Finding comfort in failure: inside the life of an aspiring entrepreneur.

I have never really failed in life…until now.

No, really, I haven’t.

It sounds a really arrogant thing to say, but when I think of my life and how sheltered I have been it has really prevented me from failing.

Even if you reflect on your own life, how many times have you truly failed. Within education, we exist in a bubble. If we concede to societal norms, we can live a pretty failure-free life. Go to school. Do above average in class. Get an above average job. Earn a decent living. It leaves little opportunity for failure. You may not be happy necessarily, but if you play the game of life, you can elude failure fairly easily.

As long as I got good grades, which I almost always did, I naturally progressed to the next level of education without too many obstacles. Maybe I was just one of the lucky ones?

Since I have started my own business however, it is incredible how much failure I have encountered.

I have almost grown more accustom to failure than I have to success.

‘Start a business’ they said, ‘it will be fun’ they said…

As fun as it can be, running your own business, especially solo, is tough. I used to hear people say that and think “how hard can it be?”

I think the hardest part of it all is remaining optimistic. You have to believe in yourself and your product/service SO much, because quite frankly, nobody will if you don’t. But when you are subject to setback after setback, it can be quite the pre-cursor to self-doubt.

I am only two months in, but already the reality of the situation I am presented with is unprecedented. I wake up and I stare failure in the face daily. It stalks you as an entrepreneur, like a grim reaper. Like the 90% of start ups who fail in their first year, it is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the reaper finally comes calling.

For most of these entrepreneurs, I believe what deters them most— other than cash flow issues— is the constant reminder of failure that they endure every day. There is no safety net. There is no try again. In education, if you fail a class it’s okay, retake the course. As I am beginning to find out, however, is that the business world is a lot more unforgiving.

As cliché as it sounds, it is sink or swim. Nobody is there to catch you.

So perhaps you’re wondering what kind of failures I have endured in my journey? Let’s just look at my suppliers. I had everything geared up for a product release last Monday.

Did it happen? No. Why? Because my suppliers were ‘too busy’.

As disappointed as I was, this was not the first time they had let me down.

I sent a couple of instagram ‘influencers’ my clothing for free to wear and post on their social media. One didn’t even post anything, and another put up a story that disappeared after 24 hours…

I have had people stand me up for photoshoots, minutes before they were meant to turn up.

I entered the elevator pitch competition at Seton Hill and I did not even place in the top eight.

I have had people tell me that it is a stupid idea and it will never work.

The hardest thing is staring failure in the face and being comfortable with it.

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. If it was, we would all be successful and all start our own businesses.

Did I think it was ever going to be this hard, however? No.

Does this make me regret starting? No.

My baseball caps drop tomorrow. I landed my first official non-profit for April and I have one potentially lined up for May. This will bring about my first product of color to the Impower collection. I am also attending a venture capital fare two days this week with the slim hope of generating some capital. If you type in “Impower clothing” on Google, my website is now number one in the search results. I have lots of exciting things planned for the summer too, which will be revealed in the future!

I truly believe I can change the world with this idea. Nobody is going to persuade me otherwise.

Even though people continue to doubt me, I will continue to smile. For those of you who have supported me thus far however, you will be the people who enjoy the success with me. Note that is not to sound bitter, but rather an acknowledgement of those who stood with me when I needed them the most. When people do try and talk to me when they see the business being successful, it will be too late. I will not need you then. I need you now. So for those who have bought a shirt or spread the word about the business, thank you.

Failure is not always bad. It offers you opportunities to correct mistakes and grow. It does not make it any easier when it happens, but as my mum always used to tell me,

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Let’s do the Hokie Pokey: my educational journey so far.

As I have modestly plastered over social media this past week, I recently accepted an offer to continue my education at Virginia Tech. I will be trying to obtain a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology. For those of you who are perhaps unfamiliar, think of I/O psychology as psychology applied to an occupational setting.

I therefore thought this would serve as an adequate opportunity to talk about my educational journey and where I see myself after graduation.

The journey here has been a long one. As most of you should know, I did not come to America until I was eighteen years old.

Prior to making the jump, I started my educational journey in Hellesdon, which is a village in the suburbs of Norwich. My mother raised me right, making sure I valued my academics and I consequently made sure I always strived for good grades.

My earliest memory of getting a ‘bad grade’ —and for those of you who know me well will know that I still haven’t changed — was in year 1 (Kindergarten). I was only six years old, and we had a spelling test. The teacher asked how to spell ‘because’, but phrased it like this,

“Spell ‘because’…how do you spell it?”

I wrote down ‘because’, having not realized that this was a trick question. The teacher instead wanted us to spell ‘it’. A couple of my classmates spelled ‘it’, and my teacher told me that spelling because was wrong. I remember so vividly crying for getting this question wrong — it was the only word I got wrong, I might add!

Again however, if you know me well, you know things haven’t changed much…

I finally got to high school, and I was socially awkward. Definitely the weird kid…probably still the weird kid. I found it very hard to find my place socially. I could play football, but I was also an absolute nerd. I found it hard to fit in and I ended up just drifting between friendship groups. Academics however remained consistently strong, and I earned good enough grades at the end of high school to attend a prestigious sixth form called Wymondham college.

For the American readership, we graduate high school at sixteen in England, and then have two further years in education before attending University. This can either be sixth form, which is the most academic track. Students can also attend college, which is a more vocational route. Students here can still attend University or decide to go into the world of work. Finally, students can earn an apprenticeship in a certain trade before eventually becoming qualified to work in that industry.

It was a rough year for me. The school was a day-boarding school, which basically meant that half the people slept over and the other half went home. The difference between the ‘day students’ and the ‘boarders’ was the greatest financial disparity I had ever witnessed. To put it in perspective, I was in class with a girl whose dad was the owner of Lamborghini tractors. Rumor had it that her house had a moat…

Every day, I would catch a bus at 7:00am that would then take 45 minutes to get to school. I usually wouldn’t get home until 5:00pm, which at the time was a long day (fully aware that this is now a short day for me!). I was often exhausted; I had soccer in the evenings and it was hard to find the time to study. I remember taking a weird test that would predict your A-level grades and I was told I should achieve A* A* A*.

The reality however, was quite different…

I had been personally invited to Cambridge University for an english literature event, and told that they really wanted me to apply to the school. I was elated, since the school was often muttered in the same breath as Harvard or Stanford.

I knew the transition to my new school was rough, however it was better reflected in the grades that would follow. At the end of your first year, you do what are called your ‘AS levels’, which are firm predictors for your A-level grades and used by prospective universities to see if you are good enough for their institution.

I knew I had flunked my exams, however not quite this bad…I received B C D E. This was the first time I had ever really encountered failure academically. I was distraught.

With my tail between my legs, I transferred back to my high school’s sixth form. Upon my return, I felt outcasted for leaving. Teachers did not treat me like they used to, and my peers heckled me for coming back. I remember one teacher telling me I was going to fail, and with my grades I would struggle to find a University who would accept me.

So I put my head down, and I began to work. I retook almost all of my classes, on top of studying for the new, harder classes in preparation for my final exams.

In the meantime, I was attracting interest from universities in the United States due to playing soccer at a high level. I had paid an agent to contact coaches in America using footage that they had take of me during assessment days. I eventually had around eighty offers, and it was a process of narrowing the schools down to the following criteria:

  1. A small school, that would feel like a second home.
  2. A full-ride, or close to it.
  3. A school that competed in the NCAA and not the NAIA or Juco.

I remember settling on Mars Hill, an NCAA Division II school in North Carolina. They had offered me a full ride and I was excited to join so I signed my national letter of intent. It wouldn’t be until a certain Coach McCarty sent me an email late March that I would consider Seton Hill. Coach McCarty actually cared, and I looked up the university online and it was great academically. It was small—around 1600 students—but the family culture I felt from my very first correspondence convinced me to uncommit from Mars Hill and sign for Seton Hill.

The rest is quite literally history…I ended up achieving ABB in my A-levels. I was one mark off an A in biology. My biology teacher laughed at me when I told her I would get a B, after only achieving a C in my AS level. None of this mattered however since Seton Hill only requested my GCSEs (high school exam grades).

Here I am six years later, completing an undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in psychology and soon to be have my MBA too…

I never imagined at sixteen years old that I would someday be on the verge of starting my PhD, writing my own blog, owning a business and creating on YouTube — all of which in the United States.

As I continue to try and pursue the American dream, I just want to thank you for getting me to this point. Whoever you are reading this, chances are you have had some hand in getting me to this point. Although I may not tell you every time I see you, I want you to know that I value whatever part you have played in my journey.

Although it is not over yet, I sincerely hope you stick around for the ride.

Life as a chessboard: it’s black and white.

I know I usually start these entries emphasizing how busy last week was but I promise you this past week was the most stressful yet!

Not only have MBA classes started up again but my business partner has moved into an investor role, which leaves me in almost sole control of the business. Although it means I now have complete autonomy, I also bare the weight of all responsibilities concerning the business. It has certainly kept me up at night thinking about the company’s next move, what to release next as far as clothing goes and all the other little intricacies that add up…

I did however move forward this week with regards to the future of the company. I have been in contact with two big non-profits in the local area, trying to nail down one as our first official partnered charity for April. I am hoping that this does not only bring exposure to the brand but it can raise money for a deserving cause. Moreover, this will introduce the first colored items for Impower clothing.

With that being said, current stock is diminishing nicely. We are almost entirely sold out of our black t-shirts, and our white t-shirts are quickly moving too. Although orders are not coming in at the same rate as they were upon launch, they are still coming in. Although it is going to be tight, it looks like we will have our baseball caps coming in next week. I have not bought a lot of these so we shall see if people are as enthused as they seemed while conducting initial market research. Arguably the biggest sell will be the grey crew necks, which I also hope to be out by the end of the month. This will introduce our ‘big logo’ design printed on the back with our embroidered name on the front.

With all this being said, you may be wondering what this all has to do with life being a chessboard. Other than perhaps paralleling with only releasing black and white items so far, the purpose of this piece is to talk about the harsh reality that I has hit me this week…

You either make it, or you don’t in life. There really is no in-between, particularly in American culture.

I likened this to chess because it requires so much strategy. In my opinion, if you’re not thinking about your next step, you have already fallen into the latter category.

Are you moving forward in life?

I probably ask myself this ten times a day. Yes, it can drive me crazy sometimes, but it serves as a mechanism to keep pushing me forward every day.

The real question however is will I make it? I am now 24 years old. I have a business that is barely off the floor. I have a YouTube channel that is barely breaking 400 subscribers. I have only one graduate school offer despite applying to six schools. Admittedly, I have only had one ‘rejection’, but as I write this I am waiting for four more.

Of course, this compliments my last couple of posts about being ‘good enough’, but for me it goes much deeper than that.

All my life I have been on a trajectory of success. I received great grades throughout high school. I achieved a 3.98 GPA in my undergraduate study and currently entertain a 4.0 in my graduate degree. I try and achieve as much as possible, but I still fear that I will fall short.

I wake up every day striving to be the best version of myself, but as I progress it becomes harder and harder. I feel like I am treading water.

Perhaps I am wishing things that I haven’t earned yet?

What I will say however is that whatever happens, whatever I amount to… I will either make it or I won’t. It’s black and white.

As I strategize my next move in this game of chess that we call life, I urge you to think about your current standing. Are you moving forward? Do you want to move forward? I think a lot of people romanticize about being successful but are you someone who is going to get up and be successful?

Are you dreaming, or are you goal-setting? In my opinion, dreams are just goals people are unwilling to chase. Just think of a dream you had. Why did you not do it? Although you can attribute this to excuses such as a lack of opportunity, the reality is that you didn’t want it bad enough. You were not willing to chase it.

The one thing I will never have is regret.

I applied to the top school in the country for psychology and got rejected. I applied there because I would have never known what would have happened if I didn’t.

I started my own business. It may fail, but I will never have the regret of not knowing what would have happened if I did.

So two things I urge you to do this week:

  1. Reflect on if you are moving forward. You don’t have to want to ‘make it’, but are you moving in the direction of your goals?
  2. If you’re considering doing something, do it. If you want to start a YouTube channel, do it. If you want to start a business, do it. If you want to get better grades, go get them. All I ask is that you do not live your life wondering ‘what if’.

Although I may never make it, I will know that I gave everything in my pursuit to be great.

Living Life Like an Action Potential: All or Nothing.

After another long and busy week with business and I have found myself struggling with expectations again, but this time with myself.

I am a strict type-A personality with a lot of dreams I hope to fulfill in life. The problem with having so many dreams is the constant ups and downs that it produces. I am either up in the clouds on cloud nine, or I reside at the other end of the spectrum.

It is a dark place, that I believe a lot of us are familiar with. I envisage this place being a dark room. I reside here never accompanied, yet at war with my own thoughts. One question always prevails – am I good enough?

Is this societies doing? Or is this my own? We live in a world where we can see the most beautiful people at the touch of a button. We watch other people’s lives on social media, hoping that we amount to at least a glimmer of their success. We have access to the lives of the most wealthy, and I believe it is only natural to then question our own standing in life.

I had a conversation with one of my best friends about a year ago and he brought something to my attention that I had never really addressed. He exclaimed that I lived my life either at an 8 or a 9 out of ten, or at a 3 or a 4. I was never ‘okay’. I was either super happy or super sad.

Now just a disclaimer, this is not me trying to self-diagnose myself with Bi-polar, but it was something I had never really thought about.

But he was right.

I believe a lot of this stems from the expectations I place on myself every day. I want to hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. I want to make this clothing business a successful one. I want to graduate my MBA with a 4.0. I want to be accepted into a PhD program. When I hit these goals, I become momentarily happy. Often however, because of the difficulty of these goals, I am often found falling short. I take it personally. As much as I try not to base my success off of metrics, I have so many to choose from.

Did I make a sale today? Did I gain a subscriber today? Did I gain a follower on the Impower page? When I move forward, I am an 8 or 9. When I have a day that I stagnate, or even lose progress, it leaves me at a 3 or 4. It is something I have experienced my whole life. I am forever chasing the stars in hope that one day I make it, whatever ‘making it’ means.

I know this mindset troubles my family. They believe I will never be truly ‘happy’. But I enjoy the journey, so long as it is moving forward. For the most part it does, but there are always those days when my own expectations become too much or I fall short.

As I have progressed through life I have lost more and more people, and I still believe there are more to lose. I am not bitter towards anyone who has decided to leave my life, but the ones who have stayed I treasure even more now than ever. I understand I can be volatile. I understand I am not one to touch base with you every day. This is not because I do not love you. This is because I am striving for a life where I can provide for those who have stuck with me. For the most part I try an exhibit the 8 or 9 and hide my 3 or 4 the best I can.

I will fake it until I make it, and I fully intend on making it.

I live a polarized life; just like an action potential I am either all in or I’m not.

If you do decide to stick around, just be prepared for some incredible moments, but not without some low points too.

The fine line between asking and asking too much: managing expectations.

So this week has arguably been the busiest week of 2019, at least for me anyway…

I wanted to address a topic this week that has really consumed me of late…expectations. Expectations of others and expectations of myself.

Although I could entertain both facets, I wanted to instead talk more in depth about the expectations I have placed on others over the last eight months.

One of the hardest things for me about starting this business has been asking others to buy the clothing. Although an extrovert by nature, I struggle with the idea of asking others to buy Impower clothing. This is a byproduct of a multitude of thoughts that run through my head, but these are just the highlights:

“Why would they buy something from you?”

“They’re students, they don’t have money to buy anything, let alone an unknown clothing brand.”

“If they do buy it, it is probably out of guilt rather than support.”

For the most part, I have been asking friends and other people within my social network, but it has been a difficult task. Something I never want to do is make others feel that I am guilting them to buy the clothing. Moreover, the last thing I want is to feel like I am pushing my products on people.

The catalyst for all of this occurred earlier this week. I actually had someone tell one of my good friends something along the lines of, “Did he try and sell his clothing to you too?”

It hurt. The last thing I wanted to hear is that I was shoving it in peoples’ faces. I am excited about the potential to change the world through fashion. Maybe this does come off as pushy, although I have been as conscientious about this as I can.

This is my platform to say that I am striving to make this company so much bigger than myself. Of course, some people are buying my clothing to support me, and I am so thankful. However, I also want you to consider supporting the brand and the larger mission I am proposing here. I truly believe this movement could change the world for the better. For anyone who knows me well, you know that I probably will not stop until this is actualized!

This did however make me reflect on how much I have pushed my peers this past year.

First it was YouTube. I tried getting people subscribe and watch my videos. It was a time commitment on their part, every single week. Although this commitment is technically ‘free’, you know what they say…time is money. This is a quote I have certainly appreciated more as I have grown older.

Gosh I look young…

Still I pushed. I launched my clothing company last month. I asked people to follow the Impower account, like the photos, and finally…buy a piece of clothing. You can check out the instagram page below:

I even started a blog. Not only did I want people to watch my videos and buy my clothing, now I wanted them to take time out of their week to read my life too?! It finally hit me. I had pushed my social connections so far, and for that, I apologize. The intention was to grow my social presence in different directions, so that people who preferred reading could read, and those who preferred watching could watch. I even dabbled with the idea of a podcast, but thankfully I sparred you all from that!

I have been on this journey of personal branding for about eight months now. It has been a rocky road of managing expectations, of both myself and others. I have pushed myself to the limit, expanding my social reach as far and as fast as I could.

So here is my opportunity to ask one thing of you…

If you enjoy watching me, continue watching.

If you enjoy reading my experiences, continue reading.

If you enjoy supporting me, feel free to continue.

If you don’t, then stop.

I won’t love you any less. I won’t think of you as any less of a friend. Part of this self-branding process is to reach people who I have not reached yet. I want people who do not know who Jack Wardale is to type my name in Google and see for themselves the real me.

The ultimate goal is to help as many people as I can, so that they can live a more fulfilling and happy life!

Thank you for anyone who has reached this point in the blog. I know I always make a point to thank people for following my journey, but I do this because I know how valuable time is. I am honored that you have chosen to spend some reading this.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott” – Jack Wardale

Here goes nothing…

So today marked a momentous occasion. I managed to knock down a band from charging my company $15,000 dollars to costing nothing.

How, might you ask?

Well, it all started with a small YouTuber community Facebook page.

For those of you who have been hiding under a rock and who are not yet peeved with my constant spamming across all available social media platforms – I started YouTube last summer.

With almost no camera or editing experience, I joined a couple of small YouTuber Facebook groups. Little did I know at the time that most of these groups were full of people trying to spam their channel desperately hoping that someone would watch their content. Through all the bs however, I connected with real people who really helped. One such active member was called Sophie Stanley. One day she posted a video from her fiancé who plays in a band called Febueder (I still don’t know how to pronounce it either). Being the avid music listener that I am, I figured I would give them a listen. It turned out that they were fantastic. For all your indie rock geeks, they are like a reincarnation of Alt-J.

When I first heard their song ‘Paramount Tether’ I instantly conceptualized a music video in my head. I pictured snow, a girl being pursued through a forrest by a guy who I presume wanted to sexually assault her (welcome to my mind!) I could see the camera angles, the story I wished to tell. I reached out to Sophie, and she directed me to her fiancé’s Facebook.

I messaged him all excited, giddy with the idea. One day passed. No response. One week passed. Still no response. I was annoyed, but I understood. The band had just incidentally had the song featured on a video for Red Bull. It really is a fantastic video. Their song comes in at 3:12.

So I was not surprised that little old me would not get a response as this would be their breakout year. This video was released in December.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks back, and my mind was conceptualizing what is now known as ‘Impower’. I wanted a way to kick off the business that suggested that it was not created by two college-aged kids.

I had an idea, but at the time I knew it was going to be difficult to pull off. I wanted to launch a hype commercial that encapsulated the business’s greater mission of changing the world for the better. I therefore wanted to show that good and bad have always existed and will always exist, but we have a choice – we either help or we don’t.

It sparked the quote that would eventually feature in the commercial.

“The Issues we face are not black and white but our decision to act is”.

We either act, or we don’t; it is black and white.

So I wanted to split the commercial in half: the first half would be black and white with historical events that depicted both good and bad. The second half would be in color and would represent the balance of good and bad today, with an emphasis on the good. I needed a song however that I felt could tie it all together.

You guessed it! I wanted Paramount Tether.

So after unsuccessfully managing to even pitch my commercial idea, how on earth was I going to afford the opportunity to get the licensing to the song? Well, I went back to Sophie Stanley and explained what had happened about the commercial. Thankfully, she wasn’t annoyed by my second inquiry and suggested that I spoke to their manager and even managed to send me his email.

So I did what any excited person would do, and immediately emailed the manager, including in the message the fact that I knew Sophie. There was no response for about a week, but then out of nowhere, I got a response. The manager requested what platform the commercial would be shown on and how much of the song I intended on using. Again excited, I replied straight away, but it would be another week before I would hear back.

When the email finally came, my heart sunk. The manager was requesting $15,000 for the licensing of the song for one year (yes, you read that right!). So here I was, thinking it would be $200 at the most, for a relatively ‘unknown’ band compared to the likes of Ariana Grande. But, as I have already spoiled the punchline above, I managed to get the licensing for free.

But how?

I had two choices: I either accepted that I could not simply afford this fee or I could reply with my circumstances and see if there was any way I could get the fee reduced. I groveled, admittedly. I did not lie, however. I explained that I was a student and that I was creating a brand that was trying to change the world for the better, including our 10% donation to a charity of the consumer’s choice. I took a deep breath and pressed send.

It was a long few days. Finally, the manager responded. To my surprise, he said he would speak with the band and see if they would let me use the track for free. I was in shock. Could I have possibly just acquired the song for free? It was too early to believe so, but I potentially had one foot in the door…

Lo and behold, Tuesday morning I received a response. I could not believe it. They had approved to let me use their song. I could not believe it. If you want to check out the commercial before its official release on Impower’s social media, check out the video below!

The moral of the story—as reflected in the title of my first blog, and indeed the end of the video above— is that we must take risks, even if the outcome appears unlikely. If I did not reply, I would have had no music for the first commercial.

I urge you today, at whatever time, to take a risk, however big or small. Now, you do not have to contact a random band manager and try and acquire their music for free, but if there is something you have been hesitant about doing, do it.

When talking about risks, I always tell people the same thing. The worst thing that can happen is that you remain in the exact same position you are in now. If we do not at least try, we shall never know what that road may have taken us.

It is okay to be a little risky. After all, in the great words of Mr. Gretsky and Mr. Scott, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.

I don’t really know how to conclude a blog but for those that got to this point, thank you so much! I would LOVE it if you could write a comment below to let me know:

a) You read this

b) What you thought about this

Even if you’re a super stranger to me and we have never talked in person or virtually, I would love to hear from you!