What I learned from my failed business partnerships

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

"You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can because that`s where you`ll find success."

My day started with a disappointment today - I checked my phone before my morning routine (bad mistake) and saw that my business partner had replied to me after days saying that she had been sick and couldn`t therefore do her part of our project (with a due date this Sunday (latest)). I was first shocked, because she had sent me pictures of her showing her sickness, but then also disappointed, frustrated, sad. I realized immediately that my Saboteur mind found content and drama to cling to and release all emotions of mostly anger.

Regretting my decision that I checked my phone before the day started (which I knew is not the best thing to do first thing in the morning), I hoped my morning routine would help relieve my stress and thoughts now whirling around in my head (I even doubled my mindfulness exercises). But as I suspected, I had to acknowledge and allow my negative emotions first, before I was ready to calm them down and move on.

If I was honest with myself, I was less angry at her, but more at myself. If I was even more honest, I knew that I have, unfortunately, had disappointing experiences with (business) partnerships before. Often I would be so excited to partner up with someone, because we also get along personally, but then would often end up disappointed - not only about the nature of our partnership, but also about the outcome of our partnership that didn`t meet our initial expectations.

One time I partnered with a dear friend to hold a presentation to promote personal development in front of our scholarship network. We were very aligned in messaging, everyone did their part, and the rehearsal went fine, too. But then on the actual day, I realized she was very nervous, and during our presentation she started to stutter, leaving me with less time than expected, such that I had to rush through my part, leading to an overall not convincing group performance. At the end, she even apologized to me and admitted that she regularly struggled with stagefright. This is all fine, I do get nervous, too, but in this case, I would have hoped she would be honest with me beforehand (understanding that this is something hard to admit) or maybe I need to learn myself to not have (high) expectations. (I am still close friends with her.)

My other partnership was about a mindfulness initiative jointly with another dear friend, too. I was ready to start it by myself, but realized she was suffering from lack of meaning at her work, so I suggested we can do it together, also because I didn`t know whether I could commit to this initiative timewise - and with her, we could alternate (at the end, she preferred to have me in all her sessions because of her insecurity). My intuition already told me that the conditions were not ideal, but I, too, was looking to do something I love to do, so I was more driven towards passion than pre-analyzing our partnership, esp. since it was more of a hobby thing. But soon I had to realize that my partner was not comfortable in receiving constructive feedback to make our partnership work better, without making me feel bad or retaliate back in return. What made me most sad that her ego grew, so she quickly was taken by our initiative`s success and related feedback, under which our friendship suffered and grew more distant. It eventually led to an argument, during which I was deeply hurt, because I felt she was mostly thinking about her and the initiative than about our friendship (which she claimed would always come first). (I currently don`t talk to her and am afraid our friendship, if at all, has to long recover.)

Now with my current partnership with another friend, with which I resonated well, too, was about a cultural initiative, to make mental health a normal part of conversations. My intuition this time was much stronger and I had to face my thoughts, such as "What if this partnership fail again? What if all the past partnerships have shown you that you are better off and stronger by yourself, that you can do it on your own? What if you are getting disappointed again because you didn`t listen to your intuition (and we know that we don`t have to understand our intuition)?" I ignored them all because one part of me desperately wanted to prove that I was able to collaborate and have a successful partnership.

But having external motivations (to prove a successful partnership to "others") definitely doesn`t sound like the ideal path compared to having intrinsic motivations (seeing the value of our partnership that could make the initiative work than doing it alone). It soon turned out that I did most of the work, leaving me too exhausted to even enjoy my weekend (read more here), and while I did communicate my needs and values right away this time, and asked my partner to support in promotional activities, my partner didn`t reply or even say "thank you" for my already accomplished work. This was a huge red flag and a potential determinant of a long-term partnership. Now it was today that she replied back and I believe her severe sickness, but having this event added to my past experiences, I was naturally taken aback, with all my buried emotions and associations emerging.

My learnings today include:

  • Acknowledge your emotions and thoughts - they are allowed to be there.

  • Having failed partnerships doesn`t define you in any way - as partnerships always involve two.

  • Partnering up with someone, you only connect with personally, is not a sufficient criterion for a successful partnership - you primarily need to define joint values, joint objectives, working style, skills everyone will bring to the table, roles and responsibilities.

  • Listen to your intuition, again and always - even if you don`t want to accept the truth so soon.

  • You can play big and bigger - you don`t always need someone else to launch something that matters to you.

  • See the early signs and don`t get mad at you or others - learn from it for next time, there is a golden nugget in every experience, even if painful, frustrating, and disappointing.

  • Be kind to yourself if something has repeated again - sometimes a topic has to pass by you more than once for you to fully understand and move on.

  • Ask yourself "What is it that I can learn from this now?" and "If I am my own loved child, what would I tell her?".

  • Choose love, for yourself and others.

  • Ask the Universe (or a higher force) for guidance, for love, for creative solutions.

  • Write about, meditate on, talk about your experiences for others to learn with you, too - like I do with you :)

What are you learning from your failures and mistakes? Let me know by sending an email to hello@vietlinhle.com – I very look forward to hearing from you! :) PS: Subscribe to my #mindfulmagic Newsletter to stay in touch for upcoming posts, free offers, and news :)


This week`s ...

  • Inspiration: Jojo Moyes - Me Before You

  • Reflection: How can I take good care of me after disappointments?

  • Intention: I acknowledge my negative emotions, I surrender them, and I choose kindness to myself.