What’s the best way to fail?

May 24, 2019 | Small Business Support

For an entrepreneur, failing is often considered a rite of passage. Some say fail fast and fail often.  It can also be argued that encouraging entrepreneurs to fail fast and often means they don’t actually have time to learn from those failures.

The reality is, as a startup or business owner you will fail at some point.  

A product will flop, a process will be too onerous, you will have missed the mark with your target audience. But a successful entrepreneur will look at those failures through a multi-faceted lens that assesses failure from numerous vantage points, subjectively and objectively, and uses that analysis to do better the next time.

So, what is the best way to deal with failure? The first step is to learn from it and we offer some tips to move forward after things go wrong:

Don’t beat yourself up

Failure is a part of life. Think back to the times when something went wrong in your life. How did you cope? What tools or support did you use to overcome them? What advice did you receive that helped you get over those humps? Mine your failure memories for proven tools and tactics and try them out again. You might need to tweak the recipe, but chances are you can overcome and learn from this episode as well.

Find the silver lining

Sometimes you can find the funny in an otherwise ridiculous or difficult situation. Other times, you’ll tease out a lesson or you can tell yourself, “Well, at least this or that didn’t happen” or “It could have been worse!” Find the silver lining in your failure and turn it into a golden opportunity!

Visualize failure

Take the time to imagine all the ways your product launch/event/workshop/new service could go wrong before you launch. This will help you develop contingency plans as well as a healthy, pro-active attitude about failure should it occur. Visualizing failure will make you feel better prepared to deal with hurdles as they pop up and offer you different ways you might frame them when they do.

Reframe it

Reframing is a technique most often used in therapy that helps individuals create ways of looking at a situation from slightly different perspectives. Considered an important tool in the resiliency toolbox, reframing a failure offers insight into what you can learn from a less-than-ideal situation.

Have failure mechanisms in place

To ensure that failure leads to personal and professional growth you should have a failure plan in place. Examine how you approach the idea of failure: do you typically look for places to cast blame? Are you overly self-criticizing or do you cut yourself some slack when a failure comes along that was not necessarily under your control? Are you someone who is open and willing to explore failure for deeper learning? Do you take the time to reflect on what went wrong and how? Do you examine what’s going right on a regular basis so you can improve and/or apply these practices in other areas of your business? Define the parameters of your risk zone and what you need to do to stay within it.

From our early years we’re taught how to succeed, but seldom are we taught that failure can also be a skill. An ‘intelligent failure’ framework will help you build the resiliency and adaptability skills required to learn and grow stronger from your mistakes – making the next time you fail a mere blip on your journey to success.


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