Eating Fear & Failure for Breakfast!

A few weeks ago I had the honor of co-hosting a wonderful evening at the AllBright Collective to benefit GiveLove, an organization founded actor & activist Patricia Arquette.  Among the many things Patricia said that night, one thing really stood out:  her desire to be a brave person.  

Patricia Arquette and Suzanne Lerner at the AllBright Collective in West Hollywood.  Photo credit: Marissa Maharaj

Patricia Arquette and Suzanne Lerner at the AllBright Collective in West Hollywood.

Photo credit: Marissa Maharaj

She was telling a story about how she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be an actor or a midwife. Now clearly, she didn’t end up becoming a midwife, but her reason for not becoming one surprised me. 

“I sort of tricked myself into it,” she said.

“I knew I could be happy living either of these lives, being a midwife or an actor, but what I really wanted to be is a brave person than anything. I still do.  And since I was most afraid of being an actor, I decided to go after that. It was brutal. I’d get horrible feedback from auditions and each time I’d tell myself, you are so badass and brave, then I’d go and do more. Eventually I got better and better,” she added.

Some of us see bravery more as a personality trait. Something you’re born with that compels you to run into a burning building, take photos in a war zone, or even walk a tightrope strung between two skyscrapers. Maybe that’s true.

There’s Bravery Everywhere, You Only Have to Look

But in my experience, there’s bravery everywhere and in everyone. And it’s hardest to recognize in yourself as I learned several years ago when I became president of  Michael Stars, the company I co-founded with my husband Michael. 

I took over as president when Michael passed away. So, not only was I dealing with personal trauma, but I was now responsible for 125 employees and finding new paths for the company. Under normal circumstances, taking the helm would have been stress enough. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you’ll understand the impact it has on every second of your life.

However, it wasn’t just a matter of stepping into my husband’s shoes and going forward. There were skeptics inside the company who suggested that we might need to find “more experienced” leadership.

It was ironic. I had co-founded the company and had experience running several fashion businesses prior to Michael Stars.  But Michael had been the face of the company. I was knee-deep in merchandising, sales, creative, and design among other things. People had no idea of what I was capable of and what my contribution to the company had been. 

I dug in and did what I knew had to be done: tear down the walls that had been built up between departments within the company and encourage people to work together to make us successful.Today, I have a great collaborative team, great products, and a purpose, vision, and mission that we work towards every day. 

Eat Fear & Failure for Breakfast

As I told that story to a group of young women entrepreneurs last year, they told me how brave I was to do that. My reflex response was to deflect, saying, “well when you run a business, you do what has to get done.”  But they called me on it, saying I needed to acknowledge that I was brave to take on the challenge.

That helped me expand my notions of what it means to be brave. I hope these resonate with you:

  • Taking full responsibility for the ups and downs in my business and in my life. Doing that  has helped me draw power from failure and turn it into something good. Or as Patricia says, “Eat failure for breakfast because you’re on this earth to be brave!”

  • Responding and adapting to the incredible pace of change that is required to be entrepreneur

  • Being kind and straightforward, especially in the face of challenging situations – some people those are two opposing thoughts, but they’re not. Imagine if more bosses and leaders were like that!

So next time when you step out of your comfort zone, take on something new, fail then learn, or “let the words come out, honestly,” acknowledge that you might just be… brave!

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By Suzanne Lerner