how to deal with failure

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Forum topic by , posted 04-26-2011 04:29 AM 1759 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2387 posts in 2971 days

04-26-2011 04:29 AM

From time to time in life I fall short of success. In some cases my attempts could be charactorized as failure. I recently accepted a job that involved large shelving unit 30’ long by almost 10’ tall. We run a small shop, I drew the job and my guy built it. Turned out a success on the build even considering the requested dimensions. I won’t bore dull details but just to say customer requested mdf with high gloss white paint finish. I built it in my shop, another contractor delivered to Dallas retail store, installed and I agreed to drive 5 hours north to spray unit out. That was my mistake. That paint job was beyond my ability. I had difficulty with paint dust settling into the finish causing a ruff feel, even giving texture to the finish. Then almost pulled it off but the requested poly coat went on uneven causing yellowing to be more in some areas then others. I fear a combination of inadequate equipment and insufficient talent/experience doomed me. I left Dallas as a total embarrassment and a failure. In hind sight I should have rolled the job, I believe it would have turned out much better. Also, in hind sight I should have just contracted the build and advised the customer to hire a paint crew to complete the finish. A lesson learned.

While I have had many successful jobs, I admit I have also failed from time to time.

So how do we deal with failure, or am of the few who ever fail.

By the way we have a lot of success using clear lacquer as we tend to push natural finishes with our customers.

We do have a white kitchen coming up but they specifically requested hand applied because they want the hand crafted look with brush lines, etc…

Also, I left Dallas unsuccessful as I had worked hard at the job Thursday through Saturday and I did not want to miss Easter with my family, the helper who came with me had to be back and I received some mild, percieved as friendly encouragement to go ahead and leave. The workers who stayed, was not any of my guys, advised me they were going to sand the unit and then roll unit while using a “flowtroll????”additive that they said should give them a good finish.

-- .

23 replies so far

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2620 posts in 2533 days

#1 posted 04-26-2011 04:43 AM

You learn your lesson, and move on. I’ve made some mighty expensive mistakes at work, costing many thousands of dollars. But in the remaining efforts, I have helped the company make millions, with the rest of the team.

BTW, they were going to use a product called Floetrol, that helps the paint flow out for less brush lines. You can find it at the big box stores.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View DIYaholic's profile


19141 posts in 2099 days

#2 posted 04-26-2011 04:51 AM

Don’t beat yourself up too much. It is the challenging jobs that make us better (all be it in the future).

The one question not answered is; Were you ultimately able to satisfy the customer in the end?

If the answer is yes, then this was not a failure, by any means, just a learning experience (an expensive one maybe).

If the answer is NO, then you must explore where things went wrong and develope a plan to ensure success in the future (which looks like you have already done).

We all experience set backs, it is how we deal/learn from them that helps to define us.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View wseand's profile


2754 posts in 2466 days

#3 posted 04-26-2011 04:55 AM

You adapt and over come, learn from your mistakes and move on. Dwelling on them never resolves anything and only prolongs the learning curve. Easier said then done sometimes. Personally if the customer wasn’t happy with something I made I would have to make it right before I could move on. As long as it was my fault.

-- Bill - "Freedom flies in your heart like an Eagle" Audie Murphy

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2387 posts in 2971 days

#4 posted 04-26-2011 04:57 AM

Good words of encouragement. Well, I am confident the stated game plan was successful, but with me being 5 hours south, I was unable to see thateventual success. In my area cabinet shops typically build and lave finishing to finish prof3ssionals. That is really what I should have done, I am certainly much wiser after this job.

-- .

View William's profile


9906 posts in 2267 days

#5 posted 04-26-2011 05:04 AM

You live and you learn.
I only do woodwork as a hobby, but when I majorly screw a project up, building a big bonfire with it usually makes me feel better. I follow that up with starting over on the same project and doing my best to learn from whatever screwup I made.
Myself, I am terrible at finish work. Each piece I build, my brother (who does remodeling work for a living) comes by and tells me I done this wrong and that wrong. His opinion of my mistakes usually has to do with the finish. Since it is a hobby for me, I have the luxury of shrugging it off and not worrying about his opinion. If I did have to do it for a living though, I would probably outsource my finish work.


View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2971 days

#6 posted 04-26-2011 05:10 AM

I will say had this been a local job I am certain I would have rectified the job. I may have decided to roll it myself. I am looking into outscourcing my finish work whenever I feel it to be out of my abilities in the future. Though clear lacquer finish with some toner coating we are very good at.

-- .

View cabmaker's profile


1473 posts in 2233 days

#7 posted 04-26-2011 05:10 AM

Jerry, experiance is a very costly process. You will recover. Please do not take insult but I think you should go ahead and beat your self up a bit. It sounds to me like you got in over your head and did not have the talent pool on board to bail you out. You stated your guy built the job. What does that mean? Your in the cabinetmaking business, why did your guy build the unit. Be very carefull about having high expectations over someone elses work . As for leaving the uncompleted job to get home, well I understand but you just can not do that . And letting someone roll out your work with flowtral, cmon now. And allways be mindful of what the custamor wants for finish. You stated you push lacquer. Natural finish , are you trying to eliminate staining,etc ? Your looking for the path of least resistance my friend. If you intend to be successful youll have to take the hard road. Good luck in your endevor and I sincerely wish you well. JB

View christopheralan's profile


1120 posts in 3145 days

#8 posted 04-26-2011 05:18 AM

Dude, we all screw but you are one of the few with the stones to actually admit it. Most of us “just change the design on the fly” instead of fessing up. Granted, a mistake can cost us in pride, reputation, and of course time and money, but what they can teach is far more valuable.

Well done on bringing up this topic. As I said, most of us won’t man up like you did and make it right. You did the right thing, and I respect that.

-- christopheralan

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2971 days

#9 posted 04-26-2011 05:20 AM

Yes I have one guy who works for me as I am unable to complete everything. The build itself went well. And I assisted. But we have been juggling two large jobs, the other being a laminate job melamine job which turned out great.

As far as natural finishes, I like them as I push walnut and cherry. Among other woods that possess. A lot of natural beauty. Plus I tend to try to stay within my personal talent level, such as with toner, I tend to work well with toner coats so I push it when customer is looking for just a little additional color. Such as adding some brown flavor to a cherry wood which tends to look nice.

-- .

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2583 days

#10 posted 04-26-2011 05:40 AM

As an educator, I feel we do too much to prevent our kids from failing. They never learn to fail gracefully or the bitter taste of it. We learn at least as much from our failures as our successes and the bitter pill makes us not want to swallow another one.

If it ended up well, then that’s a safe, valuable form of failure…and it you have to fail, then that’s the way to do it!

-- jay,

View cabs4less's profile


235 posts in 2187 days

#11 posted 04-26-2011 05:41 AM

sorry it happened but kinda glad i aint the only who has had thier tail between thier legs and eyes at thier toes

-- As Best I Can

View William's profile


9906 posts in 2267 days

#12 posted 04-26-2011 05:54 AM

Cosmicsniper brings up a very valid point about today’s society. I know it’s a little off topic, but I had to say something. I have eight kids. Seven of them are still in school. I try to teach them that failure is a part of life, but that you must learn from your failures, or you’re bound to make the same mistakes again. The schools, and society in general these days, have a tendancy to teach these kids the happy “every body is a winner all the time” crap. Well guess what? It is impossible for everyone to win all the time. Life just doesn’t work that way. I feel there are three kinds of people in this world when it comes to failure.
1. The ones that learn from the failure and become better for it.
2. The ones who never admit failure and become total failures because of their lack of logic to learn.
3. Those that become frustrated from a failure to the point that they refuse to try again, depriving themselves of the satisfaction of learning.
Too bad that we are raising too many kids today in the second category.
I’m sorry to get off topic, but when I read that, I had to comment. It sounds like you’re doing good though. You learned something for future knowledge. We all make mistakes. It takes intelligence though to own up to it and learn from it.


View christopheralan's profile


1120 posts in 3145 days

#13 posted 04-26-2011 06:11 AM

Well said William!

-- christopheralan

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2971 days

#14 posted 04-26-2011 06:18 AM

All great comments. And I am glad to have all the great feedback from fellow woodworkers. I was not really sure how this blog would have been received. I am encouraged and am looking forward to my upcoming jobs. This next week we will complete our largest job to date which had 80 melamine/laminate cabinets. Then we will begin a good sized walnut job, then we have a small hickory kitchen and small white kitchen to complete which will take us through June or July.

So here is looking to future success!!!

-- .

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2275 days

#15 posted 04-26-2011 06:27 AM

I can add no wisdom here. We can all look back on our less than sterling moments; they’re never truly forgotten.

What I am struck by is the quality of the responses. This is truly a remarkable community. If you posted here, give yourself some kindness for your compassion and wisdom.

If you’re reading this, drink deep. LJ will grow, but it may never get much better than this moment right here, right now.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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