How to Succeed at Failing

How to Succeed at Failing

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Today I want to chat about failure. It's actually one of my more favorite topics because I have had some colossal failures in business before I started to succeed. I want to talk about failing in a fun way and how we can succeed at failing.

Strategy 1: Don’t give a failure any more meaning than it needs to have.  It doesn't mean that we are failures. When we say, "I am a failure," now we're feeling shame around the failure, or guilt around the failure.  Let's not attach a good or bad to it, it just is what it is. Sometimes that's really hard.

My husband and I had a business that we started up about ten years ago. It was a multiple six figure start up and it was under-capitalized, from the start. We were incredibly naïve going into this business, which sometimes works for you and sometimes doesn't. We gave it a go for about five years.

During this time, there was a lot of financial failure, for us. We weren't really sure how we were going to be paying the mortgage. We weren't really sure how we were putting food on the table. We had two small kids. It was very stressful and it was hard to not attach meaning to it. That really took a hit on our confidence and our beliefs about ourselves. We felt like giant screw ups. We felt really irresponsible having a family and putting ourselves at this much financial risk.

Strategy 2: One of the lessons that we learned from that was to fail fast.  Don't take five years to completely fail. Go bust, because that was a really long drawn out painful experience for us.

If you're not getting the result that you want, change something.  Create awareness around what you're doing and what's working and what's not working. Then take action on what's not working. We didn't really do that, right? We didn't change anything. We didn't change enough. We didn't experiment along the way. We just were like, "We're going to it this way, this way, this way." Even though we weren't getting the results we wanted, we were just going to keep plugging along, doing this, this, this, this. We failed really slowly that way.

Strategy 3: Have a process for moving through a failure.  Look at your business and do an analysis on it. When something isn't working and there is a problem, what is the problem? Why is that a problem? Then give your next answer. Then why is that a problem? Give your next answer. And why is that a problem? Keep asking "why" five times to get to the root cause of what is really going on there.

Strategy 4: Make failing a happy experience and not one that really starts to crush your confidence. When we sit too long in failure, confidence erodes further and further.

 Are you attaching your self-worth to whether you fail or succeed? Does a failure mean you're not worthy? Does a failure mean you're not good enough. Does a failure mean that you don't have any value to offer? We can work on removing how we attach ourselves to our failures, and to know that a failure isn't really a reflection on our worth.

Look at failure as feedback. If you're not succeeding and you experience a failure, something's not working.  It's just feedback for your actions, not feedback for your emotions. When you fail at something and it's giving you feedback, you go back and look at the actions you've taken and see where there is a misalignment. Something isn't lining up. Something isn't adding up. You didn't reverse engineer something properly and you have to go back to the drawing board.  Look at that, just merely, as feedback.

That’s how to succeed at failing. Don't always rush to reframe it. We have to fail. Failure is just a part of the process.  If we fear failure, we will never succeed. We will never take the risk. We will never step out in front and start to really lead. The way to really get past this fear of failing is to realize that you can succeed at failing. Failing is just a necessary part of the game.


Tara Newman