A Life Lesson Learned via USPS

It was the Spring of 2012, just a few months after I began selling jewelry. Up to that point, all of my jewelry orders had been from friends and family members. They were (are) so supportive that way.

I was thrilled when I received an order from someone I didn’t know, someone who found me on Etsy. She was the very first to order the copper bangle bracelet set, and I wanted it to be perfect.

Copper Bangles

I cut the thick, wire lengths, soldered them together, and hammered each bracelet with its own unique texture. I did this while stopping to measure one hundred several times, being sure I made them in the correct size. It took me the longest time to finish the set, mostly because I was being painfully meticulous. But soon enough they were complete and ready for packaging.

As I packaged the order I made the presentation as beautiful as possible, including a hand written note to express my gratitude for her business. I really wanted to say “thank you for taking a chance on me”, but didn’t think that exuded confidence on my part, even though it was true. I carefully placed the bracelets within a bubble envelope and took it to the nearest drop box for mailing.

The First “Real” Shipment

I was nervous as I watched the envelope disappear into the dark abyss of the metal box. There was no turning back. A complete stranger found a new shop on Etsy and clicked the “buy” button, and my name was on it.

Through the USPS website, I tracked her order all the way to Pennsylvania. When the status finally showed “Delivered”, I was relieved. I didn’t hear back from my customer that day or in the next few days that followed, so I assumed all was well.

Until…I received a package in the mail with this letter attached:

Return Letter

I was mortified.

My heart sank as I read the letter and slowly moved my eyes across the same bangle bracelets I so carefully made, except this time they looked different from before. One of the bracelets was mangled, clearly not surviving the perils of shipping across the US.

You see, while I made the presentation of her bracelets “pretty”, I failed to properly protect the jewelry while in transit. The bracelets were placed in a dainty organza bag which went straight into the bubble mailer with no additional cushioning. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.

I thought of all the things I could have said to defend my case, but the truth was, it was my fault. A willing customer purchased what should have been a sturdy, beautiful set of bracelets, but instead received the opposite. It was the first opportunity for me to make a good impression, on someone outside my inner circle, and I crashed and burned.

Learning from Mistakes

After I humbly took care of the return, it would have been easy to let discouragement set in. I began doubting every piece of jewelry I had shipped prior to that incident. But, I decided to learn from my mistakes and make sure all future orders were packaged with the assumption they would be tossed and thrown and maybe even stepped on. To this day I haven’t had another report of an order being damaged.

And I still have that letter tucked away in a file. I cringe a little when I see it, but it’s a good reminder of where I started and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

The Choice is Yours

Failure is inevitable. It happens to every single one of us, including those who seem to “have it all together”. The question is not whether you will fail, but rather, how will you respond when you do?

You can choose to be defeated, thinking you’re not good enough, or smart enough, or that things will never change. You can even get comfortable there, but there’s a strong chance you’ll regret not knowing what could have been.

Or, you can choose to grow from your failure by shaking off the dust and doing things differently. You’ll become a better version of yourself who makes wiser decisions. And in turn, you’ll have even more to offer the world.

The world needs you.

So which will you choose?

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