Lessons in Failure – The OC backstory

I thought I’d start this series of ‘lessons in failure’ with the back story.  So you can get a feel of where I’ve been the last couple of years and just how far I’ve bounced back.

I’m losing track of the years… they slip by too quickly!  Let me do some quick sums.  Okay…

It was late March 2012.  After spending three of my biggest growth years, to date, on the Mid North Coast I was finally coming ‘home’.

Those 3 years in Nambucca taught me so much… particularly about who I was.  I felt so isolated there.  And with good reason.  I moved to an area where I knew no one (while I was unknowingly depressed and anxious).  I had no kids – so no school drop off, pick up, activities to have a soft introduction to people.  I had no work mates – I worked from a studio in my backyard.  The only place I had any chance of meeting anyone was the gym – and that was mainly macho men and older women doing rehab.  So, for over a year, I did not have a single social outing.  Not a single friend to talk to (except Micko).  Just lots of time with me… and myself.

I got more and more depressed and anxious.  And the more depressed and anxious I became, the harder it was to meet people.  Oh… this was one of the toughest times of my life.  But also, very rewarding!  The lessons I learned in isolation (perhaps another series on it’s own?).

Anyways… the time had finally come.  I was moving home!  I’d spent the previous 5 years waiting for this moment.  Building it up to be the one thing that would fix any remaining issues.

The Byron area was the only place that I’d felt ‘at home’.  I had a solid group of friends who I’d spent years partying with.  My ‘Byron Family’.  I missed them… I missed the lifestyle… I missed who I was in my 20s.  That fun loving, confident, irresponsible, inappropriate, hilarious bitch.  I couldn’t wait to come home.

Finally, I’d be back in a place where people understood and accepted me.  I’d have a great social life… and do the things I missed so terribly while I was in Nambucca – the backyard barbies, the gigs (oh the gigs), the impromptu Friday night meat raffle get together at the Suffo.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on whether you are a glass half full or empty type) things had changed.  I had changed.  My friends all had kids and their own lives…

And I, well… guess what?  Those feelings of isolation, were back.  In full force.  I was just, if not more, isolated than I was in Nambucca… because here I was, with all my friends within a 20 minute drive, and I never saw any of them.  And when I did… I felt so awkward and lonely.  Like I didn’t belong.  At all.

I was desperate for community.  So desperate.  I wanted to belong to something.  So badly.  So, so, so badly.  I wanted to be understood.  I wanted to be of greater service.  I wanted desperately to have a ‘purpose’.

Then, the perfect idea came to me… a shared office.  A place full of people like me.  We’d work alongside each other, support and encourage and inspire one another.  I’d have created it, so I’d have to belong.  It would be so great!  Why hadn’t anyone ever thought of it before?  This could be a game changer to the way we work!

I got to work.

Researching.  Researching.  Researching.

Brainstorming.  Brainstorming.  Brainstorming.

A clear picture presented itself.

Planning.  Plannning.  Planning.

I discovered there was actually a movement.  It had recently hit Australian shores and there were a handful of ‘coworking spaces’ littered around the country.  Sure, they were all in Cap Cities, but with the huge amount of self employed people in the Byron area, there’d have to be a market.

A few short month passed and in August 2012, with a business partner/friend in tow, we opened the doors to the first regional coworking space – The Office Collective.


This place was RAD!  I’d decked it out in retro furniture and had thought of everything.  We had meeting rooms, a boardroom, kitchen, bathroom, recording studio, lunchroom, a library and even a water cooler (for those impromptu conversations that I missed so much about working for someone else).  Everyone who came in said how awesome it was!  Perfect!  They’d love to work from here.

I worked my tits off on promoting.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

In Feb, my business partner was forced to pull the pin.

Now it was all on me.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

I called in the experts.  Asked for their advice.  Most of it I’d tried already, but the things I hadn’t already, I implemented.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

Every month I kept the doors open it cost me another $4K (minimum).

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

$ flush.  $ flush.  $ flush.

Every month I kept the doors open it cost me my sanity.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

Crickets.  Crickets.  Crickets.

$ flush.  $ flush.  $ flush.

Waah!  Waah!  Waah!

It got to breaking point.  I was so disheartened.  So disenchanted.  So angry.  So resentful.  So lost.  So depressed.

I felt like I hit rock bottom on a daily basis…

Oh there’s rock bottom.

(Crash… tumble, tumble, tumble)

Oh no!  There’s rock bottom!

(Crash… tumble, tumble, tumble)

Oh.. this MUST be rock bottom.

(Crash… tumble, tumble, tumble)

Eventually, something had to give.  And that… was me.  I’d cried every single day for 6 months.  I’d tried everything I could to give this thing life.  I’d failed.

One afternoon in late May.  I had come home to have a coaching call from a fellow Bschooler (who had very generously offered to swap coaching for a testimonial… and I sooooo needed it) when my phone rang.  It was the ATO (Australian Tax Office).  They were calling to demand I pay $16K in outstanding tax.  Money I didn’t have.  Literally every cent I had was going into keeping the doors of The OC open.  It was at the point where I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my rent, mortgage or for food!

I completely lost it.  Like completely lost it.  I bawled my eyes out.  I just kept repeating to this poor ATO rep:  ‘I don’t know what to do?  I don’t know what to do?  I don’t know what to do?’.  He told me to ring hardship and work something out with them.

I hung up the phone.  I considered my options.  They were very dark options.  Very, very dark options.  It seemed like there was no other way out.  Maybe it would be best if I just ended it.  Permanently.

No, I’d see out the call with Coach Lisa first.

Oh poor Lisa.  I was a mess.  I had hit rock bottom.

Lisa shared an image with me.  It was about ‘Above and Below the line’.  She asked where I was on that line.  And I was well and truly below it… everything about my life was below the line.  I was a victim, living in lack, fearful and stuck.  I had completely lost my power.  I decided to do something about it.


I got some chalk.  I drew above and below the line so it filled up one entire wall of my office. I swore to myself, I’d be more conscious and when I noticed I was falling below the line, I’d do my best to turn it around.

After I got off Skype to Lisa… I got onto another friend of mine, Sora.  She asked me, what would be, a life changing question.  She said:

‘If you picture what you are working on, in all it’s glory… everything is exactly as you pictured… is that, worth what you are going through now?  If so, keep going.  If not, let it go.’

I asked myself… and the answer was a resounding ‘no’.  I decided then and there to look at my options.  Find someone to sublet and let go of the dream.  It no longer served me.

I put it out there… I was subletting my space.  I took a long walk on the beach… and I said out loud, to whoever was listening:

‘I’ve made a step.  I’m letting go.  I’m ready.  It’s your turn.  Come meet me in the middle’.

The next day… I had a call from a friend who loved my space and wanted to move his business in.

That weekend, Micko and I went out to celebrate.  We celebrated a little too hard.  I fell pregnant with Mabel.

From one of the toughest periods of my life, came the greatest lessons.  Things I couldn’t have fully comprehended until I lived them.  After all, there’s a huge difference between understanding a concept and living it.  These lessons were worth every last cent.  Every last tear.  Every last dark thought.

And now, I’m going to share them with you… over the coming weeks.

Lessons from failure.

Stand by.


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  1. says

    Hmmmm, such a tough year for me too… I remember trying hard to reach out to you in this time as I was also quite lonely and home with a severely high needs newborn and full-on two-year-old… Don’t know if you remember me visiting the OC a handful of times with screaming baby in tow… I think I gave up and assumed you were happy in the hinterland and too busy with the new biz… Wish I’d known what was really going on and that in a lot of ways your feelings were a mirror of mine!

  2. Sharni says

    It’s funny how sometimes ‘the adventure’ we think we need doesn’t work out and then Motherhood surprises you hey. It reminds me of when I fell preg with Monte — Dave and I were ‘sick” of living here and decided we needed to go to Vietnam and work — answers would be THERE for what we were lacking. Packed up our life then “monte’ presented himself —- but hang on we were looking for a different adventure / experience. sometimes I think our children magically appear and fulfil what we are truly craving whether we are aware of it or not at the time. tough lesson, but you made it through! x

  3. says

    What a wonderfully honest and great story… We have just opened a coworking space in Byron Bay and you have been a real inspiration to us. Please come along and see us for a cuppa, would so love to hear more.
    – D

    • Karly says

      Thanks Dan! I saw that you guys have opened. I’d love to pop in and check it out. When the silly season quietens down a little, I’ll definitely swing by. Hope it is all rocking! If there’s anything I can help with, please just ask. Love to see it working in all it’s glory!

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