Failure sucks. No one really enjoys it. But should you?
There is just really nothing endearing or charming about screwing it all up. You work so hard, only to find yourself dusting off your arms and legs, sometimes with some pretty significant bumps and bruises.
Failure can really be painful, especially when you wanted something so bad it hurt. Trust me…I’ve been there. But after thousands of failures, I have come to accept that failure is part of the journey, an important piece of our lives. Now, that didn’t happen overnight. I fought it. Hard. I still get pissed off when I fail, and it still burns like the first time. But without the agony of failure we might not ever fully appreciate the joy of success. Because in many ways, the two go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.
Failure and success aren’t opposites, but rather complimentary to one another. Hot and cold. Day and night. Fast and slow. Big and little. These are truly opposites. We often better understand one after first experiencing the other. But failure is a little different. I recently read this anonymous quote: “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
Maybe success and failure are totally complimentary to one another.
So it should really be no surprise that almost every entrepreneur and business owner I have ever encountered could fill an entire evening with conversations of failure. In short, if you aren’t failing, then you aren’t trying. Since failure is part of building a business, the conversation is not really about how to avoid failure, but more importantly, how to face it.
I’d like to avoid failure just as much as the next guy or gal, but I have done my best to put together some tips that have helped me to make failure part of my journey to success:
Listen to the lesson when you fail. There is a valuable lesson to learn every time you fail. It might be as simple as taking a different approach the next time around. Or it could be much more significant, like hiring a different project manager or killing a failing investment. Listen carefully to your failure, as it always comes with a lesson to help you do better the next time around. Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Success is dependent on whether you keep trying. If you want to make it to the finish line, then you absolutely have to keep trying, even when you don’t want to. Failing can really hurt. A lost relationship. A bad business investment. A failed product launch. These all suck, in varying degrees. But you’re always one step away from hitting your stride and reaching your goals. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Had he given up after 9,999, we might still be sitting in the dark.
Set yourself up for failure. Only a true moron wouldn’t plan for failure. It is coming, like death and taxes. So if you know it is inevitable, the more you plan for it the easier it will be to recover from it. It is like saving for retirement. You gotta’ set something aside each and every month. If you build a castle made of sand, one good wave can wipe it out. However, if you know failure is eventually coming your way, then start working on your plan “b” and maybe even a plan “c.” Otherwise you are going to feel that failure twice as much. And make sure you NEVER risk the core. Since you know the failure is coming, make sure that it won’t ruin everything else you built.
Don’t let failure define you. Michael Jordan said, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Don’t let the misses define you. Let the makes and even the attempts show the world that you are gritty, tenacious, and a true ass-kicker. Failure is a feather in your cap, not a commentary on who you are. Stay enthusiastic and move on quickly, remembering the lesson but not dwelling on it.
The lesson here is that failure IS an option.
And that is okay. But take it for what it is worth…part of the journey. Give it time and effort, but don’t allow it to be the focus of your very existence. There is a fine line between success and failure, and at the end of the day you are the one that defines it.