Failure can ruin lives and families, and there’s no denying it. It could destroy your health and obliterate your self-esteem. But it also holds a lot of value on the road to success.
Andrew Thorp King’s new book, FAILURE RULES!, walks you through five essential rules to help you pull value from any failure, as proven from his personal stories of dramatic cascading failures in business, relationships, art, and life. The book will allow you to journey through key failure lessons from a wildly diverse set of successful entrepreneurs, creatives, and authentics, including Winston Churchill, Henry Rollins, David Goggins, Billie Jean King, Dwayne The Rock, Johnson, and many, many more.
The experience and immediate tangible results of failure suck. But if you follow the rules of failure, seeing beyond the mess and picking through the good stuff left in the rubble, you can move forward into success. So embrace the F word and let hard times make you stronger because after it sucks, failure rules.
Hey, listeners. My name is Drew Appelbaum, and I’m excited to be here today with Andrew Thorp King, author of FAILURE RULES!: The 5 Rules of Failure for Entrepreneurs, Creatives, and Authentics. Andrew, thank you for joining. Welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Andrew Thorp King: Thanks for having me. Nice to talk to you today.
Drew Appelbaum: Why don’t you help us kick it off? Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Andrew Thorp King: Professional background, all right. So I would say that primarily I’ve had a dual career most of my life, both primarily in the music industry, as well as finance, two very polar opposite type fields. They’ve kind of run parallel throughout my career, mostly as an entrepreneur for most of my adult working life in both of those spaces and, oftentimes, parallel career, a dual career at the same time.
Then through the last 10 years or so or almost 10 years, I’ve also been working in commercial corporate banking, in the payments space as an executive. So that’s a departure from the history but still a continuation of the thread in finance or in banking that started out in an entrepreneurial way.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, we will get to the story of when you started thinking about failure in these five rules. But when you started and when you went down that thought process, what got you to the point now, where you said, “Okay, I actually want to tell this story and write this book.”?
Why Write a Book Now?
Andrew Thorp King: So this all really crystallized on a walk on a Jersey Shore beach in 2013. I was still in my first marriage at the tail end. It was a tumultuous time. My first marriage was pretty much unraveling at the time, although I was at the beach with my ex-wife and my kids. It was actually on Father’s Day, and I had taken some time to take a long walk and a long swim. On my walk, I was listening to some music.
At the time, I had just kind of gone through a business divorce that was pretty dramatic. It was kind of indicative of this like evolution of kind of trial by failures that I was experiencing throughout my business life of the previous 10 years, both in the music industry and finance and also in fitness. I had owned a gym at one period of time for several years. So it was like all these lessons that I was learning, right?
There were still many bright spots to kind of undergirding all these failures. So I still had a good amount of assets. I still had a good amount of income. There were still things happening that were good, but there was a lot of kind of almost terror-inducing threats and events, and lawsuits. At one point, even a federal investigation under false pretense, and this was having strain on my marriage, and I felt like there was just this kind of theme in my life of dealing with simultaneous failures, simultaneous hard times with complexity.
I was walking on the beach, and I’m an old punk rocker. So part of my entrepreneurial efforts has been running my own record label, Thorp Records, which is a hardcore metal label, which has put out records by bands like Slapshot, Madball, and Sheer Terror, and Blood For Blood, and lots of kind of well-known hardcore punk bands, and then also a punk rock label, Sailor’s Grave Records, which has done records by well-known street punk and psychobilly bands like the U.S. Bombs, The Kings Of Nothing, Roger Miret and the Disasters, The Business, and a lot of other good stuff, Koffin Kats.
So I’m doing what I do. When I’m going through something, I get a lot of power out of the poetry of music and the power of the electricity of music. So I was listening to two very specific songs on the beach walk that really kind of hit me. One was Cro-Mags’ Hard Times and the singer for the Cro-Mags, John Joseph, who’s a triathlete, author, Hare Krishna devotee. He wrote the foreword to FAILURE RULES!, which was really awesome. So that was one of the songs that inspired me to write this book, as well as Ace of Spades by Motorhead.
So they’re kind of thundering through my earbuds as I’m walking on the beach, and I just felt just this weight over my entire being, both like emotionally, spiritually mentally, even like physically of like I was being put through this crucible, and something was going to be born out of all of this stuff. There were going to be lessons that were going to come to be from everything I was going through. At the time, like I said, my marriage was unraveling. It wasn’t certain I was headed for divorce, but it’s pretty sure. I tried to make efforts to hold on, but it didn’t end up holding.
Until I came off that beach walk, really, like amidst all these other problems I had to solve, my biggest takeaway, other than some practical ways to heal these issues, my biggest takeaway was I am going to endeavor to write a book on the value of failure. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I don’t know what the conclusions are going to be. But I had the sense that I had to do this, and I began scribbling some really rough notes that day. That was 2013. Over the course of eight years, many life changes and kind, also, over time, lots of really great punctuated successes, I wrote this book. It evolved over time and finally got finished.
This has been kind of a long journey but a natural one informed by a lot of really unique circumstances and lessons. They, in the end, did kind of unfold with obvious lessons. In fact, all fell under five buckets of five rules and then ended up being the five rules of failure.
Before Failure Rules, Failure Sucks
Drew Appelbaum: So when you actually started writing the book, and obviously you just said it was such a long process, so many things were happening in your life, but who would you say you were writing this book for? Who is the audience here?
Andrew Thorp King: Well, that’s an interesting question, right? Because as a writer, like Hemingway says, first drafts are shit, right? So my first draft, second draft, third draft, fourth draft, fifth draft, sixth draft, seventh draft were all absolute shit. But it eventually turned into something that is absolutely not shit, in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of readers, right?
In the beginning, I think it really turned out like this, kind of like personal, like just a clipboard of complaints about everything I was going through. As I reread it over time, I’m like, “This is not the right attitude. Here’s what I’ve learned since that first draft. Here’s how to look at it, and here’s how to solve it. Oh, and here’s an external application for others. Oh, and here’s some ways to take it from not being necessarily about me but more about a general lesson. Here are some other case studies that fit this, case studies that have inspired me, virtual mentors that have really informed the way I’ve walked through my professional and entrepreneurial and creative paths.”
It began shaping itself into being something very instructive, very positive, and very challenging, where all of a sudden this now tagline that I’m using, after it sucks, failure rules, that was really how the book unfolded. First, it was all about how it sucked. Then I figured out how to explain how it rolls. So that ended up being a tale of blessings through failure, right? That’s really what the book ended up being at the end of it.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s talk about failure for a second. So really, two questions here. One, does failure actually rule? The other is, is every type of failure the same?
Andrew Thorp King: No, right? Where do I start? I’ll start with—Let me start with a definition of failure, right? In a very nerdy, almost legal way, probably inspired by all the different contracts that I’ve kind of helped the legal team at my job work on over the years and the hundreds of contracts that I’ve used and shaped in recording agreements with my record labels over the years, I have a definition of terms in the book, right? Because there’s terms that might be a little strange or might be used in a different way, the text, and I want to make it very clear to lubricate the readers’ mind before they went into it. This is what I mean when I say X, right?
The term failure is very, very broad, and that it’s everything from failures as a result of personal decision gaps, failures to plan, failures of continuously thought, just failures of talent or knowledge, failures almost willfully induced because of being derelict in what you’re doing, as well as the general experiential failure of being part of the human condition, things that just happen to us, the failure of the inadequacy and imperfection of life, sickness, death, war, harmed by others, all these other things, right?
Failure is very general here, and it’s sometimes just synonymous with hard times. So I paint it very broadly. But that’s by design because the idea is, yes, failures, they actually don’t roll when they’re happening. They do suck. But by viewing them through a certain lens, I would propose the lens described within these five rules of failure, you can learn to pull value out of almost any failure. Maybe not every failure but almost any failure, right? Because it really is how you respond to it. That makes all the difference.
The case studies throughout the book, I mean, everybody from serial failure or entrepreneur James Altucher to Lemmy Kilmister, the singer of Motorhead, two legendary African American boxer, Jack Johnson, to Sara Blakely, the pantyhose queen, billionaire entrepreneur, all these different case studies. It’s really like, “Okay, how did other people who were largely carving out a very unique unorthodox career path in the world that didn’t have a prescribed blueprint to help them go down that road, how do they encounter failure? How did they leverage it? How did they metabolize it? How did they actually turn it into a highlight of their story that later really defined who they are, who they became? Had they not had it, they may not have been who they became and the way that they became who they now are.
So I don’t know if that fully answers your question, but that’s kind of how it evolved.
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah. Like you talked about in the book, to sort of ease the burden of failure, I think we all know, at some point soon, we’re going to fail at something, right? But you do say it’s helpful just to study those who have conquered and have conquered failure, as you just mentioned, and analyze their journeys in advance, so, “Hey, you know what? I did fail. But maybe there is something special to come of this.”
For those examples you just mentioned, and you said there are many, many in the book, you chose historical references. You chose rock stars. You mentioned your own life. So how did you choose who to feature here?
The Mentality Shift: A Different Perspective on Failure
Andrew Thorp King: That’s a good question, right? So I think, initially, it was probably a narrow view of maybe whatever jumped to mind and whatever book I might have been reading or a person that I just heard on a podcast or someone who’s ethos or work had actually really helped me in real times of need or real-time sort of perspective need, right?
For instance, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, like his concept of money is spiritual and viewing money through that lens, that it’s really a thank you note. It’s not something where there’s this static amount out there, and that you get what you give and viewing currency that way. That really actually helped me, as I, on several occasions, clawed my way out of poverty, not just to a good living but into a very well living, right?
It was the idea that there isn’t this fixed kind of states, right? That there is ways that money can bring you out of failure, if you’re viewing it correctly. If you’re avoiding the edge of greed or the edge of envy, and you’re actually viewing it as something that is really a thank you note that your place value is measured thankfulness, right? So every time that you spend, you’re saying thank you to somebody for their product or service, and you spend more when you’re grateful for that product or service.
It’s like this basic concept. It’s just a mentality shift. So it’s like that was easy to figure out who are the ones that I know already have impacted the way I think and have changed the trajectory of my decision-making along the way of going from essentially food stamps to prosperity within my journey at different inflection points.
Then there was, okay, let’s step out, and let’s look at this from a wider lens, and so I could have more of a cross-section. So I did still kind of stay within the realms of my interests. So you’ll see kind of this meets down to interest I really like. So you’ll see a lot of kind of hardcore punk references or rock and roll references. You’ll see case study of Sailor Jerry, the godfather of traditional tattooing. You’ll see a lot of cigar stories because I love cigars, and I’m somewhat connected to the cigar culture. So there’s a lot of that in there, and there’s entrepreneurialism and creative thought mixed into those case studies that are applicable to the five rules of failure.
Then in addition, I went wider. So you have, like I mentioned, Sara Blakely. Or you have Gigi Butler, who’s like the cupcake goddess, and her story of maxing out her credit cards to $100,000 on the opening day of her first cupcake store. She had $33 in our checking account, a stack of unpaid bills, and no real marketing plan. Somehow she got through that, and she’s wildly successful today.
I was just digging. I would dig. I research. I’d pull anecdotes from different books I was reading. So I would essentially snack on like 5 to 10 books at a time, where I might not finish them end to end really at all. But I would just snack on them, until I found anecdotes that fit in and made sense and would be interesting and diverse.
Drew Appelbaum: You did mention that you do have these five rules of failure, and number five is really tough to embrace. It’s you are not your failures. That is just so hard for people to understand, and it feels like there’s an entire mindset shift that really has to happen. So if you had any tips or tricks, how do you tell someone, “Hey, you are not your failures.”?
Fifth Rule of Failure
Andrew Thorp King: I think for me, when I think of some of the most extreme examples where it’s not just a failure of execution, not just a failure of not succeeding in a pursuit, but it’s actually almost like an identity moral failure, and to see those that have traversed through that and invoked the idea that they are not their failures and came out on the other side successful in manifesting their unique gifts to the world after a moral failure that they’ve admitted to and repented from, that to me tells me that you really are not your failures unless you choose to be.
I think of Elgin James, who I talk about in the book, who was a mixed-race kid from Boston or probably not. He’s not a kid anymore. He grew up in the hardcore punk scene and ended up being really aligned with the straight edge hardcore ethos, which was kind of more of a militant strain, where they abstained from drugs and alcohol and some of them premarital sex and tobacco. But then it kind of morphed into this more militant thing, where they literally were going to shows and beating up drug dealers and beating up drug users or drunks and became this really kind of negative thing. He ended up becoming a gang leader, a violent gang leader for a gang called FSU, which ultimately meant Friends Stand United and Fuck Shit Up.
He then went on to one point get arrested for extortion. While the time passed between all the legal stuff that went through before he got to his sentencing, he turned a corner, repented, turned his ways, and ended up pursuing a different path and turning away from violence, turning away from that ideology, and moving into screenwriting. He ended up, I think, writing the script for Lowriders, ended up moving to LA, befriended Robert Redford. Robert Redford sent a letter to the judge at the sentencing. He accepted the responsibility for his crime.
On that same day as his sentencing, he actually also got to deal with Universal Pictures. He went on to co-write with Kurt Sutter, who wrote Sons of Anarchy. He co-wrote Mayans FX, the TV show, the spinoff from Sons of Anarchy and FX. So he turned around from his past, that moral failure, and didn’t allow that to shake his identity and reputation forever and found a way through that to find new mentors that believed in him. Find a unique path and give the world something unique that others would not give in the way that he did.
I think of those examples, and there’s nothing that can stop you if you’re determined to shed an old skin and take on a new one and move on, whatever the failure might be.
Drew Appelbaum: I do want to mention. You do have a companion website for the book. Can you tell listeners what that website is and what they can expect to find there?
Andrew Thorp King: Yeah. So it’s AndrewThorpking.com, no E on the end of Thorp. So it’s just T-H-O-R-P, andrewthorpking.com. Then you can see on there just information about the book, my bio, information on speaking and coaching services. There’s actually a soundtrack page on there because it’s a companion soundtrack that’s on Spotify and Apple Music of the songs that inspired me as I wrote the book, and then they’re kind of connected to the book.
Even in the book, I kind of detail some of the backstory of those songs and what they meant to me and connection to the themes of the book. Obviously, there’s links to purchase there, and there’s also a merch page. I have an adjacent clothing company I started along with the book called SOUL ON FIRE Supply Company, and the T-shirts kind of represent certain slogans and ethos from the book. PMA, Positive Mental Attitude. KBO, Keep Buggering On. VUCA which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. It’s a theme in the book. So there’s some cool merch there.
There’s a lot of great stuff to find there, as well as links to videos. So on YouTube, Andrew Thorp King. Andrew Thorp King on YouTube, same as Instagram. YouTube channel has lots of great videos of experiencing the themes in the book in a different way, fully produced videos. So definitely check that out as well.
Drew Appelbaum: Very cool. Well, Andrew, we just touched on the surface of the book here. We only went over one of the failure pillars but I just want to say that just putting this book together, putting your life out there, and just putting the book together is a way for folks to understand and navigate and grow from failure. It’s no small feat. So congratulations on getting the book out and being published.
Andrew Thorp King: Thank you, Drew. Appreciate it, man. For sure.
Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure. I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called FAILURE RULES!, and you can find it on Amazon. Andrew, we just talked about a few of the ways on social. Is there anywhere else where people can connect with you, your preferred method of communication?
Drew Appelbaum: Awesome. Well, Andrew, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and best of luck with your new book.
Andrew Thorp King: Thanks so much, Drew. Take care.