How do we overcome the nightmare of not doing everything others or ourselves expected us to? Some people have dreadful nightmares where they get chased by axe murderers or have a vicious lion tearing into them. I used to have nightmares about failure…specifically my personal life, work, and finances dissolving into a total failure. I had all the tools anyone could ever dream of at my disposal, yet I still feared that failure would be the direct cause of my inevitable demise. Failure is a part of life, especially as a creative building and expanding business. It is also nothing to be afraid of and certainly not anything you can’t handle. How should you handle failure? One simple phrase will lead us to handle our failures the right way: We feel, learn, strategize, then finally push through failure.
How do we feel failure?
In my opinion, this is the hardest step of the failure process. Today I’m challenging you to sink into failure. I’m not suggesting that you create failure by quitting your desk job that helps cover your car insurance (although, I can’t say I haven’t done something like this myself), but instead let yourself reflect on a time recently that something just didn’t go the way you planned. So part of the logo you’re designing just doesn’t look right. You dropped the ball on sending a thank you note to a client. Or maybe you have a tougher failure on your hands you can work through while reading this. Perhaps you can’t pay your intern this week. Maybe you missed an appointment with a client entirely. No matter what your failure was, take a deep breath and do what you’ve probably been avoiding since the failure first happened: think about how you feel about it.
If you’re anything like me, failure with work makes me feel physically sick and heavily disappointed in myself. In my weakest moments of failure I cling on to loved ones, complain to my family, or do something reckless. This always happens during those times at which I don’t acknowledge how failures impact me emotionally. Instead of coping, I repress. This is so easy to do, as many self made people are very task oriented and willing to move forward without reflecting-no matter what happens. And some think this is an asset. These same people might say, “you’re just being strong and moving forward,” or, my personal favorite, “stuff happens.”
HOWEVER if you don’t feel with your whole heart when you fail, how will you feel the glory of your successes? How can you connect with others that fail themselves or fail you?
In a digital age, it’s easy to lack human empathy or to desensitize ourselves to the very human world around us. But in order to grow as people and creative beings, it is critical to feel. Perhaps in embracing your sorrow resulting from failures, you’ll be inspired to create something you wouldn’t think to otherwise. As a writer, I can honestly say some of my best work comes to me when I have some sort of failure happening in my life. Maybe the experience of letting yourself hurt will help give you a new perspective. Empathizing through your own past experiences could not happen if you didn’t allow yourself to feel. Regardless of my own outcome resulting from feeling failures, I always find myself advocating others to feel fully. Because the highs just don’t seem as high without the occasional low.
How do we learn?
People learn in such a variety of ways. There are some people, like myself, who learn through trying and failing. Some, on the other hand, read to learn. Some can learn from what others advise them to do. Take a moment to consider how you used to learn in school or how you learn to perform a new task in your workload. Did you make notecards? Did you read through all the chapters in your manual or textbook? I’m betting you can learn to deal with your failures in the same way. Writing out what you did wrong or having someone you work with tell you what you did wrong can provide you with the opportunity to really learn about the situation that lead to your failure. Looking at this after evaluating the emotional impact of failure allows you to be aware of your emotions, but gives you the opportunity to try and consider the shortcoming from more of a logical perspective.
How can we develop strategies?
The best cure for a broken heart and analysis of our failures is a plan to move forward. Take what you learned from your reflections and feelings about your failure then ensure you take the appropriate measures to prevent them from happening again. This, at times, can be easier said than done. Personally, throughout college, I was a terrible student. I’d read, try, then study until I cried, however, it wasn’t until I approached the act of applying knowledge strategically that I saw improvement in my grades. I considered what I was doing wrong, applied learning strategies, and came back on top. The best way I found myself developing study strategies that transformed my work was by seeking help from someone else. Don’t be afraid to run your business strategies by others, it helps you get feedback that you not only need, but feedback that will help you grow as a strategist. Then, you implement these strategies you come up with in order to…
Finally Push Through That Failure
Moving forward from loss or mistakes can be tricky, but it’s important to remember the process that took you to get to where you are today. Be sure to have a grateful attitude towards every single person that was there for you through your failures. Also adopt gratitude for your failures-this will help you look forward at what’s ahead of you since you can leave the past fully with a glad heart. Many don’t choose to deal with their failures, allow failures to consume them, or let their failures define them, but by feeling, learning, strategizing, and moving past the situation, you’ll develop a better business mind that will be unafraid to face the next obstacle laid out in front of you.
We have a free worksheet that you can use when approaching failure in the future. It includes a step by step evaluation of how you can handle your failure using the ideas mentioned in the blog post.