Secret #9: Entrepreneurial Scars


Why do entrepreneurs struggle to achieve success again after failing?

On this episode Russell talks about the inner battle entrepreneurs face with past regrets. Russell shares his own experiences and observations, including:

  • Why the founding fathers gave us the gift of bankruptcy
  • Why Russell spent an hour and a half on stage talking about his failures
  • How Russell’s “failures” qualified him to work with one of the world’s top business consultants

If you’ve ever gone through bankruptcy or messed up and done something stupid in your business, today’s episode is for you.

Full Episode Transcript Expand Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Russell Brunson. Welcome to Marketing Secrets. Today’s episode is called entrepreneurial scars.

Hey everyone, so I wanted to, honestly, this podcast I just wanted to hang out with you guys and talk because it’s been interesting. I’ve been working with so many entrepreneurs and recently just as I’ve been working with some people and watching people who had insane amounts of success at one time and then who had something happen. A failure, a bankruptcy, whatever, just fill in the blank. The second time around, a lot of times, they really, really struggle.

I start looking and I’m like, why are they struggling? They had this huge success and it’s almost like they have fear and embarrassment like, “I failed in the past.” As I kept talking about this with some of the guys on our team it was like, it’s almost like they have entrepreneurial scars. It’s interesting, us as a person who went through the process, a failure, a lot of times there’s ups and the downs it hard. We have scars, emotional scars, but I think sometimes we feel like those scars are on our faces and other people can see them.

What’s interesting is that people don’t. Those are just things that are inside of yourself. But because they’re there and you feel like they’re there and other people can see it, it keeps you from having success the next time. Because there’s so much fear around these scars, these things. And as I was talking about this, this morning, I shared a story and this will hopefully kind of tie these things together a little bit better for you. I’m not going to name names or anything.

But there was a guy I know and he was a successful politician. At the top of his game, doing everything amazing and people loved him. And when you saw him in that spot, and it’s not like national politics, I don’t know anybody in national politics. I don’t follow politics at all. But it was a local person. And you saw him on the news and all this other stuff and he was dynamic, charismatic and everything was awesome. And then he got caught up in this political scandal or whatever and it’s funny because, again, I don’t follow politics, and I don’t care that much. But I was aware of the things that happened, and he’s no longer in there and there was someone else.

Then fast forward 3 or 4 years later, I met him. What’s funny, it was in a different situation, and he wanted to talk about business stuff. And I was really excited because I was like, “I know who this person is. How cool. I want to meet him and talk to him.” And as I talked to him, it was funny, not funny I shouldn’t say that, it was interesting to see the scars that he’d gotten from this thing were so deep, he was struggling to progress in other parts of his life. Business and all these other things because of the scars he got from this thing that didn’t work out right.

You look at the thing, it wasn’t good, but 3 years later, I’m almost surprised that I knew about it, but I did. But he was carrying those scars in his conversations with you. If he would have come in the way that I’d seen him before, confident and all sorts of things, I probably would have done the business deal with him, but because he had these scars and just the way he approached me, he didn’t have the certainty or all these things. They were gone and I could feel it. And that uncertainty kept me from doing the deal with him.

And I remember thinking after I finished, I could tell he was still carrying around the fear and embarrassment and shame of that thing. I don’t care about that thing. I couldn’t care less. Move on with your life and come back. That person I saw on TV, if you would have approached me that way, I would have done this deal.

The same thing is true with entrepreneurs, there’s someone I know who is super successful, knew how to funnel, blew up and made a ton of money and then it went away and now they’re kind of struggling. And what’s interesting is I know that back story because I know the person and things like that. Even with that, I look at the person like, this person is a rock star. They’re awesome. They’re amazing. But as I see them interact with other people, I see these scars that this person has are keeping them from taking over the next thing.

And it’s funny because I don’t think 99,9% of every single person in the world has any idea, their little scars are there for this person, but because he knows that they’re there, because he knows he failed. He knows that things disappear and didn’t work out the way he wanted. He has this fear and has these approaching the next situations, he’s struggling because of that. Because of these scars.

And I think it’s interesting that these entrepreneurial scars that we have, first off they’re invisible. Nobody sees them.  Some people may be aware of them, but nobody sees them except for you. So because you are so aware of these things, it keeps you from having the confidence and success you need to move forward.

It’s funny, I was talking to an entrepreneur who was about to go through bankruptcy and they were freaking out and so scared. And I kind of asked them why and they didn’t say, “Because I don’t want those scars.” But what they said afterwards was, If I get out of bankruptcy, what’s my wife going to think and my in-laws and family?” all these things and I was like, “You have to understand, bankruptcy, think about this, failure for entrepreneurs, the founding fathers of this country gave us bankruptcy as a gift, so that entrepreneurs like us would risk and try and move forward and roll the dice and hope for something. And if it wasn’t for that gift, and you may think it’s a gift for the founding fathers, but I think it’s a gift from god. But if it wasn’t for that thing, America wouldn’t have succeeded as a nation. Everything that’s amazing wouldn’t have happened if entrepreneurs didn’t have that risk.

If it was like, if you go bankrupt you go to jail until you pay off all your debts. Not a lot of people would have taken the risk, I don’t know if I would have taken the risks. But because the worst case scenario is bankruptcy, you clear off your balance sheets and start over. That’s the worst case scenario and that’s the greatest gift we have.

So if we hit that and we go through it and all the sudden we have these scars, I went through bankruptcy and have all this fear. Then you go through the next thing, it’s like, no, that shouldn’t be a negative thing. That means you tried, you attempted. Even after you attempted and had success and it went away, you had success.

I remember I was doing a deal with this guy who was super successful. In fact, he did these consulting things where it was 500 grand a day with a minimum of ten sessions, so it’s like half a million bucks to get this guy to work with you. And I had a chance to hang out with him and I was talking to him and talking strategy and he was asking about my story. I tell him my story and I’m pretty open with things now. I have realized that my scars are what actually draws people to me. That’s why at Funnel Hacking Live I spend an hour and a half on stage talking about all my failures, it draws people toward me, which is kind of making the point at the end of this podcast.

But I’ve had my share of ups and downs. And as I told him the whole thing he’s like, “Oh good.” And I’m like, “What do you mean, good?’. And he’s like, “you cycled.” I’m like, “what do you mean cycled?” And he’s like, “Entrepreneurs who haven’t cycled at least once, I refuse to work with them.” I’m like, “What does that mean?” “Cycled means you build something up and then you crash. If you haven’t cycled yet, then guess what? You’re still drinking your own kool-aid. You still believe that you are the most amazing human being on Earth. You don’t realize until after you cycled, that it’s not just you. You aren’t the greatest thing to walk this planet. There’s market conditions, there’s people, opportunities, luck and all these amazing things that happen that make you possible. That make you as an entrepreneur successful.”

And as he said that, first off I was like, that feels better. Cycling sounds way better than failure, than bankruptcy. But I thought it was interesting that he wouldn’t work with entrepreneur unless they’d cycled once. And I was like, Man, how many people go out there and do their big risk and have some success which gives you all t his pride and confidence and stuff. And then you lose it and because of that failure you never try again. Or you try it but halfway because you feel like you  have these scars and you feel like other people are judging you or you are judging yourself for all these kind of things. Where the reality is that we don’t se those things.

Nobody knows about the failures until you tell them about it. But if they do know about it, it doesn’t really matter. In fact, as I found as I share my scars, it’s draws people closer, like I mentioned earlier. I think the reason people will do business with me a lot of times is because I’m vulnerable, I share those things.

So for you guys, I wanted to talk about it today because first off, it’s okay to have those scars, but don’t hide them. Share those things. When my kids get injured and they’re super cute and do it all the time, I tell my boys, “Chicks dig scars. That’s a good thing. That’s awesome. Black eyes are awesome.” I remember one of my black eyes I got in wrestling; I don’t know if you guys are watching the video, you can still see the scars over both of my eyes. I had this one where I hit my buddies knee and my eye had swollen shut and I had 15 stitches and couldn’t see out of my eye for 4 or 5 days. I was at school and I was all embarrassed because of the scar and as I was walking around people were like, “Dude your eye looks awesome. You’re a wrestler.” People connected with that more than me looking good and my hair being, worrying about what I look like.

So I think the moral of this podcast and I want you guys to understand, is that we all have entrepreneurial scars. If you don’t have them yet, you’re going to have them. But don’t let those keep you from the next success. My friend who is a politician, I don’t care what happened. He could go and do and be successful, but because he’s carrying these scars, he’s not. You have to be willing to get rid of those, or not get rid of them, embrace them and share those things. Look, I screwed up, this is what happened. But this is what I’m doing now and this is what I learned from it, how I’m changing.

If I look back on my career, there’s a lot of things I’m embarrassed about. Things I messed up on big time. Maybe I should do a podcast someday about my biggest regrets. I have regrets in my business. There’s things I did that I’m embarrassed about, I wish I wouldn’t have done. Looking back now, I would have consulted myself, “Do not do that.” But I wouldn’t have known the path unless I’d gone down some of these paths and realized what things weren’t right.

I’ve always tried to be fair to my customers and my employees and stuff, but I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve sold things that I thought were really good and found out later they weren’t. There’s things I’m not proud of, but if I let those scars keep me, how many people’s lives that we’re touching and effecting now that wouldn’t have been touched had I not embraced those scars and told people, “Look I messed up in the past.” And I have, and we all do and it’s okay. But I don’t want you guys to not progress because of that.

Hopefully this gives you some comfort. Look, if you’ve gone through bankruptcy that’s okay. If you messed up and did something stupid, that’s okay. That’s what this life is about. About making those mistakes and owning it, and if you do it’s almost like plastic surgery. It makes these scars disappear. But they don’t need to disappear. Like I said, embrace it. Because that’s what’s going to draw people to you.

So I hope that helps. It was on my mind today, I though it just want to share it. I hope that that was good for you guys. Again, as entrepreneurs, we’re risking stuff every day. We’re risking our name, money, other people. I wake up in the morning scared with 119 employees as of today. If I screw up, how many people lives have I let down because of that. Those things are real to me and I understand that. But I’ve got to risk those things because how many people’s lives can we effect because of those things.

And if you’ve gone through bankruptcy, don’t let that stress you out. It’s a gift from the founding fathers, from God. It’s given us the ability so that we can risk and not lose everything. We can risk……..and if it wasn’t for that, again, progress would stop if entrepreneurs weren’t risking. So it’s not a bad thing. If you….

Anyway, I just wanted to give you guys that as a gift. And if you any of you guys are struggling, some of you probably are. Some of you guys are going through bankruptcy or gone through bankruptcy. Maybe it’s not bankruptcy but you failed. You launched something that didn’t work. You built a team of people and the product didn’t work and you had to fire people or let them go. All the ups and downs and disappointment. As entrepreneurs you have so many things on your shoulders and I get that.

I hope this message helps relieve some of that pressure for some of you guys. Because if you don’t keep risking, trying, keep getting those scars, where is the world going to be? Where are you going to be? Where’s your family going to be? Where are the people you’re serving going to be? They need you and it’s worth the risk, worth the sacrifice, worth the fears. Because if you’re going to affect those people, when you deliver on what you know you have and you change their lives, it makes it all worth it.

It’s interesting, just to kind of close this down. I looked at where our company has come to where we are today. And I looked back during my last cycle. 7 years ago when everything collapsed around me and I thought the world was coming to an end and I was depressed and sad and scared and all those kind of things happened. Looking at it now, if I didn’t go through that, Clickfunnels and this process never would have happened. I never would have met Todd, I never would have met who built Clickfunnels. I never would have built this team. I never would have had the opportunity. I wouldn’t have known the things I know to be able to execute on this. A lot of things we’re steering clear from today are because of the mistakes that happened back then. And if I would have made those mistakes today, some of them would have been catastrophic. Way more people’s lives would have been effected.

Whereas, I had a chance to suffer those things, get those scars on a smaller scale, so I don’t have to have those things now. Hopefully, if I learned my lesson which I’m trying to do. So look at those things as gifts, embrace them, share them, and don’t hide from them. Because those scars will draw people to you and we all have them. Don’t let that keep you from your mission.

Hope that helps. Appreciate you guys and see you guys all on the next episode of Funnel Hacker, no that’s wrong. What is this episode? So sorry, I was recording Funnel Hacker TV earlier today. So podcast. That’s what this is. By the way, if you want to go see our tv show, go to, we have a whole bunch of behind the scenes episodes, a couple of new episodes as well of different stories. In fact, by the time this is live, the same day, we have our next show going live. So go to Funnel Hacker TV as well, check out the shows.

If you like the podcast, please share it. Please go to iTunes and leave me a review. I don’t care if you give me one stars, two stars. If you give me five that will be way cooler. Please do that. Thanks again for everything guys and I will talk to you all again soon. Bye everybody.

  • Stephanie Rodnez

    This is so incredibly powerful. I connect with this message SO MUCH. Those scars are there – but I need to embrace them instead of be ashamed of them. Thank you Russell.

  • Brittney Moon

    Total perspective shift when you shared how bankruptcy is a gift to let us take risks! It made me realize how important it is to take risks. I think making mistakes has been engrained in my mind as negative, but really they are powerful lessons that teach us and anyone who will listen. They are part of our path in becoming experts! I’m going to go celebrate a failure today with my kids so I can help them have a more optimistic view of mistakes! I think the only bad mistake would be one you didn’t learn from. Thanks again for the powerful message!

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Who is Russell Brunson?

Over the past 10 years, Russell has built a following of over a million entrepreneurs, sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his books, popularized the concept of sales funnels, and co-founded a software company called ClickFunnels that helps tens of thousands of entrepreneurs quickly get their message out to the marketplace.