One year ago today I announced my retirement from my 12 year long career in photography. While it was one of the hardest and most baffling decisions I’ve had to make, it was undoubtedly the right one. 

Everyone who learns my story and hears all the wonderful things my previous career did for me, such as photographing the President and First Lady, traveling the world, working with sports celebrity’s, starting my own 6 businesses…they can’t understand why I would to leave all that behind.

While I love photography and appreciate all the places it has taken me over the last decade, it was time to move on. I yearned for something new and fresh, a new challenge, a new industry. That and God specifically told me “you’re done.” He doesn’t get much clearer than that! 😂 

Now with a year behind me I have gained so much peace and clarity since making that decision. I had to let go of the comfortable known in exchange for the uncertain possibilities of the future. I swore I would never work for someone else after running my own businesses...never say never!

Low and behold I found myself back in dreaded corporate America, however it turned out to be actually kind of wonderful. The company I work for is called Insperity ( It’s founded on faith and empathy for business owners. We help small, medium, and large businesses grow by becoming their strategic silent partner. We take all the ugly, boring, and burdensome parts of running a business, such as HR, bookkeeping, compliance, payroll, 401k, and a myriad of other duties, allowing business owners to focus on making more money, which in turn helps their surrounding communities prosper. (I certainly wish I had known about them a decade ago for my own businesses!)

This article can explain it much more articulately than I :

I LOVE this company, I love going to work every day, I love the passionate and kind people I work with. After being hired, my management worked hard to find a position that best suited my strengths- they worked around me to set me up for success. This resulted in my current position; Strategic Marketing Manager of Client Engagement. I am exactly where I belong. All of my background, running businesses, customer service and marketing skills are being combined and utilized. I truly feel like I am making a difference in the world. And what’s more, Insperity STILL encourages their employees to pursue their passions, find work life balance, and even start their own side businesses outside of work. They empower and enable success. I never thought I could enjoy working this much, especially working for someone else! One of the best parts is the mysterious work life balance thing. Something business owners don’t get much of. I clock out at 5pm and I’m DONE! No more working til 2am, on holidays, stressing about employees, just done. It’s so beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved running my own businesses. Photography served me well for a decade, I achieved my goals and got everything I wanted out of it. It served its purpose in my life for the time appointed. But that time ran out, and that’s my point. Just because something is right for you at one time in your life, doesn’t mean it’s right for at every moment in your life. I’m sure some folks on the outside looked at my retirement as quitting, couldn’t make it, as failure.

Society tends to only celebrate the success, and not the journey.

What is failure? What is success? It’s different for every person. YOU get to define it.

Here is what society sees, a picture of success. Impressive right?

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But here is reality, here is the ugly brutal journey behind that “success”. It’s not so glamourous.

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This brings me back to my question. What is success? By all of society’s measures, I had achieved success in my twenties. Successful business owner, married, wealthy, talented. However I had no life outside of work, was becoming sicker and sicker, was unhappy, in a toxic relationship, and deep down inside, was unhappy. Is that success?

In my twenties, yes, I checked off the “successful” box in my life, I had made it. In my thirties, hell no, that is NOT success. After I lost all my wealth, businesses, my ex husband, my 6 bedroom home and fancy car, I was happier than I had ever been in my life, yet I was dead broke, living with my parents, unemployed, and single. Is that success? Yes.

Yes because I define my own success. And the definition at this point in my life is peace, balance, happiness, time with friends and family, and an empowering relationship with a man who refuses to quit on me. (Thank you Brian! <3)

Now let’s talk about failure. I used to look back on my life and shudder with shame at the obvious failures. But now I can face the past with gratitude and without shame. Yoda says it best…

As humans we naturally work to avoid pain, it’s in our nature. But pain produces purpose. Whether we like it or not, it shapes us. Failure is a teacher. It was only because of the pain I went through that I now know my purpose in life.  Failure becomes a gift because it shows us how we can do better not only for ourselves but for the world.

Failure = Resilience.

Unless you stop getting back up after being knocked down, in my opinion, you’re not a failure. Failure is not getting back up. As long as you keep getting back on your feet, you’re not a failure, you are resilient. It’s ok to fail, it’s not ok to give up.

You’ll never meet a success leader without failures. For example:

My personal hero, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned for nearly 30 years, and afterwards became the president of his country and changed the face of a nation.

Bill Gates - Before building his empire, Gates started a business called Traf-O-Data which went nowhere and he dropped out of Harvard.

Thomas Edison - was told as a boy by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything and suggested he go into a field that did not require intelligence. He tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb. That’s a lot of failure.

Henry Ford - his first two car companies failed and left him broke.

Mark Cuban - Before making billions selling his company to Yahoo, Cuban failed at a variety of jobs. He failed as a carpenter, as a cook, as a waiter (he couldn't open a bottle of wine). He says of his failures, "I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed. You only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”

Walt Disney - was fired by an editor because, "he lacked imagination and had no original ideas." His first animation company went bankrupt and it's said that he was turned down hundreds of times when he sought financing for Disney World. The Walt Disney company makes average revenue of U.S. $30 billion annually.

Oprah - was fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore.

Van Gogh – sold one painting in his lifetime to a friend.

Failure forces us to develop ourselves. We have to drop bad habits and pick up new and better ones to move forward. After so many failures, you actually become better at failing. You start failing faster and failing forward as our CEO Paul Sarvadi says. Failure makes you stronger, smarter, and more aware. After suffering from abuse for so long, I can now spot a narcissist from a mile away. That’s a skill I picked up from my failure. It provides me with protection for myself and those I love. It developed emotional intelligence that has served me not only personally, but professionally as well. I wouldn’t have this skillset without my failure.

Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. - Micah 7:8

So what is failure? It’s not a person. YOU are not a failure, I am not a failure. We may have failed, but that does not make us failures. Leave that shame behind, honestly? No one cares about your failures as much as you. No one cares as much as you think they do.

What is success? It’s not wealth, status, or being popular. It’s what you define it to be for each stage of your life. Success for me is fighting for my marriage, work-life balance, time for myself and those I love, weekends on the beach, snuggling with our dogs, rebuilding our home, contributing to my company, and making the world a better place. This wasn’t always my definition of success, but that’s the beauty of life. It is what you make of it, good or bad, success or failure. It’s yours.

I have a vision board for what I want my life to look like to keep me focused and centered. It contains meditation, reading, wine, walking the dogs, toes in the sand, tickling my niece and nephew, nights out on the town with friends, singing, holding Brian’s hand, appreciating the skin I’m in, jazz music…etc. This is success for me as I define it for this time in my life.

Your failure is not final. Your success is not safety. But one thing they are for sure… yours.

taylor Golden