Let’s be real…failure stinks. I don’t care if you’re failing forward, backward or upside down. If it’s happening to you, it stings. I should know; it has happened for me more lately than I care to admit. And I don’t like it. I’m declaring it my new “F-word,” even if it does mean I’m doing something right.
I’ll never forget a going-away lunch I had with a co-worker when I left to focus on leadership coaching and consulting full-time. He gave me the nicest, most supportive card Hallmark sells for this sort of thing. Inside he wrote, “I wish you the very best of luck and all the failures you need to succeed!” Awww, wait, what? He wished me “failures?” I didn’t really appreciate it at the time but I sure get it now. I’ve been on this journey of launching my own business for nearly two years and it has been one of the greatest, most frustrating and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve learned a ton so far and learning to fail has been one of the toughest lessons yet. I haven’t quite mastered failure but here are three lessons I’ve picked up so far that may save you some heartache on your own journey.
1. Keep the failure in perspective. Did I “fail” to meet someone else’s expectations or my own?
I have come to realize that 99% of the time my definition of a “fail” is failure to meet my own very high (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations of myself. As I’ve considered some of my reactions to past “failures” I’ve come to realize that I was reacting solely on my feelings about my performance. Even when my clients have expressed gratitude and satisfaction, I find myself assuming they are just being kind as I focus, obsessively, on what I could have done better. In the end, I was beating myself up over what I believed I “should” have been capable of doing. And if you’ve followed any of my other posts you know that my acronym for SHOULD is Stop Handing Over Ur Life’s Decisions. (Maybe I should create one for hypocrisy).
What I’ve learned is that whether I’ve “failed” my client or myself, I have to keep it all in perspective. I’m not exactly a brain surgeon or a bomb detonation specialist. If I don’t meet every single objective in a training session or get 20 minutes of applause from an audience, no one dies. What really matters is that I bring genuine care and concern for the people that I am privileged to serve. So if I crash and burn trying to meet the ridiculously high standards I hold for myself occasionally then, at the very least, I have done it with love and hopefully left a little of that behind. I’m not sure that’s too epic of a “failure.”
If you’re going to “fail,” do it with love.
2. I hate to admit it but…it HAS to happen.
Learning is simply not possible without failure. This is my least favorite lesson because it’s the one that gets plastered every darn place usually in the form of a quote about Edison, Jobs or Jordan (that would be Michael; you know the one about all the shots missed blah, blah, blah). As a recovering perfectionist, the idea that I have to fail to learn is a really tough one to take. But it’s true. I’ve never built and owned a business before. It’s very different from what I’ve done over the last 20 years but I’m expecting the same level of proficiency from myself. That’s just dumb.
To really drive this point home, my mentor recently shared, “People have to earn the right to be really great at something.” And she’s right. You have to work hard, make mistakes, fall down and get back up a few times to really earn it. You’ll learn what to do better and what to never do again. You’ll learn who you really are in those times and you’ll get those really cool scars that make for awesome stories. If you want to be great, you just have to screw it up sometimes. Learn from it and keep growing.
It’s cliché but it’s true. If you aren’t failing…you aren’t learning.
3. Failure can be avoided.
This one is easy. If you don’t want to fail, then quit trying.
Quitting almost always seems the easiest option. I’m not proud of how often I consider it. However, I have been pleased to learn that this is a pretty common struggle for anyone doing anything worth doing. I’m probably pleased because misery does love company and, honestly, anything that normalizes my wackadoodle state of mind is, in fact, pleasing.
Building this business, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am literally the only thing standing between me and my vision. Just me. There is no one forcing me to take risks or to learn and try new things. I am choosing to bring my gifts to the world in a new way. I am choosing to help and influence people in a way I could never do before. I am choosing to try! And I have to keep choosing to try every day. When I “fail” at some part of this thing, the choice becomes a little harder but I’m committed to it. Therefore, I have to be committed to failing from time to time. It’s the same for you. Whether you’re starting a new career, taking on an expanded role or picking up a new hobby, you’re likely choosing to grow into something new. Growth equals change, change equals risk and risk equals possible failure. Making a commitment to growth is making a commitment to failure.
If you don’t want to fail, you don’t have to. Unless, of course, you just have
My hope for you is that you'll cut yourself some slack when it comes to figuring out what doesn't work, keep it in perspective, learn from it and don't quit what really matters to you.
May you have all the “F-words” you need to succeed!
Posted on Tue, April 25, 2017
by Angie Noel filed under