By anyone’s standards, Nathan Latka is a success.
At 26, he’s already founded, built and sold a Facebook SaaS company that generated $5 million in revenue before his exit. Today, Latka hosts the fastest growing business podcast -- “The Top Entrepreneurs” -- that boasts more than a quarter of a million monthly subscribers and roughly 2.5 million total downloads.
Not surprisingly, the list of icons Latka has played host to reads like a who’s who of the business world -- Elon Musks’ early investor at Tesla, Tim Draper; managing director of the $3.7 billion investment firm General Catalyst, Adam Valkin; and $40 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) SaaS founder, Rand Fishkin.
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However, that shiny list of achievements is exactly what makes the outcome of Latka's most recent venture so interesting.
Latka just failed. And not a little. It was epic.
Late last month, Latka sent an official letter of intent (LOI) to Stuart Johnson, CEO of Success Magazine and Success.com, to aquire Success Partners for $5 million. He posted the full text on his website. In addition, his announcement created a buzz of activity on social media, garnering comments from internet heavy-hitters like Jay Baer and Ryan Levesque.
For Latka, the offer represented a culmination of sorts -- the chance to own, and in many ways, rebuild a genuine media outlet that was itself a part of Latka's own entrepreneurial journey. Even more than a culmination, the acquisition of Success was the linchpin of Latka's next steps in the five-to-ten-year development of his brand.
This is the response he got back from Stuart:
“No businesses are for sale in any form, to anyone, in any way.”
Ouch. Of course, it’s one thing to make a ballsy offer privately and have your dream shot down. That’s painful enough. It’s another beast altogether to go public and have the world watch as the door get slammed in your face.
What do you do when you face failure, especially epic, big-time, public-facing failure? It’s a question all of us will eventually have to answer. After I caught wind of Latka's epic failure, I asked him that question and here’s what he said -- "Believe in yourself enough. You'll make it happen."
I know what you’re thinking. Sounds cliché, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But as YouTube phenomenon Shay Carl recently told Tim Ferriss, “The secrets of life are hidden behind the word cliché.”
Of course, there’s a fine line in business between having thick enough skin to withstand failure and keep pushing forward and having enough self-awareness to know when the fault lies with you and not them. And yet, if it ever comes down to choosing a side -- believing in yourself or believing in your rejections -- always bet on you.
Latka says "the world will root against you. To win, brainwash yourself into thinking you can do anything you want. This will build impenetrable confidence you can use to convince others to follow you. Despite the failed acquisition, many of the world's smartest media minds reached out to offer advice. I listened and will use that advice to build something that ultimately will be much larger than Success Magazine.”
Naturally, saying “you’ll make it happen” doesn’t mean your original version of “it” is foolproof. No idea or vision is infallible. Sometimes your “it” has to change. But -- and this is the key -- in the face of your first “it” failing, make your next “it” bigger, not smaller.
“Because the Success deal failed, I had to massively rethink my approach to the next five to 10 years," Latka said. "That rethinking process hurt. All failure hurts. But in its place grew a new vision."
Instead of buying Success, Latka immediately acquired an app called SndLtr. It already has a large audience of business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to send emails more productively in Gmail. Latka said the next media acquisition he's planning will include "an asset that gets around ten times the amount of monthly unique website views as Success does."
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Latka says he uses people and their responses to gauge what he's about to do. “If I propose an idea to friends and they respond with, ‘You'll totally be able to do that,’ I know I'm thinking too small," he said. "I want to hear 'There's no way in hell you'll ever do that."
You see the point, right? Failure is unavoidable. What matters isn’t having a bulletproof plan or a vision for you and your business's future that’s doable. The point -- at the very high risk of being cliché once again -- is to have a vision that exceeds your reach.
Why? Because in the end, the real test of your success isn’t whether you win -- it’s how you respond when you don’t.