How My Past Failure Led to My Present Success

The measure of a person is not how well they start, but how well they finish. Anyone can start. Following through and finishing is another story altogether.

Looking back on my life, there isn’t too much I regret. But, there is one thing…I regret not following through on my acting career.

I was right on the cusp of break-through success and I quit. I threw up my hands and quit. I was so close and I quit.

Michael Port on NBC's Third Watch

In 1997, as a 27 year-old “working” actor, I was on shows like Sex & The City, Law&Order, Third Watch, All My Children, and more. I did TV commercials for companies like Budweiser and tons of VoiceOvers for companies like AT&T.

At first, I put everything into my acting career. I attended one of the best graduate school in the country. I had a great agent. I was on the cusp of doing big things.

But I quit.

I couldn’t take the rejection. I didn’t like waiting around or leaving my future in the hands of others: casting directors, agents, producers, etc.

If I’m going to be honest about it, I felt alone and scared. So, I gave up and quit.

I remember the day I told my agent. I heard a thunk (quite literally) when his jaw hit his desk. I was right at the cusp of going from working actor to known actor but I wouldn’t go all the way.

I wouldn’t follow through. I wouldn’t take the time necessary to build something real. I gave up.

I tell you this story — and, it’s not one I often tell — because I don’t want you to look back on your life and have a shred of regret. I don’t want you to quit — whatever it is you’re doing — unless you have a more important dream — then quit the worthless thing and pursue the worthwhile thing.

Bottom line: it takes far more fortitude to finish something than it does to start it, especially as an entrepreneur. And that’s why I’m successful today. I will no longer give up. I’ve learned my lesson.

It’s possible likely you are feeling pressure in your business are wondering if you should go on. You must. You cannot quit. You can not give up.

Sure, you might say, it’s easier for me because I’ve already passed the early hurdles of entrepreneurship. But I too face my own personal and professional challenges while finding new opportunities to build the business, extend my brand and be of service to you.

I want to help you do the same. Maybe you’ll let me mentor you in The Alliance. I’ll get you finishing what you start. That’s for sure.

Maybe you won’t let me mentor you. But, man, I’ll tell you… if I had a mentor who’d already accomplished what I wanted to accomplish when I was an actor, I probably wouldn’t be writing this to you today. That’s why I’m so committed to helping you finish what you start. I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want you to fail.

And, please, don’t get me wrong, I love the work I do today and I’m not going back to acting. But failing, and having regrets that you didn’t follow through on a dream, is something you want to avoid at all costs.

67 thoughts on “How My Past Failure Led to My Present Success

Leesa Renee Hall

After celebrating my birthday a few days ago, I looked back on my own life, reflecting on the choices I made. There is one regret that I have – I never made the Olympic team. I went to an open tryout for the Canadian women’s basketball team back in 1994, the team that would go on to represent Canada at the Olympics, but I never made the team. The competition was tough. Really tough. And it was shortly after that I quit the varsity team at my university due to a recurring knee injury.

The sport I had specialized in since I was 12 years old was no longer a part of my life. I was so focused on basketball, I never stopped to think that I could make the Olympic team competing in another sport. I could’ve picked up cycling, rowing, even javelin, but I was just so disappointed that my dream of playing basketball at the Olympics would never be realized. I had specialized in that one sport for so long, I couldn’t imagine being at the Olympics in a non-team sport.

It’s my only regret. The only one. It didn’t become an issue for me until I looked back to what I was doing 20-years ago. And that popped up.

Despite the regret, I’m happy with my life. When the basketball “door” closed, others opened up. I could’ve become a lawyer, a teacher (I got into teacher’s college) or a doctor (of History, not medicine). But the choices I’ve made have afforded me opportunities, freedom and independence that I know my parents wanted me to have when they came to Canada so long ago.

It’s hard not to dwell on the regret, but thank God I only have one. And I know that my life is better because of that door closed almost 20-years ago.

Michael Port

Leesa, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

Leesa Renee Hall

No, thank YOU for being the catalyst to allow me to share this. Your vulnerability in sharing your regret made me feel safe enough to share my own.

Elaine France

This arrived with perfect timing today! Thank you

Michael Port

You’re welcome Elaine.

Carol Murphy

A Thank you letter I sent to Michael Port that I would like to share:

Michael Port:

Hi, I wanted to write to you and say Thank You. I have written a few times but I wanted to express my gratitude to you again. I have learned so much from you ~ Your courses, seminars / webinars, speaking presentations and many other resources you have freely given. The Red Velvet Rope Policy has made me think “Bigger” about who I am and not to settle.

Every time I feel as though starting or running my business is not worth it or that I have tried so many different ways to go about making something work, a resource that you have given has helped me out,
and literally “Come to my Rescue” as whimsical as that may sound, though I mean that and I had to let you know and say thank you.

I am not sure if you will receive this letter though I really hope that you do.

I am also very happy and grateful to be a part of “Think Big Revolution!”

Thank you so much,

Carol Murphy

Michael Port

Carol, I just saw this. Your words filled my heat. Thank you for sharing them. It’s truly my pleasure to be of service. I hope to continue supporting you for years to come.

Cosmin

Hey, I am pretty sure by now you would have been the next Mel Gibson or Sean Connery but I am happy that you quit.

We need Michael in our lives to inspire us and push us to think bigger! By helping entrepreneurs succeed you’re making the world a better place.

Thank you,

Cos

Michael Port

Cos, you’re the best!

Joanne Dunham

I think we all agree!

Beth

Michael, thanks for sharing this.

As I read your story, I see a person who came to perfect clarity about how you work best. You said, “I didn’t like waiting around or leaving my future in the hands of someone else.” I think that clarity is what launched you on a journey that may have been what you were meant to do from the beginning.

Clarity and courage…actually equals no regrets. Right?

Michael Port

You are right on about not liking leaving my future in the hands of someone else. But, even for the actor, there are lots of ways of making your own work so I won’t let myself off the hook that easily 🙂 Nonetheless, thank you so much for giving me a possible reframe on the issue. I will most certainly reflect on it.

Beth

Thanks for pushing us to think hard about WHY we might want to quit, to think about WHAT we might regret in the future.

Brett

“I didn’t like waiting around or leaving my future in the hands of someone else.” .. is exactly what is driving me in my attempts to get started doing my own thing. As an IT contractor, going through an intermediary company, which ultimately contracts to large government and bank organisations … I’m so far from the point at where the decisions are made that I feel completely at the mercy of others in that role. It’s taking me a whole lot longer than I ever thought it would take to break out, but break out I will! Thank you for this post Michael.

Michael Port

You’re very welcome Brett.

Pete Key

I’m really at a breakthrough point in my business. This article couldn’t have been posted at a better time for me personally. I’m not thinking about quitting but I have thought about changing careers to make more money, but I see myself being successful in this arena. Thanks for this article and I refuse to quit because the pain of discipline doesn’t weigh as much as the pain of regret.

Joanne Dunham

How true, Pete, about the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Food for thought. Good luck to you.

Stephanie

Hey Michael! I quit an acting career, too. Then I quit a film career. Then I quit a corporate career. Now I’m a very successful hypnotist and entrepreneur with a growing practice where I get to call the shots and determine my own destiny. I have no regrets about quitting. At the time I thought I was “quitting,” but looking back I see that I was simply graduating to another level. However, the key is not to quit before you have learned all the lessons you needed to grow and take with you into your real life’s purpose or your higher calling. As soon as your current job no longer serves you or others…run–don’t walk–away from it. Many blessings!

Dawn Doherty

Hi Michael,
Thanks for the encouragement. I agree that staying with something is HARD and having the support of you as a mentor has been amazing for what I am developing for my business. I think it’s also important to KNOW when to quit. I love Seth Godin’s “The Dip”- it got me through a time when I was not in the right work environment. If we find ourselves in a situation that is heavy rather than inspiring/energizing it’s ok to quit. Winners quit in these cases. Love you xoxoxo DD

Tim McAuley

I don’t understand why you’re not going back to acting.

Listen, I’m really glad that you chose to write and mentor people in business, but honestly it makes me a little sad that you gave up on your acting dream.

I see that fear, aloneness and frustration break a lot of aspiring actors, artists and musicians. Some of whom change directions like you did and do amazing things, but most are walking through life defeated and hopeless. It’s such a soul crushing industry.

What if you dipped your toes into the pool again?

You can absolutely go back to acting and make that dream a reality, and keep this mentorship thing alive. I think if you approached it as a little fun side thing you do from time to time that you’d find yourself booked solid there as well.

Life is short man. I think you can have your cake and eat it too.

Michael Port

You know, it’s funny Tim. The make up artist who do my make up for a photo shoot this week said the same thing. My girlfriend has been too.

Steve

Hummm..

Tim McAuley

You could so own an acting career. Give me about 90 minutes on the phone and I’ll convince you to get back out there.

Maybe we can work out a trade….I’ll coach you; you get me booked solid! 😉

Ali R. Rodriguez

I do believe acting will be part of your life again, actually, rather sooner than expected. I’ve seen this coming your way for a while now. Funny this has popped for you on a day like today for Big Thinking inspiration.

Amy Brennan

THANK YOU!!! I really appreciate your email and post this morning. I’m struggling with so many things right now that seem overwhelming. I’m trying to think big …correction I AM THINKING BIG and because of your email I just took action on a REALLY big idea!

Thank you again!

Bruce H

Great insight. I have “chased the shiny object” too, and quit when I thought the object was tarnishing, or when I spotted a new, shinier object.

Michael, the 4-week webinar last month was invaluable, and I thank you for that. I believe the Alliance is in my future, too, because, like you, I need to be encouraged along the way. Especially when it looks like things are at their toughest.

God’s plan for you meant to help others be all they can be, as you yourself continue to do the same. You say so yourself.

Thanks for sharing what it is that shaped who you are.

Peace!

Bruce

Brent Burns

Michael,

“Finishing” is the hardest part of “starting”. Its easy to start something new, but taking it to fruition and success is a bigger challenge. Thanks for reminding us of this important point and thank you for keeping me in your circle. I use my BYS principles every single day and am an evangelist for them here in Northwest Iowa. People are starting to take notice and I am appreciative of that!

Joanne Dunham

Your story came at a good time for me, Michael Port. I’ve just realized (duh!) that I represent myself better than anyone else can represent me. Got a big No after someone with an “in” pitched me on something very important to me. After getting over How they did it, which I don’t at all agree with, I felt like throwing in the towel. It was like the straw, I realized, but I don’t allow my back to get broken, at least not that easily. In looking at it, I see how easy it is for me to let someone else do my job for me and then point blame.

Fact is, only I can do it the way I’d like it done. A scary thought I’ll get over when I’m ready to hire help. My experience there is to know who I’m hiring and to let them have at it without micromanaging, not easy for me but someone on a leash doesn’t perform well. There’s a time for doing it myself and a time for getting help.

I began thinking about the Fail concept, and realized this is one avenue I can check off my list, fully analyzed. It didn’t work. Or pitch it myself if the opportunity arises in a similar situation, and if I get a big No again, hah! So easy to blame others, isn’t it?

No matter where we are on our important path, remembering to drop the ego and go with our flow is crucial. If it’s time to throw in the towel, it will be for a good reason, like this is as far as it feels I go here – and start on a new path. It’s still important to know when the time for what we’re working on has passed, to realize it, move on and know that success comes in a multitude of ways.

Thanks again, Michael and all. Reframing it from another’s view helps kick me out of my perspective.

Nikki B. Strait

I feel the same way. The guy I started a theatre company with at college is now a very successful writer/director/producer/ exec producer in Hollywood, with his own entertainment company currently working under one the huge ones. Why I let that relationship go is hard for me to accept because we were very productive and worked so effortlessly together. I have tried to get back in touch recently, and we have connected a couple of times briefly, but my hope is that we can work together again someday, with his producing/directing one of my stories/screenplays. No reason why I can’t pursue my writing and business/teaching career simultaneously – they actually can compliment and enhance each other. It’s never too late. I believe one of the Best Actress Academy Award nominees this year (not a very well-known celebrity or personality until maybe now) is in her 80s, oldest actor/actress nominee ever. Don’t give up completely on your acting career. We have many sides to our personalities that can flourish at different times and ways along our journey. The roles you would play now would probably be a lot more interesting and complex than the ones you did, wanted to or could have when you were younger.

Jenn Lee

What was different for you between the 2 careers that made you stick with the coaching vs the acting? Better support system? Better able to accept rejection or less rejection? Was the reward of success greater than the hurt of failure?

-j

Michael Port

Thanks a good question Jenn. 1. I felt like I had more control in my own business. 2. I wasn’t going to give up again. If I gave up on something important twice that would have been pathetic. 3. Rewards/results came faster as an entrepreneur.

Jae

Hi Michael, I started my business a year ago this month, and I haven’t had 1 single client, I revamped the website, networked, sponsored events, discount flyers you name it I’ve done it. I’ve been thinking for a couple of months about quiting especially this month. I too just had my birthday last week, 39 now.

My heart and head tells me to quit, stupid to get into a luxury industry but my soul needs to do it. Difficult when there’s no income and debts mounting. But I keep getting signs, today I started looking for jobs to go back into sales, which I dislike, your email just bounced in with this!

I think I must go as far as I can even if I lose everything I own. So thanks Michael for your honesty, I may not have wasted the last 5 years studying and setting up my business…..whatever it takes right?

Thanks for the sign!

Joanne Dunham

So the question begs – did you quit if you walked away from it? Quitting is so absolute. Isn’t it possible to come back to something with a different perspective and fly farther than you may have at first?

Is it great to stay at something that feels so contracted and push on? Can it be good to leave and come back to a new perspective, even if it is 10 years or whatever?

You’ll have new hurdles to get through – why you left – but…. now you are flying, rather than feeling controlled, and some of the old hurdles are so far in the past they aren’t even remembered.

marc

Hi Michael,

It takes a lot of courage to talk about past failures but thanks. Very inspiring for me.

It makes me want to dig deeper until I reach the success that I expect.

Thanks

Steve Healey

This came at a perfect time for me my friend.

Deep in struggle right now, having come so very far, worked so freakin hard, for so very long, taken enormous risk, achieved so much I never thought I could, but setbacks knocking me down, hard, just now. How could I ever quit without seeing myself as a hypocrite and coward.

So I ask myself, is it more that my vision is unbelievably expansive, my goals, astronomical, the hurdles in today’s world, enormous, my expectations, unrealistic, the standards I hold myself to, too high, and my self-criticism, brutal. The answer is yes.

I often joke with my wife that all I want on my gravestone is “Hey, I Sure As Hell Tried.” Now I plan to add “And I Did It!” Now is the time for me to scramble and morph my crazy little ventures, not quit.

Thank you for that Michael.

Michael Port

Steve, I have always had and will have have faith in you.

Steve

And I appreciate that Michael.
Maybe we can drop that tree someday. 🙂

Betsy Brazy

Michael, I think you’re being too hard on yourself. For one, you’re still an actor in the best sense of the word — you use your acting tools to communicate your message and engage people on multiple levels. It’s just that you’re now the director of your business as well.

It’s also true that most of us will switch careers after 10 years. We change or the career we have changes directions. The curiosity, tenacity, and need for clarity that I used as a newspaper journalist now benefits my law clients.

What I take away from your story is that all the talent in the world is not personally satisfying without support and mentoring. Thank you for providing support.

Michael Port

You’re too kind Betsy, Thank you. You are right, lots of creativity and performing in my business.

Anthem Salgado

Good timing, Mr. Port. I needed to hear this. Thanks for sharing this story.

Michael Port

It’s my pleasure Anthem.

Nicole Root

It is always SO comforting to hear stories like these, Michael. It helps me to keep breathing and really enjoy and embrace the journey. And I like the focus on “the finishing” what we have started. I do wonder, though, why rejection can be so hard, especially when great things are happening. I have no problem with rejection in my head, but it still hurts when it happens. I wish it didn’t. Thanks for sharing with us today.

Michael Port

It’s just a deep need to be liked and appreciated. Completely normal.

Theresa

Michael very inspirational. I guess we are all actors staring in our own movie. Bob Proctor once said ‘if you’re not living life on the edge you’re taking up too much room’!

Michael was it weeks/months before you decided to quit acting or a moment of a particular day/thing? I don’t see you as ‘quitting’ sometimes we take journeys that are meant to take us to where we are now. If you never did acting maybe you wouldn’t have been so prepared to mentor people like myself?

Thank you for caring enough about strangers you’ve never met and giving your all to keep us off the path of struggling, frustration and confusion in order to attain our dreams.

At what point do you stop trying when you really want something and when EVERYTHING is on the line?

Sharon Kay

Appreciate your authenticity. Looking back at the many regrets.. All where I quit or gave up, I didn’t realize I felt alone and scared. The mighty Capricorn that I am has no fun at the top all by herself. In distinguishing “alone”, lost also shows up for me. Having a support system in place and allowing love in has created less and less regrets, and more of the good stuff… I honor your wisdom and strength of character.
Appreciate you being you.

Brian Kevin Johnston

I Am Right Where You Were As An Actor…. NEVER QUIT, NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Pauline

The energy of to quit or not to quit must be in the air. It’s been permeating a lot of conversations I’ve had with friends and clients. When I’m at a lull, I do admit to asking myself similar questions. I appreciate your openness, Michael – thank you!

I believe that we sometimes focus so much on the end results, that the in between times – the pause – the breath, gets ignored. Embracing ALL our experiences is the integration of who we really are – authentically.

Wil Hart

This blog post is music to my ears MP. I’ve been thinking back on my story and entrepreneurial journey. My quitting is a big part of where I am now. What is more, it plays an important role in what I’m going to become.

Thank you.

Michael Port

Amen brother.

Eleanor Anne Sweet

Great perspective. I agree. I am a firm beleiver in “she who hesitates is lost”. Also I refuse to be 100 years old on a porch in a rocker with what I call the “what if syndrome”. It is better to try than not to try. On the other hand there is a time that sometimes you have to evaluate a course correction. Try to the fullest and you will never have regrets. When you move or change you know you will have given it your best and fullest shot. I just shared a copy of this with my 16 year old daughter who is passionate about a career in the theater. We live in Chicago. You never know whose life you touch. Have a great week.

Michael Port

Oh, that’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Karel Smutny

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your story. It came precisely on time. Because this morning I feel like giving up. I won’t, I promise.

P.S. I knew I saw you somewhere. Now I know, it’s Sex & The City 🙂

Susanne Morrone

I read your blog and reflected upon it. Persistence is certainly one lesson as well as taking stock of your life with a compass of real purpose. Your picture, however, made me think of “the fire”–those hard life challenges that teach us, refine us and cause the greatest growth if we allow that process to work. I’ve heard you on stage–not as an actor–but as a superb mentor. You move your audience to want to strive for excellence. The lines you deliver have profound impact. If acting as a profession means moving your audiences to feel the emotion down deep to the core, have you not already stepped into your destiny? Teaching by example that leadership and service to others is what makes life worthwhile seems to me to encompass your dream. 😉

Ashley Acker

Thank you for sharing this story! And an even BIGGER thank you for cheering me on this past year when I wanted to quit. And you know I wanted to quit (several times actually), but didn’t because of you and the rest of The Alliance gang.

Kristin

Thank you for that. It was perfect timing.

Tello

Hey! I don’t know how i came across this article but im so glad i did. I confess i needed some encouraging, because my starting out is so tough. I too always dreamed with being an actress but my mom never let me, because financially speaking its not the stablest of jobs. Anyway, i never pursued it and i never brought the topic back up with mu parents. I studied Mass Communication/ Journalism and am working for various restaurants and businesses doing their Public Relations and Marketing. Although i enjoy this very much when people ask me if im living out my dream, i give a hesitant yes. Hesitant, because deep inside my biggest dream will be to become an actress. These past weeks (before reading this) i thought to myself if God’s plans are perfect then this was supposed to happen right? But i also believe God doesn’t put the same dreams and desires in everyones heart, so, maybe its our duty to accomplish them. For some reason this article encouraged me to give it another shot. What do you say Michael, round two?

Julie-Ann Blackmore

Hi Michael I enjoyed your honesty so I will pay you back with mine. I wasn’t as lucky as you to get the option to quit a vocation I had worked towards since my childhood. I was a qualified nurse heading for promotion with a goal of ending up in charge of a and e when I had a head on car crash. This ended my career and what I believed then my dream. Although after grieving and healing it helped me to see that instead of believing I had failed my true purpose was being revealed. Yes I was always to work with people in bringing improvements to their health but not through nursing but through researching the mind body and soul to get to the core of disease. Nursing was only a step towards it. Now I share my findings in books art seminars and with individuals to develop them and their businesses. What was my failing has now become part of my success story

Damian

Well Michael, this one really took me by surprise. As someone with a slightly similar experience, I was surprised by your framing of this issue as a ‘regret’. In Australia we don’t have such clearly defined ‘hats’ or uniforms to wear. Many actors of a certain age have real day jobs. As I say to family members and others (including myself) who tell me to give up- ‘how can I give up when I haven’t really done it?’
I have to ask you – was your decision really ‘quitting’ or was it a decision to act without waiting for the decisions of others?
Until this article I had assumed that you had ‘evolved’ beyond the game of waiting for permission to deliver the words of others- to the self empowerment of your current path.
Thanks for opening up about this. By the way I like the style and spirit of your writing.

Michael Port

There is always more room to grow.

Barry Cridland

Thanks for this Michael, as has been mentioned before this has come at the right time for me as its are a bit of a struggle, will revisit your BYS book and change my thinking to finishing instead of giving up. I work fulltime (12hr days) and on top of that want to build my business so I can control my own destiny, so it has always been an easy excuse to not have enough time etc!

No more excuses, lets do this 🙂

Barry

Michael Port

Let it rip Barry!

Janet

Hey Michael,

I came across this post earlier this week and for some reason left it open on my iPad. As I woke this morning feeling so defeated this week because my business/dream is not where I think it should be and feeling I don’t know how to get it there as I come upon my 3rd year. Reading this post was just what I needed. Your words were so pointed.

“Bottom line: it takes far more fortitude to finish something than it does to start it, especially as an entrepreneur. And that’s why I’m successful today. I will no longer give up. ”

This will become my mantra as I forge ahead to believe in myself and my abilities as an entrepreneur.

I can’t thank you enough for this post.

Continued success to all!

Jeff Goins

Great thoughts here, Michael. I just finished your book, Book Yourself Solid, and really enjoyed it. Thanks!

Pamela Lewis

Michael, This week I discovered you through creativeLive and your wonderful broadcast. The teacher does indeed appear when the student is ready! Your training and transparency are precociously what I need at this moment.

I’ve been a quitter. I left college to move away and pursue stand-up comedy. On the cusp of being booked on the road, I left Los Angeles and returned home to marry. I left a broken and non reparable marriage. I found myself in a corporate job that I loved and with bright future potential, then the company went bankrupt.

For over a decade now, I’ve pursued my desires and have obtained two bachelors degrees, a master’s degree and a coaching certification. Now, I’m coaching those in pursuit of what they want and desire to never give up on themselves and look at life as a journey, a road before them, instead of being shackled to the past.

Thank you for being the person you are and for what you do to help others succeed!

Pamela

Ed Tate

Michael,
I can relate to your story. I walked away from a promising career in radio and TV for very similar reasons. I call it ‘Altitude Sickness’. I was afraid of heights. The heights that success could bring.

Today, I’m proud to say, I’m no longer afraid of heights or success.

John

When I identified myself “as a techie” a few years ago I wanted to work for Google. I REALLY WANTED to. There was Google and ‘everyone else’ in my mind.

I applied and got the interview!

…But failed to get hired.

I licked my wounds and took their feedback. I followed up and months later I got another interview via a friend!

…But failed to get hired.

My dad asked me, “When are you going to get the point that they don’t want you.”

Ouch. Double blow to the ego!

I got a new job for and did some ‘internal work’, got clear and guess what happened?

Google *reached out to me* months later!

I interviewed, and I….

Got hired!

Was there for 3 years but I *never* once gave up on my desire. Yes, I had my doubts, and it was nerve racking, but you can do, be or have anything.

If I can, you can

John

Michael Port

Love it, John!

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