Bouncing back from failure – this is my story!
Failure! What does that word mean to you? The dictionary defines failure as a lack of success, the neglect or omission of expected or required action
Failure is a word tossed around in self-development books, the subject of inspirational YouTube videos and motivational quotes, the word failure to me represents an event, a series of events or better yet, a destination, a destination I always promised myself I’d never arrive at!
Little did I know I’ve been stuck on failure island for the best part of 15years! Just like Bruce Willis in the movie The Sixth Sense focussed so much on day-to-day life that he doesn’t actually realise he’s dead! (sorry for the spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it)
Or perhaps DiCaprio in the movie Shutter Island who suffers from delusional disorder and creates a false world to escape the dark reality of his past
My first major failure and what I have now identified as the launching pad to my extended visit on failure Island was being expelled from high school! A skinny cocky teenager with a chip on his shoulder ventured into adult life jumping from job to job, girlfriend to girlfriend, friend to friend, bar to bar and later courtroom to courtroom, finally leading to a prison cell!
Lay in my concrete room in the Strangeways hotel in Manchester, a place where when you check in you, you better check in with the right mindset, otherwise you won’t last five minutes. I had many conversations with myself ‘you’ve messed up this time Tomlinson, “what have you got yourself involved with now” and then later, “you’re a father now, sort yourself out!“
I decided that I’d used my stay in strangeways to better myself and upon release, I would start a business.. because hey what did I have to lose? Business is something I’ve always been interested in, not just because I took the basic Business Studies course in high school but because it seemed to just come natural to me, it was like a language that I just understood.
I was terrible with money growing up, each time I found myself with an empty bank account due to throwing my salary up the wall on sambuca shots and kebabs, I’d constantly find new ways to earn a few extra hundred quid! I’d find products to buy and sell, way before online selling was a thing, I’d position myself as a middleman in clever little ideas and pocket my handful of 20-pound notes as a reward.
My first venture was a laughing stock!! Partnering up with a work friend who had the same minimal knowledge as me at the time, every day we turned up to our cheap office, wearing cheap suits and we winged it! We realised it was very easy to make quick money and focused all of our efforts on each taking a thousand pound a week salary rather than actually running a successful business!
We didn’t have a clue about the red-tape side of things or the importance of cash flow. As long as the money came in we were winners, aspiring entrepreneurs on the journey to success! The chip on my shoulder returned, so did the sambuca shots… The importance of positive cash flow hit home when our main supplier account was closed, the business followed suit shortly after.
I packed up my shoulder chip, I grabbed a handful of desks and chairs and within days set up shop as the only director of my own company, my delusional disorder in full swing telling myself “I’m better off going it alone anyway”
I became a very good salesperson or perhaps a very good blagger, either way the gift of the gab matched with my ever-growing delusional disorder landed me a commercial lease for an office big enough for 50 people! 50 people I didn’t employ and 50 people I couldn’t afford to employ.
Just like the movie The Field of Dreams, where the whisper ‘if you build it, it will come’ echoed around farmer Ray’s head. It echoed around my head and they did come, they came in thick and fast because I employed literally anybody who would show up for an interview!
My vision of a 50 man office was short-lived when I was asked to leave because guess what I still hadn’t mastered cash flow! I left all my equipment as a bargaining chip and off I went to the next office to rinse and repeat. After a year of being business I was bleeding it dry, splashing money around so I could publicly stick two fingers up to anyone who didn’t believe in me! I’d buy cars I could barely get insured on and slap private plates on them. I’d rent overpriced homes and showcase them all over social media as if I was some kind of kingpin!
The love for sambuca shots and nights out, turned into cocaine-fuelled three-day long binge sessions, I was trying to live a champagne lifestyle on lemonade money!
It wasn’t long before these binge sessions landed me right back in the courtroom, An idiotic drunken drug fuelled rage saw me become the headline of my local newspaper and later being picked up by the national press! The business that was supporting my wannabe kingpin lifestyle came to an immediate halt as it was publicly named and shamed in the media.
A barrage of newspaper readers flooded the company website with angry rants, some even went to the lengths of contacting my client base via the testimonial page of my website and informing them ‘hey you’re doing business with a thug’
The newspapers did a great job of turning a small altercation into a scene you’d probably see in one of the Kray films! Looking back now, it does not excuse the fact I acted in a disgusting manner and to this day it is one of my biggest regrets!
So what does somebody with a chip on their shoulder and delusional disorder do after these events… they blame others, they pretend it doesn’t bother them, stick out their chest like a peacock and turn up the wannabe kingpin pace or at least that’s what I did!
I was forced to rebrand due to the business being named and shamed in the press, so I decided to push my way into a new industry! An industry I knew nothing about, an industry dominated by actual business leaders with no room in it for a cocky Mancunian who was just good on the phones!
Again I’d shout from the rooftops my every move as a way of showing those who had read the newspaper articles, that the recent events in my life had no impact on me my life, I was actually improving …..I even flew some girl I barely knew to the Maldives on holiday, now that was a stupid move!!!
The thing with winging it in an industry you know, when push comes to shove you can actually provide a semi-decent service and get away with some of the grand claims you make, when you try to become an illusionist and over promise and under deliver in an industry which you can’t back up the claims…. well, what happens when a magician’s tricks are found out? The magician is exposed….
My business was shut down in the high courts in dramatic fashion! a journalist who calls himself the “Scam Buster” wrote an article about how reality had caught up with a deluded thug. Instead of facing reality for weeks I toyed with the idea of getting a train to London and giving this journalist at bloody good hiding…..Instead of rebuilding my life I’d sit and I’d read the article 10, 11, 12, times an hour! I’d go over previous articles and scroll through the many comments! I’d recite all the comments people made about me, family members mocking me and even back to high school teachers telling me I’d never amount to anything!
After a couple of months of this vicious cycle of self punishment, my confidence was absolutely shot. I no longer had the gift of the gab, it had gone, my ambition gone. I was evicted from my home and found myself being angry 24/7!
Angry at my girlfriend for leaving, angry at the journalist who appear to have singled me out for entertainment value, angry at my family who wasn’t there for me, angry at literally everybody but never myself. I developed little stories in my head based around each failure which was a way for it not to sting as much. These stories always seemed to blame others, “oh I’m an entrepreneur and the school just didn’t know how to handle me” because I’d heard Gary Vaynerchuk say something like ‘high school isn’t for entrepreneurs’ in a YouTube video. “The pub fight wasn’t my fault and I was drunk and high on drugs” “The courts were hard on me, my business shouldn’t have been shut down” “if I was a milkman I wouldn’t have even made the paper in the first place” “everybody gets involved in pub fights”
It was all ‘the world is against me‘ which fuelled my anger even more! I became a hateful, vindictive, vicious little person! I blagged my way into another commercial lease on a rundown building that I knew nobody would ever want to rent. Hidden away and accessed via a dirty alleyway where people stored their dustbins. This became my home! I slept on the floor and would bathe in a sink surviving on £1 microwave meals from Iceland and any help that I could take.
What I told myself would only be a week or so turned into nine months! Nine of the hardest months of my existence. Alone with nothing other than my punishing memories of the mistakes I’d made in life. I was suffering from clinical severe depression leading to a pretty serious suicide attempt.
Eventually I was thrown a lifeline and out of sheer desperation I borrowed a significant amount of money in order to get a tenancy agreement. I thought that having a home would be the solution to all my problems and told myself “I don’t have depression” “it was just a hard situation”
It’s a funny thing when you lie to yourself, you believe your own lies. I tried to rebrand the previous failed business in an attempt to repay what I had borrowed and make a living. As you can imagine, it didn’t work out. After many false promises of rent payments I was asked to leave the property or else I’d be evicted, I hung onto the idea of turning this business around, the business idea that had twice failed but yet I convinced myself that if I pursued it, it would work out.. delusional Tony struck again!
By this point I’d got myself into six figures worth of debt and had talked my way into a new tenancy. I had no life whatsoever and was just trying to push a business that wasn’t working and would never work.
The eye opener moment came when I hadn’t eaten for two days, I went digging through an old suitcase filled with DVDs and CDs to try and sell for money so I could feed myself. I stumbled across the letter I wrote my children, the letter I wrote back when I was living in that run-down office building, back when I didn’t want to be around anymore… you know what sort of letter this was.
I have no idea why I kept that letter but I was immediately transported back to that one moment where I was seconds away from taking my own life. And this was never a cry for help because nobody knew, nobody knew I was living in a run-down building, never mind knew I was about to take my own life.
To this day, this vlog is the first time I’ve spoken of it!I read the letter and burst into tears, for the first time in my life I faced my demons head-on! I was honest with myself and told myself, I can’t hide behind this mask anymore! I told myself that I am fully responsible for everything that has happened and blaming other people was just a way of not facing up to the fact that actually Tony you’re a massive twat!
I grabbed a pen and a notebook and I started to write down every single failure in an attempt to peel the onion. I then wrote down my initial thought or reaction to the failure, I noticed a pattern quite quickly, the finger never pointed at me.
I then wrote down everything that I had done or didn’t do and pictured this happening to me… “what if I owned a property and the person rented didn’t pay their rent” “what if I gave somebody money in good faith and they didn’t repay” “what if I had a friend who acted the way I had” “what if I had a girlfriend who acted the way I had” “what if” “what if” “what if”
From that moment on I looked at myself as somebody who needed and more importantly wanted to change! I began to smile and even laughed about the famous Rocky 4 for speech.
“If i can change and you can change, everyone can change”
I cut ties with everybody in my life except my children and the mother of my children (for obvious reasons) I decided there and then I’ll be brutally honest with myself and accept I’m suffering from mental health issues and there began my journey of rebuilding my life.
I locked myself away and studied: psychology, self-development, neuro-linguistic programming, self-help, business, sales, accountancy, anything I could get my hands on. Taking nuggets of information from each piece of content I consumed.
I became obsessed with building a new me, building a new Tony Tomlinson! Fast forward to today I have worked so hard on overcoming depression and beating my mental demons. I truly believe I’m not a shadow of the man I once were!
Although as I sit here today I am in £132,000 worth of debt, I’m about to make my return into the business world.
Is bouncing back from failure a realistic thing for me? have I failed too hard and too many times to truly bounce back? well I have moved to an area where nobody knows me and I’m about to start a new life! The ultimate fresh start and I’m going vlog the whole bouncing back from failure journey.
The title bouncing back from failure seemed very fitting for my first video as it’s essentially what i’m going to try and do, to truly bounce back and build a new happy life in the process.