I remember failing a math exam in the 4th grade, I was not the best test taker, and did ok on my exams, but when I saw that “F” and “x” marks I felt terrible. I didn’t really understand the questions, I didn’t know how to study, and tried my best to prepare for that exam, but still I failed. I even remember two other students who also failed, we were given notes by our teacher to send to give to our parents. So not only did I fail, now I had to bring back this letter to my mom about my poor performance. No child wants to disappoint their mom and I was so ashamed to bring back home a bad grade and letter.
As I continued through my studies I made sure to study harder and try to make as few mistakes because I was afraid of failing and disappointing my mom. Even if I had to memorise answers, and stopped openly asking questions in class so I wouldn’t look dumb, I began to internalise my mistakes or imperfections as a major flaw in my character and intelligence. It wasn’t until I reached university that I learned how to study, be more confident with my natural abilities (I’m very organised and creative!), learned how to take exams, and not compare myself to my peers. However, I was still afraid to fail, and when I did fail some exams, at some of my relationships, and goals, I was again ashamed, embarrassed and disconnected from everything until I was confident enough to get the grades that I was proud of. This was not healthy, and once I started my entrepreneurial journey I began to reflect on my attitude towards failure, and eventually saw it as an opportunity to do better.
Why failure is a learning experience to be celebrated!
Why am I writing about failure now that I’m celebrating 1 year of blogging? Because Healthy Hair Asia is the result of my perseverance and 3 pivots, Natural Hair Capital, My Sister’s Closet, and Curly Hair Asia. All of those former ideas enabled me to learn how to collect data, how to build a website, how to market my brand, how to do interviews, how to make products, and how to collaborate with other brands. So I don’t see those ideas as failures rather an experience. Though I’m going through another pivot, by reformulating and repackaging my product line, building a startup requires founders to “fail-fast,” be flexible, relaunch, and strive to be innovative. So, I’m happy that my first year of blogging and business development has led to growth and opportunity.
My time in Israel: failure is a learning experience
I really learned that failure was a learning experience when I moved to Israel. In fact, living and studying there was a life-changing experience because the society and culture has a different mentality when it comes to failure. First thing I learned was to question everything, because people didn’t take things at face value nor afraid to debate (or tell you bluntly what they think). I debated with the grocery shop cashiers, I debated with strangers on the bus or while hiking (very popular activity), I debated with my professors (professors are not referred by their titles, rather their first names), and I debated with my classmates (from different parts of the world, so their attitudes about failure were different as well).
Next I learned about the balance between individualism and group culture, America has a very individualistic culture and upholds the narrative that one person alone just works hards, pull himself up by his bootstraps, and with a bit of luck and timing, he will be successful. However, group culture, recognises team work, your network and/or support system, and “all for one, and one for all,” is the means to reaching success. In Israel, I learned the benefits of “group,” and talked with many successful people who admitted that they alone didn’t build their business or startup, it was because of their group. Interestingly, group culture is from the military conscription in which Israelis male and females are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, IDF, for 3 and 2 years respectively, (with the exception of Palestinians, optional for Druze, and religious students study in yeshiva, and if one doesn’t want to serve they can volunteer for one year) during this time many form not only lifelong friendships but end up starting businesses with people they serve with. So most of the population, has this shared experience, but at the same time individualism is also taught. And the last thing I learned that nothing is impossible with the right resources, connections, and perseverance, one can achieve anything. This is the attitude that every entrepreneur should have!
Finding my voice: sharing my entrepreneurial journey
When I started writing this blog about 1 year ago, August 31, 2016, to be exact, there was nothing really special about it. I tried several different approaches like, writing about my hair journey, writing about other hair influencers, writing about the cosmetic industry in Asia, overall it was not really interesting. However, the turning point was when I returned back to Bangkok from my adventure turn slight nightmare as an Au Pair in China (read the blog post here) that I found my voice for this blog.
My time in China was not a failure, nor a mistake, rather an experience in which I learned about Chinese consumer spending habits (you can order anything online and have it delivered to your home!), how to shop on WeChat, discovered that China has ah-mazing aloe vera leaves and made the best for my DIY conditioner for my hair, basics ofhow Alibaba and Chinese companies do their logistics and delivery, I learned basic Mandarin, and most importantly that if I were to expand Healthy Hair Asia in China I could not do it alone, I need a team.
Since then, my blog posts has grown a steady readership, people find my “blunt writing” quite refreshing and unique, and I get to share my experience as an entrepreneur in Bangkok, and overall in Asia. It’s been an incredible year, and I will keep writing and sharing my experience with you!
As always, thank you for reading, stay tuned for next week as I will talk about my first week back to teaching!