The True Story of My Biggest Biz Failure, and How it Led Me to See My True Value

written by Bari Tessler June 19, 2014

Failure. It’s such a painful word, isn’t it?

It shakes and rattles us. We take it personally. We try to move on, to call it a “learning experience” — but it cuts deep.

And for many of us, it feels like each failure chips away at our value.

“That project failed, therefore I shouldn’t value my work (and, really, myself) as much.”
“I’m a failure, so I’m not worthy of … love/money/happiness.”

We assume that value is inversely proportional to our failures. But what if your failures were actually guideposts, leading you to ever-deeper realization of your value?

In the 13+ years I’ve taught deep money work, one question has come up over, and over again: “How do I know my own value?” One of the most important routes to the answers, I believe, is failure.

This rich, vulnerable territory was the subject of my 15-minute keynote at Emerging Women in Denver last week. So naturally, I shared a rich, vulnerable story.

Watch my keynote, with the story of my biggest “failure” and how it led to my redemption:

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Here’s the backstory about my talk:

Last year, I attended Emerging Women Live. I was blown away by the depth and vulnerability those incredible women created. Brene Brown opened our hearts. Eve Ensler had half the room in tears.

Meanwhile, as I listened to these courageous women share their life lessons, I was waiting for the results of a biopsy on my thyroid. Terrified. And beginning to feel, at a deep, cellular level that it was time to unshackle my voice. To step out and speak up — in a big way.

You see, I hadn’t given more than three live talks since my son Noah was born in 2008. I’d moved my business entirely online, so I could be a happy mama bear at home. But before then, I’d given hundreds of talks and live workshops a year. I knew I thrived on face-to-face teaching. And suddenly, loudly, I got the message: it was time to share my voice again.

And 7 months later, that dream had come true. I was back at Emerging Women, this time as a keynote speaker. Giving my first ever short (15-minute) presentation about my work. Stuffing all the depth and support I could into that short amount of time.

Naturally, I woke up that morning with a cough. Would my voice betray me? I prayed to my highest self before taking the stage. Prayed that my voice would come through, and my message would be clear. Thankfully, my voice held out for the length of the talk. And it felt amazing.

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I’ve been known to make some funny faces during my live talks — and I did not disappoint this time, as the screenshot above shows!

I’d say I did “very good” for my first keynote. My boys, however, were not so humble. Here are some of the sweet text messages from Forest, as he and Noah watched the livestream from home, beaming with pride:

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The next morning, Noah was still beaming and said, “I saw you, Mama.” Oh, my heart! To feel so seen, so heard. He even did an impression of me, and pulled an index card “from his boobs.” Adorable.

I settled into the afterglow of a mini-triumph. I recalled some of the women who approached me afterwards to thank me for my talk. One startup entrepreneur who realized she hadn’t been valuing herself enough, and needed to claim her value more. One woman in the non-profit world who explained that women aren’t valued as much there as men. And another, who saw the a connection between value and a recent lunch conversation with her girlfriend. And, another who told me that she went home and recited my entire talk to her husband (including the Loretta Lynn story- which you’ll understand when you watch!). 

It blew me away that this simple topic of knowing and claiming our value could have such an impact on such diverse women, in such eclectic situations.

It blew me away that sharing the story of my “biggest failure” could feel like such a triumph.

Wishing you the deepest knowing of your own value — and any “failures” that will help you claim it even more.

And, here’s to more live talks for me! 

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