She Was Thrilled By Her Failure: You Should Be Too

When you are faced with the realization that something has failed – your business model, your offer, your promotional pitch, whatever it might be – it’s a hard pill to swallow and can make you feel like giving up everything.

by | Jul 3, 2017 | 9 comments

Her journey to failure

I have a client who approached me after a couple of years in business. I loved her product and we had stayed in touch during those two years, when she had asked me a few questions and I had helped her out here and there.

When she finally asked me to engage with her in a more formal capacity as her business coach, she was at the point where she thought she had a stable growth business yet she was still filled with anxiety and unease, with less than stellar results. Something was still not quite right.

After a few sessions analyzing her data and building her a plan, she had had time to think, and realized that the way things were was just not going to work without her sacrificing things she wasn’t willing to sacrifice.

When you are faced with the realization that something has failed – your business model, your offer, your promotional pitch, whatever it might be – it’s a hard pill to swallow and can make you feel like giving up everything, or hiding out in a tent in the back yard where no one can find you, shotgunning Lucky until you forget you ever had a business in the first place.

Need help creating a plan? I’ve got your back here.

Don’t panic, this is a gift. You can make failure work for you.

My client came to our meeting one day and said “I’ve figured it out. I’m shutting this business down, at least the one I have right now. I know now what I need to change and I’ve got to start from scratch.”

I asked her if she was OK with this. It was the right choice but that choice came with some pretty emotional weight. She would have to completely re-engineer everything – her sales relationships, her operations, all her product marketing, everything.

“Yes!” she said, “I realized I had completely gone down the wrong path. I spent a few days being frustrated and upset with what I thought was a couple of years of wasted time, but now I know I can make decisions that feel right because of what I learned.”

Her relief was palpable and she radiated confidence. Gone was the uncertainty and stress, replaced by enthusiasm and energy.

She had given herself permission to fail. She had given herself a gift.

When failure happens

Part of what makes failure difficult is admitting that it happened. I have a tendency against losing and so I always try to convince myself that the proverbial obese lady has not yet sung.

Part of what makes failure difficult is admitting that it happened. Click To Tweet

But doing so is failing in itself. You need to place a stake in the ground and call it what it is if you hope to gain anything from the experience. Closure and a decisive end will help you get moving to the next stage where you can benefit from the situation.

Failure can only be defined by you and your expectations. The sooner you get used to setting out the goals and objectives of any given activity when you start, the sooner you can know when you’ve failed to reach these, and take action to reap the rewards.

It’s not personal

When I finally left my first business after 7 years, I felt humiliated and embarrassed by my lack of resounding success. I imagined everyone judging me and shaking their heads, thinking “We knew she wasn’t up to the task!”.

I struggled for many weeks before I finally came to the conclusion that none of the reasons to continue made good business sense. I would be swimming upstream only to protect my ego.

Failure can only be defined by you and your expectations.

I armed myself with every explanation I could to ensure people knew this was a business decision, but secretly I was dreading these conversations.

In reality, no one cared. They *might* have been interested, casually, because they cared about me, but more often they were interested in what I was going to do next. In fact, most of them rallied and said “We can’t wait to see what your next move will be!”.

Had I known what I was walking away with, I would have felt like the richest person in the world, giddy with a suitcase full of the most valuable information I was ever going to have, and the foundation for building the business of my dreams (no, I haven’t started selling wine on a baby goat farm – yet!).

Ego will always be the biggest stumbling block, but I can guarantee your failure won’t matter to many in terms of how they view you. It will be an interesting observation, at worst, and a teachable moment for them at best.

More likely than not, they will have mad respect for your bravery and courage to try. 80% of them would never be able to do what you do.

Run straight and fast into failure

When you hesitate or hedge in your business activities, you’re wasting precious time and resources. I see the experience of becoming an expert as a funnel.

You start out with a wide range of possible paths, and you bump around, directionless, until one of these failures creates a boundary for you. Then, you will no longer go in that direction.

The more of these boundaries that you acquire, the more focused and clear your path will be. The walls of your funnel are made of all the things you learned and that you know to be, unequivocally, true. If you never failed, you’d still be fannying about, wasting time and being only vaguely sure of where you need to go next.

Hit failure as hard as you can and acknowledge it quickly. The faster you do, the faster you can get on track in the direction you want to head. And, friend, you will be a little bit wiser.

Hit failure as hard as you can and acknowledge it quickly. Click To Tweet

The gift you will get

You know why Gandalf is so damn good at what he does? Cause he’s spent an eternity screwing up with creatures like the Balrog, who whipped his wizardly ass good and hard such that the poor little Hobbits were left without their leader to meander through Middle Earth on their own.

You don’t get to be a wizard without an ass-kicking.

When you screw up, you get to be absolutely certain that something will not work. You get new experience and you get to be smarter about something. You get to level up your expertise and, most importantly, you get the gift of confidence.

Confidence, in the business world, is pure, shiny gold. It is the currency of growth.

Confidence, in the business world, is pure, shiny gold. It is the currency of growth. Click To Tweet

Every time something doesn’t go your way, give a little cheer and be THRILLED that you are one step closer to the right solution.

If you need to have a night of drinking to give your idea a proper wake, just make sure you’ve recorded what you’ve learned before you hit the pub, cause that stuff will become part of your fabric for the rest of your business owning career.

Treat failure as a business metric

Stop trying to do everything right. You’ll never learn and you will end up with a whitewashed business that no one relates to, not even you! You will live in a world of uncertainty and “what ifs”.

In fact, make it a mandate that you’re going to take something on that you have a high chance of getting wrong, particularly if it’s one of those things that you’ve avoided doing forever because you just aren’t sure how to do it.

If you’re scared of it, make it mandatory. Schedule in at least three things you’re going to do wrong every year, or every quarter. Make them necessary because that is the only way you will grow.

You know those business celebrities that make your insides shrink every time you see them win?

You know how they got there?

They screwed up. A lot. And they did it on purpose.

I’m so addicted to screwing up now, that I can’t wait to just jump in and get going on what I know I will fail at, because very soon I will be much closer to doing it successfully.

Responsibility disclaimer: Always make good choices about how much you are going to wager. If you’re going to lose your life savings, maybe build yourself a plan first and be prepared to lose only in small ways that aren’t going to leave you living in a box under an overpass.

Start again, armed and dangerous

Finally, when you’ve failed, make a point of getting back on the horse right away and planning your next attack. Develop a system to capture and reflect on what you did and where you figure it went off the rails. Bring in an expert to help you do a post-mortem. Post in your groups and ask for some feedback.

Then, build a plan for Round 2. Make different mistakes this time and inch a little closer to your goal, and build some more funnel walls so you can slither your way down to success.

Tell me in the comments…

I’m rooting for you! Let me know what you’re afraid of failing at right now and how you plan to embrace that failure.

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Stephanie Hayes Business Strategist and Coach for Small Business and Entrepreneurs. What to do when you're feeling stuck in your business? How to scale your business to get sustainable growth? Stephanie is a business success coach for experienced entrepreneurs, creating detailed business models and plans (Vancouver).

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