How to Handle Failure

I was having coffee with a fellow business owner last week, and he was beating himself up big time.  He had recently made a big investment in his business on an initiative he was 100% certain would kick off and return.  However, it didn’t.  He lost a lot of money, lost a lot of momentum, and lost a lot of confidence in himself.

As we sipped coffee together, he was reliving the experience, pointing out all of his mistakes and being hard on himself for making them.  His state became more and more negative and he continued to spiral around the drain of despair as our conversation continued.

I allowed him to continue for some time, and did so for a reason. When he was finished wallowing in defeat, I asked him how he felt, how energized he was and how excited he was to go back into business?  With his head hung low, he said: “Not at all.” 

We then had a discussion about focus and what you focus on in life, leadership and business when things go well, and also go not so well.  He realized he was focusing on the defeat, the missed opportunity, the wrong decisions, and not the lessons learned,  the way this failure actually made him stronger and more resilient, and most importantly, what he was going to do about it moving forward.

In life, leadership, and small business, you will fail.  You will miss the mark.  You will make the wrong call. You will say the wrong thing.  This week, I would like to share some encouragement and practical tips about what to do when this happens. 

I have failed many times in my journey as a small business leader.  Here is what I found:

  • Focus on the lesson hidden within the failure. Every time you fail, there is an important lesson that you can learn.  You will only learn it if you look for it.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Many times, when I have failed, I will then compare my current situation to one of another who is succeeding.  Then I begin to feel worse about myself and my situation.  It is never good to compare yourself to others, especially in times of failure.
  • Ask for help, insight, and advice. Many other small business owners have gone through the same thing you are.  Most are willing to give advice on to how they handled the situation.
  • Be careful who you seek advice from. Some people are not wired with the mindset to embrace failure.  To them, failure is the first excuse and reason to quit something.  Do not let these ideas rub off on you.
  • Debrief on your failure. Seek to understand how and why the failure occurred so it is less likely to happen again in the future.
  • Create an action plan moving forward. It is important after a failure to debrief, and from that debrief create an action plan to move ahead.  You may need to make some small adjustments to your plan.  You may require a total overhaul.  Point is, go back to the drawing board, make a plan, and take action again.
  • Remember, other entrepreneurs and leaders are also going through and experiencing failure. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being 100% honest with you.

Keep driving forward with your business and leadership journey and embrace failure as an event filled with lessons to grow and develop you. 

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