When we talk about success, we need to ask “Do you have what it takes to fail?”
All innovation and growth comes from a place of brilliant ideas, execution, motivation and the specter of potential failure.
You can’t have success without the potential for things to fall completely apart.
Yesterday I could barely breathe as I watched Felix Baumgartner jump from the edge of space. Talk about the potential for disastrous failure.
Would we applaud him if he had jumped out of a two story window? Of course not. He took a huge risk with the potential for huge success or failure. That is why we watched. To see which end of the success cycle he would ultimately end up with.
I’m not suggesting you jump out of the sky to move your life forward. What I am saying is that when we feel that we want to grow, we need to accept that failure is a possibility and prepare.
Success, Failure and Your Business
Any successful business person will tell you they have succeeded AND failed. The people who really get to where they want to go are those who fail and get up and try again.
But getting up again isn’t as easy as it sounds. We have emotions tied into success and failure. Those who can manage their emotions to move on are the ones who will eventually succeed.
How to cope with potential failure.
The only way I know how to cope with the potential of failure is this:
- Accept that failure is possible. I don’t dwell on it. I just know it can happen. That way I’m not devastated if things don’t work out.
- Try to stay objective about you work. As much as I do work I love and has meaning to me, I keep perspective that my work doesn’t define who I am as a person. Whether you succeed or fail, you’re still good.
- View failure as a learning opportunity. The social scientist in me doesn’t see negative results as simply bad. I see them as informative. I ask myself, “Why didn’t this work?” “What could I do differently next time?” “What improves this outcome?” We only hear about scientists’ positive results, but just know that for every positive result there are many negative ones in a drawer somewhere in their office. They use those failures to inform the next experiment and improve every step along the way.
- Have a Plan B and maybe C. Lots of entrepreneurs will tell you they succeeded because they had no Plan B and had to go “all in” to their project or die trying. This may work for a select few people, but most of us have responsibilities that prevent us from taking the risk that we might need to live in a car for a few months. It’s fine to have a plan if the A game doesn’t pan out.
- Take risk slowly. Sometimes just telling people about your idea feels risky. Some people will love it and others won’t. Before you sell anything new you need to talk about it, test it on people you trust, test it on people you don’t know, offer a taste for a free, offer more for a fee. And then listen to feedback. Walk into your new project with a plan to release it slowly. This way, if you start to hear a lot of negative feedback you can retweak or abandon ship before your risk is huge and scary.
- Honor your feelings. This is a hard one to do in entrepreneurial circles where “courage” and “bravery” are valued. Here’s the truth. Honoring your feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety is healthy. Pushing through disappointment fatigues you and can kill your mojo. If you fail, take some time to lick your wounds. Take a day off. Rest your brain. Your energy and creativity will come back sooner if you let your feelings take care of you.
Growth means risk and sometimes we don’t succeed.
Accepting the highs and lows of growing is something we did naturally as children and teens. As adults we need to push ourselves to stretch our boundaries and grow up beyond where we are now.
Knowing that failure is part of the process should be reassuring. You are never alone in the cycle of success.
What say you? How do you deal with the emotions of failure?