This post is based on episode 190 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Most of us don’t want to learn about failure because we don’t want to fail.
But we all do.
And that’s okay, because failure is an essential part of any business. If you’ve never failed then you’ve probably stayed in your comfort zone. And the fact you’re holding back means you’ll never know just how successful you can be.
So learning how to overcome failure is critical. And in today’s post I’ll take you through six things I try to do when I’m facing failure or I’ve made a mistake – no matter how big or small it was.
A lot of these tips will apply to areas of your life outside of blogging. Unfortunately, blogging mistakes can sometimes become very public failures. The things we do may not work out, and there can be consequences.
Your Emotional Response to Failure
So what’s the first thing I do when I fail?
I freak out.
Yep, just like everyone else I panic and get upset, which is a perfectly natural way to react. It’s important to get those feelings out, rather than denying them or bottling them up.
Just make sure you’re not doing anything that could have long-lasting consequences – for you, those around you, or your business – while you’re getting those feelings out. (You may want to step away from your computer and avoid saying anything online while you’re going through this.)
Six Steps to Overcoming Failure
Once you’re past that initial emotional response, here are six steps you can follow to help overcome it.
Step #1: Separate Your Failure from Your Identity
Equating your self-worth with your achievements (or lack thereof) and what other people think of you is a huge trap.
The message we hear all the time – in conversations, the media and marketing messages – is that our self-worth equals what we achieve plus what others think of us.
So to be worthwhile we think we need to achieve a lot and have other people think well of us. We might not consciously think about this, but we constantly look for success and want to look good in front of other people.
But that’s not realistic.
All of us will fail in our personal and business life at some point or other. And there will always be times when other people don’t think much of us. If we base our self-worth on our success and other people’s perceptions, there will be times when we don’t have much at all.
Instead, look for something deeper to root your self-worth in. For me, it’s my faith. For you, it might be something different.
Just because something you tried in your business failed doesn’t make you a failure.
Step #2: Don’t Face it Alone
I often see friends fall into the trap of internalising their failure and facing it alone.
One of the best things you can do is to admit your failure and share it with at least one other person. It could be your partner, or perhaps a close friend. Even if they don’t understand your business, you can still talk to them about it.
Internalising your failure and not talking to anyone about it can make it seem far bigger than it really is, to the point where it can completely overwhelm you.
When you talk to someone about your failure, or even a concern you have about your business, it helps you put it into perspective. It can also help you to find solutions and ways forward.
Next, look for a second person to talk to – someone who does understand your business. That might be a fellow blogger, or perhaps a business coach or mentor.
Alternatively, you could look for a support group (such as the ProBlogger Community Facebook group) to share your failure or mistake and look for advice.
Finally, there might be times when you need a therapist or counselor. If your failure has really shaken your confidence or affected your mental health in some way, there’s no shame in asking for help from a professional.
Step #3: Be Transparent
When you talk to a friend, colleague or therapist about your failure, be transparent about it.
As you start processing your failure, you may realise it affects other people: a business partner or team member, or maybe even your readers.
When other people can be hurt by our mistakes, it’s tempting to hide our failures and pretend they didn’t happen, or even lie about them. But in most cases this just makes things worse.
It’s better to come clean.
Admit the failure to those affected by it, and own your part in it. Deal with the consequences, and try to right any wrongs that have been done.
Owning your mistakes and failures, and taking responsibility for them, is often well received by other people. Most people are generous and gracious, and may even be able to help you find a solution.
Step #4: Learn From It
I say to my kids all the time that making mistakes isn’t a bad thing. It’s making the same mistake repeatedly and not learning from it that’s an issue.
What can you learn from your failure? Why did it happen? What could you do differently next time to get a different result?
Don’t run away from your failure. Instead, embrace it. See it as a learning opportunity, and a chance to do things differently next time.
If you think back to previous failures you’ve had, you may realise that some of them made you who you are today. It’s easy to see in hindsight, but try to see it in the moment as well. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I turn it around?”
Step #5: Keep Moving
There are definitely times in business when we need to stop and take a break. After a failure, you may need to rest for a while so you can focus on looking after yourself. But then you need to move on and keep the momentum of your business going.
When I taught my youngest son to ride a bike, he had his fair share of crashes. He got scrapes and bruises on his elbows and knees. Understandably, there were moments after each crash when he said, “I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to ride a bike.”
That’s a natural reaction. But to learn how to ride a bike he needed to get back on and try again.
The same applies to your mistakes. Once you’re past the initial emotional reaction, and you’ve given yourself a bit of time to rest if necessary, you need to get back on that bike.
Identify your next best step. It might be to pick up the pieces and start again, or to evolve what you do. It may even be time for you to start something new.
Step #6: Look for the Positive Side
I know it annoys the people around me sometimes, but I always look for the positive side of things.
Even in the midst of incredible failure, there’s almost always a glimmer of something positive.
It may take a while for those glimmers to emerge. But when you see them, focus on them. The little sparks from a failure could well turn into your next big thing.
I can think of a lot of people who have experienced failure only to discover a new passion, including helping other people going through what they’ve been through.
Has something gone badly for you in your blogging or business life recently?
As you face failure, try to:
- Separate the failure from your identity and self-worth
- Turn to family, friends, fellow bloggers and professionals to help you get through it
- Be transparent and honest about the failure and its effect on those around you
- Learn from what happened so you can avoid making the same mistake again
- Keep moving and keep up your momentum: get back on that bike
- Look for any sparks of opportunity or anything good that can come out of your failure
While failure can be difficult to overcome at times, these six steps should help. Feel free to share how you get on with them in the comments.
Image credit:Jake Hills