How Do You Deal With Failure? Here’s What Madam CJ Walker Did…

Dec 16, 2011, Entrepreneurship

The following post is inspired by an email I received from the well-known, ultra-successful Internet Marketer, Frank Kern, about what it takes to succeed in business and life. I hope the message impacts you as dramatically as it did me…

Occasionally, the unthinkable occurs.

I run out of the non-fiction informational books that I like to read – and as a last resort, I pick up “emergency reading material” like Oprah Magazine. (My wife gets it. Not me! I swear!)

And usually, like I do with most magazines, I just like to read the ads.

I was about 78 pages into it when, for some reason, I started reading an actual article about successful women.

And that’s when an amazing lady jumped out of the page at me.

madam cj walkerHer name is Madam C.J. Walker and here she is:

And let me tell you, this lady could have…

Kicked All Of Our Butts …Combined!

Here’s why:

First, the article in Oprah didn’t say much about her except that she became extremely successful selling hair products door-to-door.

All I can really remember is it had her picture and then it mentioned her success.

Now, being a salesman of sorts myself, I decided to check her out.

Here’s what I found:

First, she was born on a farm in Louisiana, in 1867. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really see that as an ideal time and place to be born if you’re:

1. A woman.
2. African American.

But she had plenty of additional challenges to face. She was an orphan at age seven. She got married at age 14, reportedly to escape the abuse that she was suffering at the hands of her brother-in-law. She became a mother at age 17, and a widow at age 20.

She supported herself and her daughter by picking cotton on a farm, by being a laundress, and by working in a barber shop. From what I can tell, the most she ever made during that time was $1.50 a day.

But…it got worse yet from there. At around 25 years old, she began to develop a a condition that caused her to start balding.

Can you imagine? As if she didn’t have enough to deal with, now the poor lady’s hair is falling out. And just think about it, we whine when our cell phone drops a call or there is a glitch in the TV feed during the big game! Yeah, kind of embarrassing.


Here is where the story gets good…

It shouldn’t surprise you that she quickly became a student of “how to fix this damned balding problem”.

In fact, she researched all kinds of treatments, and eventually discovered that sulfur could abolish the scalp disease that was causing people to lose their hair.

(Apparently, people lost their hair a lot back then because they didn’t bathe as much. They would get some nasty scalp infection and their hair would fall out. But if you treated the problem with sulfur, you could knock it out.)

So she did the only logical thing to do, which was to start her own business …selling a product called “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower”.

Keep in mind, she was just starting out and didn’t have a big budget (probably NO budget at all) so she had no choice but to…

Go Out, Grab The World By The Horns, And Bend It To Her Will!

And the first thing she did was to go door to door, selling her product. Listen, you know nobody really cares for a door to door sales person showing up at their doorstep these days, and somehow I doubt they were all too embracing of it back then!

But imagine what it must have been like for Madam Walker in the racist and male dominated environment she was working in back then! Now that would take some guts!

How many times do you think she was rejected?

How many doors do you think were slammed in her face?

How many insults did she hear?

I’m willing to bet she even was threatened …regularly.

But, do you think that stopped her? Hell to the NO!

Not only did she survive…she THRIVED!

Mrs. Walker kept plugging away, sold more products, developed new ones, and finally opened up a factory in Indianapolis. By 1913, she was traveling around the world training other women to sell her products. And by the time she died in 1919 at age 51, she had become the World’s First Female Self-Made Millionaire!

And against incredible odds, don’t you agree?! Ohh, and did I mention that her parents were former slaves? I don’t think I did.

WOW! What an incredible story!

So her story is amazing, and I think her success is largely due to one critical characteristic:

The Amazing Ability To Get Off Of One’s Ass And Get To WORK.

Seems we have a lack of that ability these days. Everywhere you look, on the news, on the street corner, in these imbecilic “Occupy” protest groups, record-breaking numbers of over 40 million people on food stamps, you hear people crying out for more handouts!

You see, it’s obvious isn’t it? The real secret to success is to get out there and work like hell!

And when we think about Madam C.J. Walker, it’s painfully obvious that…

We Have Absolutely NO Excuse For Failure

Actually – let me rephrase and clarify that. In the beginning, failure is pretty much inevitable. A first-time home run is about as rare as an honest politician.

Heck, I’ve been at this game for about 3 years, all day, every day…and nearly everything I start takes a few tweaks before it actually works.

And some projects don’t work at all, no matter how much modifying and tweaking you do. That’s life! Just keeping learning from your failures and moving forward.

Instead of “Ready…Aim…Fire” act in a mode of “Ready…Fire…Aim”!

So yeah, failure is okay. But here’s the deal:

You Have To Get Up, Brush Yourself Off, And Get Back In The Game

That is the magic power of the successful entrepreneur.

Actually, there are really only two magic powers that I’ve seen – and these are present in every successful person I’ve met, worked with/for, or studied.

Here they are:

Magic Power #1: The ability to get started.

Hold on, pay attention now, this is a BIG ONE!

I have been coaching people one on one and talking with prospects through my website for a couple years now, and the thing I have seen plaguing the people who are struggling is their inability to get started. This really intrigued me so I tried to discover the hold ups.

People get stuck on trying to figure out what web host to use, what microphone to use, what email provider, and so on.

But wait, honestly, I’ve been there, and I was broke when I was there, so I can relate. But, here’s the deal…Most of the time all the research, the preparation, the making sure everything is “perfect” …most of the time that’s secret code for “I’m Scared!”

  • Scared it’s not gonna work.
  • Scared you’re going to look stupid.
  • Scared you might lose some money.
  • Scared you will be judged…

So let me help you out here and tell you right up front that…

All That Bad Stuff Is Almost GUARANTEED To Happen!

Your very first blog is probably going to look like crap. (Mine still has it’s glaring deficiencies)

Your first sales letter probably will need extensive tweaking.

Google will probably “slap” your first ad campaign, or kick you out altogether (as they did me, and many other internet marketers). And if they don’t, you’ll probably spend and “lose” a few bucks getting enough traffic to test your offer before you start making sales and profits.

Your friends who are stuck in the matrix, and scam of a “secure job” will almost certainly judge you and talk behind your back about what a fool you are for trying to make money on the Internet. At least one of them will believe you’ve fallen for a get-rich-quick scheme.

And since you’ll be putting yourself out there in the interwebz for the whole world to see …you’re probably going to look stupid to someone. (And if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.)

So…that’s the way it is.

And since you know it’s all definitely going to happen (barring some miracle), you can finally stop worrying about it and just get it all out of the way!

Better to forge ahead and power through it, you know? Hurry up so you can get to the good stuff. Kinda like how you choked down the vegetables when you were a kid so you could finally get dessert.

And once you do …you can practice

Magic Power #2: The Ability To Step Back Into The Ring

I once heard Frank Kern explain it this way:

Business is like boxing in the sense that you will, without question, get knocked around a little.

And do you think there’s ever a conversation where a dude wants to become a boxer and this happens?

Dude: “Coach? Can I talk to you a minute?”

Coach: “Sure, son. What’s on your mind.”

Dude: “Well, I think I want to be a boxer.”

Coach: “That’s great. We can start training on Monday.”

Dude: “OK. But …Coach?”

Coach: “Yeah?”

Dude: “Do you think I’ll ever get …you know …hit? Like, do you think anyone is gonna …you know, punch me?”


I know, I know …never happens. In BOXING.

But it damn sure happens in business; I see it every day! People get started (which is a huge feat in and of itself) and then just get floored by the first setback. It takes them by complete surprise and it makes them want to quit.

I suppose it’s natural. But what’s not natural …and what really breeds success …is that ability to brush yourself off and start over.

Just like the champion boxer, you gotta get up and step back into the ring. If you do that enough times, you’ll be tough as a pit bull and you’ll start winning. And it won’t take too many wins before it all starts to add up.

But, if you don’t get back in there and take another shot …you’ll never win.

And listen: EVERYBODY I know who’s achieved lasting success has, often on more than one occasion, gotten the crap kicked out of them in business. Many have lost everything before they finally “made it”.

I know that happened exactly to Frank Kern, for example.

He failed at multiple business ventures before getting on the Internet.

Once he got online, he had an even more spectacular failure…the dreaded Instant Internet Empires, which got the attention of the FTC and ultimately awarded him a nice lawsuit which cost him everything he had.

Literally. Everything.

And you know what he told me?

“All those failures SUCKED. They were embarrassing. And sometimes scary. Getting back up and stepping into the ring again was hard.

But worth it.”

And if an orphaned daughter of former slaves can work her way up through the racist hardship of the economically depressed deep south, and become the world’s first self-made female millionaire, then what possible excuse do WE have?

Do you think it was easy for this lady to just walk outside and start going door to door? Hell no!

Do you think it was easy for her to keep going after hearing insults and rejections every day? Of course not.

But she did it anyway. Because that’s what it takes sometimes.

Now get out there and take what’s yours.

Live Without Limits,
Brent Wehmeyer

Note: Special thanks to Frank Kern for his words of wisdom, his mentorship, and C.J. Walker’s great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, for sharing her writings with the world at …And for giving bloggers permission to reference her work. A’Lelia has written a book about Madam Walker’s life and you can get it here.


  1. Angela RandolphDecember 16th

    I just wanted to inform you and your readers of this very important fact – Madame C.J. Walker’s historic company still exists today and has never stopped manufacturing all of the original hair oils! Anyone who visits our website at can view and purchase the full product line.

    The website also contains valuable information about the stock / asset sale (including the ability to view the stock certificates) and Raymond Randolph’s purchase of the original Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1985 from the Walker Trustees in Indianapolis, Indiana and how the Randolph Family (wife Joyce and daughters Vivian, Angela, Stephanie) continues to keep Madame Walker’s “true” legacy alive.

    To promote the entrepreneurial spirit that Madame Walker exemplified, the website provides individuals the opportunity to become a “Walker Agent” and sell Madame C.J. Walker products. By clicking on the “Find A Distributor” tab, you will see agents located in the United Kingdom, France, Bahamas, and the United States.

    September 2011 marked the Centennial Anniversary of the incorporation of Madame C.J. Walker’s historic company – doing business today as Madame C.J. Walker Enterprises. On September 24th, 2011 we commemorated this event with the “Tracing the Footsteps of a Legacy” 100th Year Celebratory Walk. You can visit our website to view the Souvenir Program.

    Due to our ownership of Madame’s historic company and the historical documents and memorabilia of the company, the Randolph Family can provide the most detailed and historically sound information about Madame C.J. Walker and her company by calling toll free, 866-552-2838, by clicking on the “Frequently Asked Questions” FAQS tab of our website, or by going to the contact us page of our website.

    Angela Randolph

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