's the one that sticks out in terms of that type of wisdom was generated by this one failure?
[00:15:14] Andrew: Yeah, the thing I think about a lot is not necessarily something I learned this year originally, but something I've reflected on a lot this is actually that genetic elements of a brand and then also the makeup of, and management of a company.
And how those things work. So like you just referenced cash, Taylor as something that like I'll now forever be more conscious of how cash moves through a business after how Fortune 400 was so challenging because of my lack of sophistication around that area made it really hard for me to manage cash well and cash management in that company was particularly hard.
So that was like a really, double whammy problem. So on the company side, what I've thought about since then also is, I've thought a lot, do I want to, even when I went to go start my own thing I wasn't trying to start my own thing. It just, as I was thinking about what the next opportunity was, a couple opportunities fell into my lap and I decided, okay, I think I'm gonna start my own thing.
Cause actually this is like a really good setup for me. And when I did that, when I was vetting opportunities, I was really conscious of who I was gonna be partnering with, including if there was any equity involved or anything like that. And that's totally because of some challenges that I experienced at Fortune 400, both good and bad, actually, my partnership with you Taylor, was an incredible positive in that experience for me.
And I would do that again in a heartbeat because of the way that I could relate to you, in the difficult moments and those kinds of things, I would not partner with you again in something like that where I personally owned so little of it while being at the level that I was at, because ownership is something that you have to feel and it has to matter to you.
And nobody did anything wrong there. It's just what you learn when you do these kinds of things. I would think really carefully now about who invested and whose money I took investing wise and what are my interests really aligned with theirs, and are the things that I'm passionate about in this endeavor the same as theirs?
I would think a lot about how cap tables in any business work, that would be like a really crucial thing. So cap tables, cash partnership and then just in general, like the time expenditure and the amount of brain expenditure, and how much, like the obligation in taking those things on really matters in your life mixed with now.
What kind of e-commerce business? I would actually try to own and run again. There's just a lot of businesses I look at now. I had somebody whose business is really struggling, come to me and ask for help and was talking about like, would you wanna take an ownership position or whatever.
And I just thought, I don't think so. And part of it now is that I would be very selective about what the genetic elements of a e-commerce business are that I would take and I could think back to the businesses I acquired at Fortune 400 and go like that one never had a chance, that one never had a chance, this one did have a chance, this one did have, you know what I mean?
And just like I would be able to assess those opportunities so differently now than I did then. So it's both a combination for me of the broader company management type stuff, as well as the specifics of e-commerce and what makes a good e-commerce brand. Both of those two me are pretty top of mind for me.
A lot of that is because of failures at Fortune 400 successes at Fortune 400 as well, by the way. That's part of it too, and then and then watching some other businesses that I've gotten close to in the last year as well.
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[00:18:55] Taylor: One of the things that I have constantly been shocked by is how much whiter the actual set of potential outcomes is that I'm considering. Both upside and downside in scenarios, my range of considered possible outcomes, is way too small all the time. And I don't know how, I've been thinking a lot about this of like how to widen it and how much time you should spend on really outlier thing or things that, at least the story I have about them is that they're outliers.
But I feel like I'm constantly in the state of being surprised by something upside or downside in my world. Performance of people, like what they're capable of doing from either leaving or staying to client performance at account performance to mistakes and how bad they could be versus like just human things.
There's so many things when you consider all the possible scenarios. And I think this get, this gets to why, humans are so bad at making decisions about media and the outcomes that are gonna be in the future.
As I feel this with my business is that and I don't think I've solved this one yet. I'm forecasting 2023 for my business right now and I'm really struggling with it despite, I would say, having more knowledge of forecasting than ever before. And maybe that's why I feel that way is because the scenarios.
The reality that the scenarios are so widely possible makes it feel like an ignorant exercise to write down almost any number and I've been teaching this thing in, my mastermind about trying to move from what you would like to happen, or take what you would like to happen, what you think is likely to happen and work to bridge those things.
And I think in some ways I'm trying to get back in tune with that emotional part of myself of just trying to say, what do I want to happen? Which is like weird. Cause I feel like I've been on this data journey to try and answer these questions and I actually want to try and get closer to, what do I want to occur?
And then what would need to be true about building the business to make that thing happen. So that's a big journey I've been on back and forth on the data side and the forecasting side, that's been really hard. The other is, people count as an asset to a definition of success, I think it might actually be a counter signal to the thing that I thought it was for a long time. I was at dinner last night with one of our clients, APL and their founders are, it's a family business, married couple and their twin boys and twin men now. But I say boys cause I just think twins in that language.
But Mark Goldstein and he's a brilliant, he, this, he was a Fortune 500 public company ceo and he was 31 years old. He's just an incredible list of patents and all these accomplishments. And so I was listening to him to talk about, and he said that the number one thing he looks for in a business is the leveraged value creation of every human in the business.
In other words, for every employee, what's your revenue per employee? How much value are you able to generate out of the people that you have? And he goes, anytime someone comes to me and they tell me about their business, and the first thing they tell me is how many employees that they have, as if that's a signal of strength, I would never invest in that business ever.
And I have done that countless times and in the agency world, yeah. I feel like it's a big temptation in some way, and maybe that's true in more places, but in particular in the human service business, there's something about the signal that we have a bunch of people here doing a thing, but I've come to learn that what it made me release was this like rigorous obligation to the association between the primary cost of my business and the value, though, that those things we're creating. And that I wasn't clear and harsh enough on that and there was consequences a result. So those are two things that think stand out to me.
[00:22:34] Richard: Yeah, I was gonna say, one thing you pointed out, Taylor, that I think would be interesting to unpack further with both of you is that idea of like, I was saying before of the more you know, the more you know you don't know. And then the more you're aware of just how many possibilities, the infinite amount of possibilities there are and how unexpected everything can be.
And it feels, to me anyway, like experience is partially learning what things are constant actually. So both of you who have been through a lot of ups and downs in your entrepreneurial journeys, where do you see the Constance right now? What are the things that you actually feel like you can rely on at this point?
[00:23:11] Taylor: That's a great question.
[00:23:14] Andrew: Well, it's interesting. This is an obvious answer in some ways, but I would say probably one of the things that is definite is like clearly most constant to me in this pathway has been my relationship with Taylor as like a non-stop thing. And the thing that's really interesting about that is that like our formal business partnership is very small.
Like it technically exists still, but like even this year where I've like fully, flown away from the coop, so to speak. I'm like really not working on any of our businesses, as a main thing that I'm doing. And we still talk, I feel like, pretty often about all this kind of stuff.
And so I think that's really interesting. And actually, Richard, you are in that same boat. I think, like you've been around this ecosystem for a while and doesn't mean you'll be there forever, but like you and I like stay up on exactly, this kind of conversation, like reflective about life conversations.
We talk quite a bit about this sort of stuff whenever we grab, a Zoom lunch or whatever, it's just sort of part of the relationship. And I think that's an interesting thing, that there is something to be said about a connection and attraction to working alongside people that you trust.
And part of the trust is when I called you Taylor about the extra zero and that ad spend at Klo, you didn't blow up or freak out. You said, well, are you gonna do that again or, I don't remember what you said, but something along those lines. I was like, I don't think so. Like you just said, thanks for calling, thanks for being honest about it.
And it was the kind of thing that built enough trust to where I felt like, okay, I can trust you the next time too, and the next time something goes wrong and I don't have to like, try to hide and then let everything come out and at another time. And so when I'm working with you, we can actually process problems together and there's like safety there in a way that I think produces better outcomes, hopefully.
And so I think that in the long run that is, the ability to maintain partnerships with people who you trust at a character level and at a competence level both, and it has to be both. Is probably one of the most constant things and probably one of the biggest like equity builders in your life in terms of human.
Joy, equity as well as like probably dollars, I think that, they both can really matter. So I'm sure there's other answers too, but that's the first one that comes to mind.
[00:25:25] Richard: People who are constant is the constant or something like that.
[00:25:29] Andrew: Well, I'm sorry, lemme tag that with one more story. A friend of mine's a chaplain and so spending some time with a guy who was dying and was gonna die and he was telling me the other. That the guy had been very successful in business and he had two reflections that really stuck with my friend.
The first was, now that he's dying, nobody can take away any of the things that he was successful with. So those were those were banked, right? Like nobody can rewrite his story. It's true, and it was real. And he actually did it so he could like, feel good about that. Basically in that moment, oh, all right, I accomplished some things.
And then secondly, he said, Nobody he ever promoted or any of those things were, people were there saying goodbye to him. It was like all family and then like some friends. And so he was thinking about the different kind of relationships. And I'll tell you what, like this might be like a morose way to say this, but if that was happening to me, I know you would show up, both of you guys actually would do that.
And that's a real constant and that really matters. Again, I know that it's a grandiose way to make this point, but I think it's real.
[00:26:24] Taylor: So there's two things that I've thought about is that one of the things that I return to in moments where things are really volatile is, I move all of my thinking down to the unit of a day like so that the amount of time I have today to work and in that unit, I try and understand that there's a fixed amount of things I can do, and so then I will choose to do the best I can with what I have. And so there's this sense by which the constant is, I don't ever, have this ability to go undo the things that happened in the past or like to guarantee something will have been in the future.
But what I can do is right now in the present moment to the best of my ability, make a choice to act towards it. Anytime things get really wild, I have this exercise that I do on my board where I'll start the morning and I go, today, what do I need to accomplish? And I'll write that, today, what do I need to accomplish?
And I try and write down the most impactful things I can do this day to make it, okay. And in doing so, I realize that in reaching the end of that day, I have tried to move the bigger picture to the best of my ability, but when I spiral out in either direction back or forwards, I get really hung up. And no, that's hard.
And it's funny, like I was at a executive offsite this week. And we've been doing an an exercise that someday I'll probably share more details about, but it was about asking people to a longer term commitment for their life in a way. And one of the per people was like, I work really hard to be in the present and I feel like you're asking me to go to a place I don't like to go.
And I was like, okay, that's fair. But at the same time, as leaders, we have this sort of like obligation to an idea of what the future's gonna be, and we have to make a statement and put ourselves on the hook for it. And so there's always this tension for me that I get, I have to live out there. I have to do that really big.
So time is this like thing I think a lot about, but all of my time plans, and Andrew, you can relate to this being in four by 400 together, they're like laughable. They're like, they're honestly , like wildly laughable every time I move out to a big window. And so I try and remember that a little, I hold that a little looser these days than maybe I used to when I make plans about the future, it's not that they're not valuable, but again, they're.
Learning where I'm importantly wrong, more so than they're ever gonna be right. And so then I go back to today, try to figure out where I'm wrong.
[00:28:41] Andrew: The point of the time plan like that is actually to affect what you do today. That's the reason to do it. It's not really about what you're gonna do then
What you'll do then will be affected by your time plan for the future of that moment. And so the whole point of doing that exercise, it's to say okay, as best as I can understand, here's where I'm trying to go. What does that mean I need to do today? And that's right. So then it actually bounces you right back to today.
[00:29:01] Richard: What you just said, Taylor brought up this phenomenon that I feel, anyway, as I grow older, I get more experience, whatever. Is that certain cliches suddenly, snap into focus. One is that, what is it? God laughs at the plans you make or whatever. I can't remember the phrasing is, but that idea.
[00:29:18] Andrew: If you wanna make God laugh, tell 'em your plans.
[00:29:20] Richard: Yeah, tell 'em your plants. Exactly because you hear that when you're younger, let's say, or you don't have as much experience and you're like, that's, that seems cynical. Or that's maybe that was like an old joke. It really killed when the first person told it in 1920.
like now it's just a cliche. And then, you actually experienced that? Yes, there's a paradox, especially in leadership of you are asked to do something that's impossible and somebody has to do that impossible thing, which is say that this is where we will go in the future and we have a vision for it and we're gonna make it happen.
Understanding the whole time that like something completely random, like a worldwide pandemic is gonna come outta nowhere and throw a wrench in that into those plans.
[00:30:01] Taylor: So one of my friends on that point, cause I think there's this, so my friend Dane, who does a lot of like coaching work with me and our executives and people at CTC, he has this framework that he likes us to have that says, people will often move from what do they want to have, therefore what should they do and who does that mean they are.
I think if you invert that and you say, who am I and who do I wanna be? What do I want to be true of me, then in light of any situation, what do I do? And then what does that mean I will have, and I think that one of those things is about even right now, one of the things I'm doing, and you and I are working on this, Richard, is we're working on a CTC rebrand, CTC 2.0.
We're gonna cut whole new logo, mission, vision, a bunch of things. And it's funny because, I feel really imposing about this. When I was young, I was so certain about the things that I wanted us to be and I feel so uncertain about what's gonna happen. And so I'm trying to really anchor into what do I want to be like, who do I want us to be?
And I think that sort of like sequence of things is also a little bit helpful to allow uncertainty, to accept the uncertainty, but to still deal with identity. You can act in.
[00:31:14] Richard: So I was gonna ask a question. This kind of came up in our discussion before we hit record around this idea of, thinking about failure versus being a failure and that experience that you can have, that emotional place that you can be in.
Where those things become pretty indistinguishable. Like was this actually good because the consequences were catastrophic? So really was this that good? You know what I mean? So maybe talk through how you guys have experienced that and are working through it and just maybe what you're feeling as regards that right now.
[00:31:45] Andrew: I think the failure is bad. Like I think it's still bad, it still sucks to go through. It's still bad. It's just that it also is an opportunity for the next thing, because they're both true, right? The first thing is that it happened and it's real. And so you don't wanna discount that.
And the consequences are whatever the consequences are, like it may not be that big of a deal and it may be a really big deal depending on what the failure was, right? But they are actually not the whole story. Still too, that there actually is a next thing, and so you can accept, I think the idea that like the failure really actually is bad, and yet at the same time it might move you towards something that makes the next thing better or worse, precisely because of the failure and that, it can still have an effect on the next thing.
So yeah, I have no problem. I don't think it needs to become like, oh, well see, failures aren't really failures after all. No, they are like, you missed, we were supposed to do something that I was supposed to do as CEO, four 400 didn't work, and a lot of that was my fault.
A lot of it wasn't my fault too, but like a lot of it was my fault. And so, again, bamboo Earth go great. There's a lot of good still. It's not like the whole thing crashed and burned. So the consequences ultimately grand scheme of things are relatively small, but they're still real.
[00:32:52] Taylor: I wonder if this is a place where maybe our worldviews, Andrew will cut, like begin to diverge more a little bit because identity and who gets to decide it is a really interesting question for me. So like this idea that what does it mean to be like, who gets to decide, what you are, right? So the idea of when do you become a failure?
My current worldview would say, only in when you decide such, like that, no one else gets to give you that identity. And so you become a failure when you decide and accept that you are. But until then, nobody else gets to decide that. And so the key here is, and what I've come to believe about entrepreneurship is the entrepreneur of the wins is the one that can, experience failure without accepting the identity of failure most often and who can have the most hard conversations.
Those are like my two modus operandi cause otherwise you just keep going, which substantially increases your likelihood of reaching some modicum of success. But I wonder if you believe that identity is maybe less, individually decided and more objective in some way?
[00:33:53] Andrew: I dunno that I disagree with that. I think the thing I would say is that I'm pretty good, I think at, embracing the reality of a failure, as a moment and being honest about it and trying to look it in the eye.
Cause I think the temptation, and this was much more of a temptation for me, I think, especially when I was younger. But this is one of those things where life experiences, I think, teach you stuff. And my temptation in the past would be to keep an arm's length from any failure in my life, from anything that was going wrong, anything I was doing poorly.
And by keeping it at arm's length, it would allow me to pretend it wasn't real, but, It is real and as long as you're doing it, it's real. And so the consequences of that thing will come out, which is where we like the consequences are signed post to reality phrase that I've used and Taylor, you've co-opted and rarely credit me for comes from.
But that is the idea to me is that, if you're living not in reality for a while, you can try and hold it off for a while, but at some point reality will come up and it will, the consequences of that thing will matter and they'll point you back to reality because I think there's this temptation and people do, all kinds of stuff to do this in their lives.
It can be wild, insane, life behavior, massive, extreme drug addiction, party mode, whatever. It can be much smaller than that. It could be, compulsive working out or whatever, there's just a million ways in which this manifests in people's lives. Or it could just be emotional shutoff.
But I think, at the end of the day, I'm able to say, I'm able to look now. Challenges and things that are bad and problems and failures in the eye and get closer to them precisely because I don't think that they like are the final definition of who I am. So in that respect, I think or if they are, it's okay.
It's actually okay to be a person who has failed and that there's like grace for that basically, and I think this actually begins to get at something that I think is really important in this, which is that the net effect, your ability to catalyze failure into value in your life, I think is directly proportional to your ability to get close to it and to be honest about it.
And so there's a phrase, I remember, I think it was Robert County Jr, after getting sober and all of that stuff. I remember hearing him saying, hearing him say, and it sounds very 12 step, so I don't know if it came from there, but that like the big thing that he had to do was to learn to hug the cactus and that was the most important thing.
Like he loves that. Yeah. It's a great image, right? Like the idea is, the temptation is to run away from the cactus and to not touch it cause it'll hurt you. But actually like the pathway to almost all kinds of learning like this is to hug it, and I think yeah, that's just like the crucial thing in this process.
[00:36:16] Taylor: So to end Richard, as I think about the entrepreneurs right now that are sitting in their failure, maybe their business is shut down, maybe they're facing a bankruptcy. Like it could be really bad.
For a thousand reasons, you are going to tell yourself a story about how that means you should not do that thing anymore. That is the arena you need to move out of. And so I wonder though, if at least allowable in your consideration for all of us, is what if the failure meant something different?
What if it was actually not an indication that you had to move away or that you weren't the right person? but it was actually a tool that you now possessed that somebody around you didn't, that now made you more possibly the right person.
[00:36:59] Andrew: And it actually is a reason you should hire me.
[00:37:02] Taylor: That's right, so I wonder if that's it. and I think at least sit with it. Don't know you out there, appreciate you listening, but maybe that's the case.
[00:37:11] Andrew: I wanna mention one more story really fast that has something that's really stuck with me, which was a guy I was listening to who was, just along the lines of what you just said, Taylor, a guy I was listening to, old guy, very near death, had lived a really good life. And there was a younger guy interviewing him on a podcast and he was saying to him, hey, what would you do if you could go back and tell your younger self like some advice, he's like, I'm 30 or whatever, you're 75 and I don't remember the ages, but something like that.
What would you tell a 30 year old version of you and the older guy I reject the premise. I won't do it because he basically was saying like, it's actually impossible for me to be the kind of person that you wanna ask that question to.
It's impossible for me to have gotten there any other way, but to have experienced these things for myself and for them to develop certain convictions in me and to internalize them as opposed to being outside knowledge. He's a really simple example, I can tell you that your margin is not viable in e-commerce all you want, but it's only when you slam your head against the wall over and over and over again and your margin doesn't work, that you'll like really internalize the idea that your margin needs to be better.
And there's that's like that with a million different things. So for me, like that's the final reflection. It's like I keep trying to come back to that as often as possible that if I can keep processing it in conversations like this with people like you guys that I trust or whatever, and if I can keep being honest about it and going to those places that it actually will it'll actually be fruitful in my life in some way.
[00:38:23] Taylor: Yeah, so then the key is the only way to reap all that wisdom is just not die in the process.
[00:38:29] Andrew: That's right.
[00:38:31] Richard: That's the lesson we'll attempt to live forever. So I hope you all take that away.
Well guys, thanks for joining us. I'm glad we could all get together and have this conversation and I think our audience appreciates it as well. Obviously let's not make this the last time we get the gang together. We'll at least see everybody next year to reflect on how badly things went in 2023, right?
[00:38:54] Andrew: That's right.
[00:38:55] Taylor: I guess we can only hope it's terrible so we all get smarter.
[00:38:58] Richard: That's right. We're gonna learn so much next year.
[00:39:01] Andrew: Yeah, maybe next year's reflection episode will be like about how much we all just freaking smashed in 2023. That would be nice if that was.
[00:39:06] Taylor: Forget all that stuff about failure, it sucks.
[00:39:09] Andrew: Yeah, winning is awesome.
[00:39:10] Taylor: All righty.
[00:39:12] Richard: Right y'all.
[00:39:14] Andrew: Thanks guys.
[00:39:15] Richard: Appreciate it.