Blaine Cardinale | Crain's Tampa Bay

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Blaine Cardinale

Background:  

Mosquito Joe is a Virginia Beach, Va.-based pest control company with franchises across the U.S. Blaine Cardinale – along with his wife, Kristin, and father, Randy – owns and operates Mosquito Joe of Tampa Bay, which has more than 1,000 customers and was the first Mosquito Joe franchise to offer health benefits to its employees. Blaine Cardinale is a 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and continues to serve in the Navy Reserve as a helicopter pilot.

The Mistake:

Other things took priority over studying and doing well.

My big mistake happened after I got out of the Naval Academy. It's very strict there. So when I arrived at flight school in Pensacola, Florida, it was time to have a good time. I didn't have a curfew and I wasn't very disciplined in my studies, even though I had grown up wanting to be a jet fighter pilot. I’d ridden in fast jets and I knew that's what I was meant to do and wanted to do. And I could tell you where every bolt was located on those planes. But when I got to flight school, other things took priority over studying and doing well.

Now, I did OK. I was a decent student, but I didn’t get jet grades. You have to have a certain level of score, and it's averaged across the past two years of the people who have come in. You have to be in the top whatever percentile in order to be even eligible to fly jets, and I was not. I was absolutely devastated because I had let myself down. I felt I had let my family down. 

I ended up choosing helicopters and did well enough at least to get winged and become a helicopter pilot. But I was still pretty devastated that I didn't do well enough to even have the option for jets. I was very hard on myself about that.

My failure turned into one of the things that I’m most proud of in my life.

The Lesson:

I was really worried what people were going to say about me, and never really looked at the situation from the perspective of, “You know, I'm a winged naval aviator.” There’s a pretty high washout rate. The U.S. Naval Academy doesn’t accept even 10 percent of the people that apply.

And so I got to fly helicopters, and what I've come to realize after being a helicopter pilot since 2006 is that I've helped way more people [than I would have by flying jets]. I've taken hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and aid to victims of natural disasters. I was part of the Hurricane Felix relief in Honduras and Nicaragua. My squadron and community -- though not myself personally -- were part of the relief efforts during hurricanes Katrina and Ivan and earthquakes in Haiti, Pakistan, and Indonesia. 

I've been in the military, going on 17 years now, and I've never had to fire a shot. I've been able to help thousands of people. And really, at the end of the day, that's such a great feeling. I feel that God had a plan for me, and my failure turned into one of the things that I’m most proud of in my life.

No matter how devastating it is to you – when you step back and take that 30,000-foot view – sometimes a failure happens for a reason, and something good's going to come of it. Don't be discouraged by a past failure, because it can open a door to a new opportunity to do good.

Follow Mosquito Joe on Twitter at @MosquitoJoe.

Photo courtesy of Blaine Cardinale

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