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It’s Okay to Fail: A True Biz Story About What Happens When ‘The Hustle’ No Longer Makes You Happy

  |   Blogging Tips, Business Tips, Personal   |   3 Comments

It's okay to fail: a true biz story about what happens when "the hustle" no longer makes you happy. via @OlyviaMedia


Most of the time, fail stories are humiliating to write.


That’s even more true if you’re an online business owner, and your failure is ABOUT your business. Who wants to hear about how tired, scared, and actually human you are, really? That’s not fun or sexy. It doesn’t promise people 6-figure incomes, 4-hour work weeks, or piña coladas in paradise.


I mean, eww.


Nevertheless, I have a fail story to share with you. One that I’m no longer the least bit upset by, and, in fact, one that now makes me happier to talk about.


Yeah, it sounds nuts.


But as you’ll see soon, nuts is how I like to roll. 😉 #bam


Here we go.


In early 2016 I began marketing a monthly subscription service called The O Team.


Part membership community and part e-course, it was a project I started in an ambitious attempt to provide “affordable training + consulting” to struggling new biz owners and bloggers.


The plan? To deliver monthly comprehensive, themed lessons, workshops, mini e-books, tutorials, and freebies (like InDesign templates + stock photo packs) while also coaching people in a private Facebook Group. All for about $15/month.


What actually ended up happening? Nada.


And it was entirely, unequivocally my fault.


In feeling like I needed to provide 6,321 things to the community to make the membership “valuable” (btw, that’s insecurity talking), I got myself in WAY over my head.


In the first month with the super understanding + lovely humans in The O Team beta group, I probably spent ~ 18 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, working all by myself in a mad attempt to create what basically amounted to an entire e-course for just a MONTH’S worth of content.


And yes, I had promised people that I would do that every. single. month.


For perpetuity.


(It’s true, I was insane. Clearly!)


Meanwhile? I was being a terrible mother, a terrible friend, and terrible to myself.


One night as I was once again stationed on the couch with my computer in my lap, grumpy and distracted, my sweet 4 year-old girl looked right at me and said to me in a matter-of-fact tone of voice,


“You never have time to be with me anymore.”


My spirited girl who isn’t afraid to tell it like she sees it!

A part of my heart shriveled up and died right then and there.


(Sigh. …I still kind of want to die inside just writing that even now.)


But in a strange “suffering breeds positive change” kind of way, I’m also thankful for it.


Because of that excruciating moment, it became instantly obvious to me that in no way could I sustain this kind of crazy “hustle” anymore.


Something deep in my soul finally said:




So I put a stop to the whole O Team launch plan. I shut down the beta group. And I took a giant step back from my blog in general.


The scary part? I almost shut down my entire business, too.


I had burnt myself out, and I was #OverIt. I had lost nearly ALL the passion for my business. I didn’t want to update my site, or respond to interview/summit requests, or even make any new products.


The fire that had propelled me through two years worth of harried, high-anxiety biz was simply gone.*


* And little wonder, really. Running a brand the way I was might get quick short-term results, but as I soon discovered, it’s also a fast way to lose control of your entire life.



So, I did other things instead.


For one, I started sleeping again.. (9 hours of sleep, you are b-l-i-s-s.)


And I read books. Lots and lots of books that had NOTHING to do with business.


Getting away from it all helped me remember there’s more to life than hustling.

And I took the time to cook yummy dinners. I started exercising again. I dipped my toes into mountain lakes and went camping with my family and lived.


During this time, I also spent time thinking.


Did I even want to run a business anymore? (For a few months, the answer was no. Enter: application process with Buffer. You can read more about that here.)


And if I did keep running it (which obvi the answer to that was yes!), what would it need to look like for me to be joyful instead of just “for show happy?”


When I was finally able to start breathing again, (it took ~ 5 months, and you can get a ton of ideas to help yourself based on what I did if you read this post), I had come to some new — and rather surprising — conclusions about online entrepreneurship:


Do we really need to be blogging 1x, 2x, or 5x per week? (No.)


Will we really be more successful if we take a paid e-course on every possible topic and marketing platform out there? (No.)


Is it really necessary to create massively huge + involved [books / courses / subscriptions / ____ …] in order to provide significant value and a happy income? (No!)


In realizing these things, I decided I wanted to — and could — do something different.


I’m now convinced that growing + sustaining our brands — yeah, remember: the ones that once made us so. freaking. excited! — should be ADDING to our lives and overall well-being instead of making it LESS.



What do I mean?


If you’ve ever told your friends/fam/significant other/hubby/kids, “Okay, just let me do this one thing…” and then several hours later you’re still hunched over your laptop, bleary-eyed and feeling vaguely anxious + weirdly disconnected from your own life…that’s LESS.


If you feel so consumed by taking Instagram photos, writing email campaigns, or watching “free” webinars that you stop making regular, real meals and instead binge eat on frozen pizza and mac & cheese because it’s fast + easy…that’s LESS.


If you think you no longer “have the time” — to get up out of your chair and go for a walk, catch afternoon tea with a friend, spring clean your home, add to your photo albums, volunteer, practice your faith, read some great fiction, or take a vacay — that’s LESS.


Though all of the above once described my own life, I’ve decided it’s super uncool and super unnecessary. Therefore not only am I not going to let myself be drawn into it…I’m not going to DO it to anyone else either.


My business will not be in burdening and LESSening people’s lives. Period.


The O Team definitely would have done that. For me, yes — but perhaps much more seriously, also for all of its members. Maybe even you.


That’s not OK.


I can’t say that I’m here to help you succeed while at the same time contributing to all the things that sabotage your chances. How gross is that?





Back to failure.


Failure is a friend. Failure is OUR friend. Failure is the strange key to better business models, better work-life balance decisions, and generally better people. (Have you ever noticed that people who have failed at things in life and can openly admit it are, almost as a rule, much nicer to be around than those who have not and will not? #justmyrandomobservation)


Because I failed, I’m happily no longer going to try to do the same list of things with that many people expect me to do.


For instance, starting in June I’m hosting a 3-month experience for entrepreneurial women that I haven’t seen done before, but that I strongly believe SHOULD be done.


Part “introvert-friendly” mastermind, part business + blog coaching, part customer service training, and part fitness + healthy eating, it’s designed to serve our whole selves without the #infooverwhelm so common to traditional e-courses or other membership programs.


Going forward, I will do more things like this — some with shorter time-spans — that will help people not just work better, but also LIVE better.


Because really — what’s the point of doing all this if it makes us sad? Exhausted? Disconnected?


There’s no amount of money or tropical drinks that can make up for lost memories, poor health, and a depressed mood. Thank you, but no.


I deserve better, and so do you.


Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)



  • Jennifer Rahner

    Thank you for sharing! I literally just found you today, following a link from as I’m researching options for my own business. I probably lean a little more on the “inaction until I know everything” side of things (to my detriment sometimes) but I wanted you to now I appreciate your honesty because it all goes into my decision making on how I should proceed. Kudos to you for recognizing the biz was not really providing what you needed, and good luck on the next phase of your endeavors!

    • Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to be so encouraging, Jennifer! I’m so glad my experience is a small help to you as you go forward with your business. 🙂

  • Hi Erika,

    Great read and I agree that it’s not always a bad thing to fail. I’ve failed more times that I can count and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I think everyone who is new at being an entrepreneur fails at least once.

    There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s the only way that we find what we love doing and keep pursuing those things that make us happy. After all, most of us decided to become an entrepreneur because we want the freedom lifestyle.

    You know the freedom to do the things we love doing. There’s no point in continuing doing if it starts to feel like a burden.

    Work life balance is a hard thing to manage when we work from home. I know when I first started blogging, I wouldn’t make time for myself. There was always something to do and I always felt like it needed to be done right then and there.

    Now I’ve managed to use my time wisely and started focusing more on my health and life. After all, what good will it be when we reach our goals if we don’t take care of our health today?

    Your 3-month mastermind definitely sounds like it’s going to be a blast. Good luck with all your endeavors and thanks I definitely appreciate your honesty.

    Have a great day 🙂