My 15 Failures to Success

Seeing and hearing about the exploits of successful people can in one sense be inspiring but when you are at the other end of the spectrum it can also highlight the fact that you aren’t there. I remember early in my practice career looking up at the greats who came before me. Naturally there was an aspiration to be like them but there was also that element of terror that maybe I just wasn’t good enough, maybe I wasn’t smart enough and maybe this whole career move was a just bad idea.

You look at your life in these times and highlight all of the mistakes you have made, the failures, the gargantuan cock-ups. Add these to a present state of a struggling practice and it can be a huge psychological hole you dig for yourself.


…but when you are seemingly bumbling around in the latter it’s hard to be inspired. I know because I have been there too.

I spent my first 5 years in practice wandering round in the wasteland of failure struggling to make the money I needed to pay the bills. Yes a slow learner I am and some people have said I am tenacious or committed to have held out for so long. To be honest that’s not really the case. I didn’t really feel I had a choice. I’m not going to say something schmaltzy like ‘it was my calling’ etc, for me I just couldn’t see myself doing a job that I felt didn’t make a difference. I’d done that for many years prior, working in banks, hospitality, landscaping and had spent a number of years travelling trying to figure out what I wanted from my work.

When I made the decision to come back from overseas and study massage I found home. Admittedly it was a ramshackle place that had poor plumbing, electrics and no roof but it was mine. In my enthusiasm I underestimated how long this career would take to renovate and the lack of skills I had at the time.

That was the first mistake of many. Boy did I make some doozies. Here are just some of them for you to chuckle at:

  • I bought the second generation mobile phone (yes the ones the size of a brick) and waited for it to ring
  • I came up with a business name no one could pronounce and proceeded to get snappy when people didn’t pronounce it properly (I was all class)
  • I put an ad in the local paper and waited for the phone to ring
  • I wrote my own flyers with no idea about how to write marketing text (I wrote a lot about myself and my passion)
  • I printed off 1000 flyers, delivered them around my neighbourhood and waited for the phone to ring
  • When I only got 2 phone calls I decided it wasn’t me it was marketing that didn’t work ( being a Leo it is hard to admit fault but I am getting better, but being a Leo I could be fooling myself…)
  • I went to networking meetings and waited for the phone to ring
  • I introduced myself to one practitioner and when they didn’t refer lots of clients to me I decided it wasn’t me, networking didn’t work, oh and that they were not that good anyway.
  • I discounted my rate and waited for the phone to ring
  • I never recommended clients consider it would probably take more than one treatment to resolve their problem. I just expected they would figure that out.
  • When clients didn’t come back I believed it was because I was no good (I know the Leo nature deserted me there, a fickle beast)
  • When clients didn’t come back I didn’t think to contact them to find out why, which reinforced the last point.
  • I wore tie dyed jeans to work because people should be able to accept me for who I am.
  • If I didn’t have any clients I didn’t go in to the clinic so I missed loads of walk ins.
  • I never did a budget so always spent money I needed to pay bills and was always struggling to find the money when they came in.

Now this is just a small list of my professional mistakes. My personal life was a whole other world of carnage. I sometimes wonder looking back how I managed to get out of bed in the mornings.

But I did. That was the first step toward success. Despite the fact I had many doubts during those years and almost gave up numerous times I kept getting up in the morning and trying again. That is the one thing you need to do to be successful. If you keep trying again you will eventually figure it out.

To save you time and from the pain of my mistakes here are my tips to achieving practice success:

  • Learn from your mistakes. Don’t keep repeating them.
  • Adapt. If something doesn’t work adjust it and try again.
  • Ask advice of other people who have been successful in practice or in business
  • Be discerning. It’s your business, decisions need to be in sync with who you are and what you want. Not all advice is the right advice for you.
  • Set aside time to work on your business
  • Don’t wait for the phone to ring, go out into the world and make it ring.
  • Have a life outside your practice. We all need balance.
  • Self care every day. A healthy you means a healthy practice.
  • Own it. Confidence comes with stepping out of your comfort zone
  • Never give up (I know it’s cliche but it’s true)
  • If you don’t know what you are doing educate yourself

Building your practice doesn’t have to be like it was for me and is for so many practitioners.


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Jeff Shearer is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner in Newcastle, Australia. He has been teaching practitioners since 2009 helping them to become the best they can be to serve their communities better.