Failure is temporary, but it can permeate a life. Most of us have had numerous failures in our lives and when we choose to focus in the failures rather than the successes, we can find ourselves n a dark place. Repeated failure could mean that we need better knowledge, better skill, or better strategy. Too often, rather than trying to gain what we are lacking to succeed, we try the same things over and over or we quit.
My failures have haunted me for most of my life. I thought (and often still think) that failure is a reflection of me. Regardless of my successes in life, I often think that I am a failure. I use failure as a way to identify myself as a person. This leads to a mindset that expects failure and is surprised by success.
Failures diminish confidence and the more often I fail, the less confident I am that I can become successful at any endeavor. Without confidence, the will to attempt anything weakens. The expectations to produce anything worthwhile are lowered. This can lead to a sense of despair and eventually loneliness or depression.
Is there a better way to face failure without the leadership mantras, the sports analogies, movie quotes, or the pop psychology one liners? Here is a list (mostly unoriginal) of five things we can do when we face failure.
1. Call it what it is. Pretending that failure is something other than failure will get you nowhere. You can fail. You can fail frequently, but with each failure there needs to be an acceptance of
the failure. That does not mean that you are satisfied with the failure, but only that you know it is not success in disguise.
2. Analyze what caused the failure. Did you have all of the information you needed? Sometimes we start something thinking we know everything we need to know to be successful, only to find out later that there were holes in our understanding. Did outside forces act against you? Was there a competitor who outperformed you? Did the stock market take an unforeseen downturn? Was it a failure of communication? Sometimes, we think we have communicated the mission, vision, and values clearly, but the people who heard it did not get it.
3. Plan to do things differently the next attempt. Based on your analysis, make a new plan. Get new, better, or more accurate information. Consult others who have been through similar struggles to find out what they did. In other words, grow your ability to see things differently. Hoping you will get lucky or that your failure was simply a stroke of bad luck will not help you succeed in the next attempt. Make a better plan.
4. Do better. Sometimes we think we fail because other people dropped the ball. The marketing team spent too much with minimal results. The production manager did not deliver on time. Supply chains slowed the roll out. My significant other did not support me as much as I needed. The reasons (excuses) could go on indefinitely. When you fail, personally or as a team, take responsibility. What could you have done differently? What could you have done better? Recognizing your part in the failure helps you to know what you need to do better the next time.
5. Move. Too often, when we fail, we stay in the disappointment, the anger, the frustration for too long. Those feelings are normal and understandable. Failing does not and should not feel good. Move away from it. Act. Be decisive. Try again, differently, or try something else. Being content with failing or deciding to never try again after failing will lead to more feelings of loss, anger, and disappointment. If the first book did not sell as expected, then write anther one. If your business failed, start planning the next one. If your relationship failed, push yourself to be around people and build new relationships.
The truth is that success in life, in business, in parenting, in marriage, in education, in competition is never guaranteed. Failure comes more often than we want to admit. It stays longer than we want it to stay. It can become devastating if we do not act. Use failure to grow your life. It will be worth the effort!