If you have ever dared to dream mighty dreams, to pursue goals of grandeur—to not just imagine, but to chase down success—chances are you have failed at least once in one of your pursuits. Often, we jump, taking a leap of faith, not knowing whether or not we will be able to fly. Many, paralyzed by the fear of failure, play it safe in their careers, never experiencing the thrill of realizing seemingly unachievable dreams. In cases like these, those who never experience failure, in actuality, fail to ever begin. But, if you are one of the select few who have chased a dream and failed, take heart. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. So, it’s time to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep going. Yes, you crashed and burned, but as Winston Churchill once said, “failure is not fatal.” Get up, brush yourself off, and take these next steps toward success.
Allow the weight of the failure to hit you … but don’t dwell.
Whether you lost a major client or your side hustle failed, acting as if the letdown was insignificant doesn’t help you grow from your mistakes or shortcomings—it’s merely a delusion that will sidetrack you from your end goal. Take some time to feel the weight of it all. Meditate on how the result negatively affected your psyche, emotions, and self-concept. Take those feelings and understand that these emotions don’t define you. You are not a failure because you failed. Because you failed, you are one step closer to success. Abraham Lincoln, who failed several times before being elected president put it this way: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
Try to understand what went wrong.
Once you can look at the situation with a crisp, sober mind, it is important to go over the entire process. Outlining or journaling the journey from start to finish will help you see the big picture with step-by-step precision. Starting with the original moment of idea conception, go through the brainstorming process, and then, map out how you planned to achieve your idea. If you had confidants or reached out to investors, break down how you approached your peers and business partners. Once you’ve gone through the beginning, write out how you launched the idea and what you did to keep it going. This process could be as concise as a single page or as thorough as 10—the point is to capture everything you controlled during your trial. After this is completed, decide where you went wrong.
Decide what you can do better.
This next step may be the most important part of your goal reassertion. Knowing why you failed can only positively affect your success if you actually do something about it. Decide what you can do better, how you can right the wrongs of the past attempt. There’s always a better way of doing things—look for it or create it. In business as in life, you can only control your actions; you can’t control other people’s. However, you can control how you react to others’ actions. If your failures were caused by an outside party, determine what you could have done better to counteract the attack on your idea. It could be as vague as a season of bull economy that kept your market leery of getting on your bandwagon, or it could be as specific as a competitor stealing market share. Regardless of the outside factor, determine what you could have done differently to combat it.
Reevaluate your end goals.
After you make adjustments to your game plan, you may need to reevaluate your end goals. Are they still applicable to your current situation? Do you still want the specific result you were striving for, or did your failure evaluation open your mind to different, and possibly, better ideas? One famous example of this is what a scientist at office supply company 3M experienced. He was tasked to develop an adhesive, but after one failed attempt after another, his adhesive wasn’t permanent. It would stay on the paper but not bind the paper to another object. By reconsidering what he was trying to accomplish, he was able to change the goal to a semi-permanent adhesive, which became the prototype to Post-it Notes used in homes and businesses across the world.
Steel yourself and begin again.
Failure can be a major mental setback in your journey, but by understanding its effects on you, determining what went wrong, deciding what you can do differently, and reevaluating your goals, you are one step closer to success—although, that one step may be the hardest step to take. Peers and co-workers may judge you and you may second-guess yourself, but as the Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish.” In the end, it is the foolish dreamer who, through action, achieves the success that the one playing it safe never will. Yes, you crashed and burned, but it’s time to look forward toward the end goal—you are now one step closer to success.
What have you done to overcome failure? How do you steel yourself and begin again? Let us know in the comments section below!
Great article. I’m about to visit with a friend who is going through a significant leadership job loss. Thank you for this insight.