When I was in university, I participated in an interesting side project with several other undergraduate students. We worked with our team lead, Betsy McGregor and assisted her in organizing interviews with dozens of female politicians of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and even success rates in their respective campaigns, with the goal of writing the book that eventually was entitled “Women on the Ballot”.
Despite their many differences, there was one commonality that was consistent and stood out to me among all these prospective politicians – they all knew they were going to win their election. Even when they didn’t win. At first, I thought this was a bit silly and unrealistic. Why set yourself up for failure like that so willingly?
A story that Betsy often told us was one that she heard in an interview with one woman who had served one term in office, and was running for re-election. She too noted that you absolutely have to believe that you are going to win in order to pull it off, however she ended up losing the election on the second term. She mentioned that it doesn’t hit you that you’ve lost until you get into the back of the car – and nothing happens.
In November 2019, Sean and I competed in two local grant programs. Now, not to say these ‘micro-grant’ competitions were on par with the intensity of running a federal election campaign, but relativity, okay? We put a lot of work into our presentation and were feeling fairly confident about our chances based on our performance in the mandatory classes that led up to the final presentation. In this 5-week program, (one full day of class per week) Sean and I were clearly the forerunners on class participation, and engagement with the material. So much so that, given the nature of our business, and the fact that everyone else in the class had started a new business of their own in other sectors, we ended up signing several of our classmates as clients. And although we were confident, I am burdened with the gift of rationality, so despite the fact that the rest of the class deemed us a shoo-in for the micro-grant of $5,000, I still had a bit of a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that told me “don’t get your hopes up, anything can happen, you don’t want to be let down.” Now on the outside, I did my best to exude confidence the best I could, and tried out the old “put it out to the universe” approach to the whole thing – yet still the voice persisted. But all the while I regularly thought about the story that I heard so many times from Betsy and the influential women I spent so many hours transcribing. In the end, we did not receive one of the 6 grants awarded. This especially stung because there were only 9 businesses vying for these awards. We couldn’t believe it when we got the news. We were one of only 3 teams that didn’t get it, it seemed impossible to us at the time. As a side note, what stung more was the fact that we were told that we would find out the next day about whether or not we were successful, however I received an e-mail from the coordinator about 3 hours after our presentation with no explanation as to why, rather a simple, “my condolences…” To us, this meant that as soon as we walked out of the presentation room, the judges likely looked at us and said “hah, no way guys. Next.”
After putting weeks into this project, creating a 30-page business plan, engaging with all the material, meeting after class for more direction and genuinely trying our best, we were unsuccessful. Sean was mad, I was upset, and we both dealt with it in our own way. For the first time in a long time, I cried my eyes out! I knew it would be an emotional dumping no matter the outcome, but obviously I wished more for the ‘jump for joy’ side of that, rather than blubbering like a baby on the couch for the night. This was a real low point in the Nufás lifespan. We had felt true failure twice in one week and it built up and finally came to a head. My partner helped me through this tough time with excellent consoling prowess and said something fairly poignant that helped me. She encouraged me to think about any success story I had ever heard. Was it all sunshine and rainbows? Or were there hardships along the way that ultimately strengthened the resilience of the overall endeavour? The point being, no matter what you are going to do, especially as someone who works for themselves and is building something where nobody can really see the entirety of what you are actually doing, there aren’t a lot of pats on the back when you are successful, and when you fail so publicly, you believe that this is all anyone sees when that’s simply not the case. Every success story has its highs and lows, and if it doesn’t, you’re probably not being realistic about them, or you aren’t taking the risks necessary to succeed long term. Something like losing a campaign, or missing out on a grant doesn’t define you or your business, it’s how you handle the loss and what you do going forward in order to be successful the next time. Sure, grieve, blubber on the couch, sit in silence in the back of the car, and always believe you have what it takes to win, but never stop trying and always bounce back with a new, positive approach.
In the end, it really wasn’t about the money, we do alright here. It was more about the recognition that we were doing it right, thar we were building something real here and wanted that validation, but I realized I get that validation almost daily from other small areas. Whenever I walk into the Nufás Media office and remember chipping away tile on my hands and knees, painting seemingly forever, building walls, tearing walls out, handing photos, going to meetings and closing deals, and that is what resilience and grit looks like. Sometimes you just have to recognize it in the little things.