• Owen Stephens

How to Learn from Your Failures

Updated: Jan 30

“I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that didn’t work” -Thomas Edison

Making mistakes is inevitable. Failure is a part of life, and when we fail we have two options. One you can give up, or two you can try again. You must learn from your failures. Even Thomas Edison, one of the world's most famous inventors, made mistakes. In school, one of his teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything”. However, that didn’t keep him from reaching his goals. Micheal Jordan, arguably one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, didn’t make his high school basketball team the first time. Failure isn’t about falling down, it is about refusing to get back up.

Yesterday I failed.

The Idea

All great failures start in the same way… with a great idea. I am always looking for unique ways to make money. With a very entrepreneurial spirit, I am constantly searching for revenue streams outside of my normal job. Like many of you, I spend hours a week watching youtube videos about anything and everything. Last week, I watched a super inspiring video titled Turning $0.01 into $1,000. In this video, Ryan Trahan goes out with nothing more than a penny to his name and in just a couple of days, he turns that into 1000 dollars. He does this by flipping items. The concept is simple, you buy an item from one person and then sell the same item to a different person for a profit. He starts with a pen until eventually he is buying and selling gaming consoles. This is a concept that thousands of people use successfully to generate a lot of income. Why couldn’t I be one of them?

When trying something new starting is always the hardest part. Attempting something you have never done before is absolutely terrifying. This fear is necessary for growth. Something that can make a terrifying situation more comfortable is doing research.

I started with youtube. The first thing people were suggesting was to start with something you know well. As a 19-year-old college student, I am naturally a video game expert. The second thing my research taught me was that you make the money on the purchase, not the sale. You shouldn’t try and buy something at retail price and try and sell it for more. Why would anyone buy it from me at a premium? You have a search for a great deal.

I started looking for deals on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. I was going to find a great deal and then try and sell it for a profit on eBay. After about a day of searching, I found someone trying to sell a PS4 for 150 bucks. Trying to create a little bit more margin for profit, I messaged him asking if he would be willing to go to $125. He agreed, as long as I drove to him.

Where Things Go Wrong

The day came where we agreed to meet, so after I was done with work I messaged him to see if we were still on for the meetup. He says yes, and sends me the address.  I asked one of my friends to go with me because I had never met up with someone online before, thinking that this would be the smartest option (this happened to be the only smart thing I did that day). We eventually pull up to the neighborhood which was only about 15 minutes away. Immediately, I felt uneasy. This neighborhood could be described as section 8 housing. There were people everywhere, but that did not ease any of the tension that had started to grow within.

I send him a message confirming that I am at our meetup location.  He replies, saying that he was there with his brother. My friend and I get out of my car and walk towards two high school age boys, one holding a backpack. The following brief conversation occurs between me and the older of the two boys;

“Hey, are you Jay?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he replies.

“I’m Owen, nice to meet you.”

“The PS4 is in the bag,” he says gesturing to the backpack that was slung across his back.

The whole exchange felt off, but for some reason, I trusted him and continued anyway.  He handed me the backpack, I handed him the money.  He and his supposed brother immediately turn and start walking away. That is when I knew I had made a mistake. I quickly open the backpack and instead of the PS4 I had anticipated, there were some phonebooks. Instantly I begin yelling after him, and that only prompts him to run faster. I was just about to start running after him when I noticed the rather large crowd he was running towards.  I realize then that I was most likely set up to get jumped if I pursued after him.  Rather than chase him down, I decided to just call the police. To rub salt in the wound, a pair of elderly onlookers were laughing at me from atop a balcony right above where I had just been robbed.

After being on the phone with the police, I was told that this was something that has happened to quite a few people and that I was lucky that it had not escalated.  Looking back at the whole situation, there were quite a few things that I could have done better.

What I Learned

Firstly, I should have asked to have our meetup in a safer location, like a police station.  Secondly, I should have made him show me the contents of the bookbag before handing him the money. This is a situation that could have been easily avoided had I taken the proper steps and been a little bit smarter about the whole situation.


I am not going to stop trying. Accepting failure would be the easy way out. I am going to take what I learned from this whole situation, and use it to build the success I will have in the future. Basically, I spent 125 dollars to be taught a very valuable life lesson. So while that kid might be up 125 dollars, I have been given a lifetime of knowledge. So who is the real winner here? I hope that you all will be able to learn from my failures as well. The road to success is never a straight one. Don’t give up. Learn from your failures.

Also, I am trying to sell a very expensive phonebook. Email me if you are interested.


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