How do I overcome failure?

I write this at the beginning of August.  Two – three weeks until Josie, my 16-year-old daughter gets her GCSE results and all the possible angst that goes with it.

When you read this, she’ll know those results, as will I.  We’ve had a great chat about it.  About what happens if she doesn’t get what she wants. 

Josie shrugged her shoulders – “I can always do them again”.

The wisdom of children.

Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.

It’s a Japanese proverb.

And they’d be right.

In business, you’re going to fail sometimes. It’s a dead cert.

But you can’t lose heart. Failure is an important part of life and of business success.

We should embrace it, learn from it and, as the proverb advises, keep going.


We gain knowledge

The failure is an opportunity to learn whether something works or not.

If it doesn’t, we can cross it off the list of potential approaches to a process or problem.

Now we’re one step closer to finding a more worthwhile solution.

We make progress

You’ve got to try new things in business. It’s as simple as that.

You’ve got to get ready for failure. The famous entrepreneur Elon Musk believes that you should always try something if it is important enough, even if there is a strong chance you could fail. He believes the failure is worth it to make progress and that failure is a sign that you’re innovating.

Aim for the moon and — at the very least — you’ll fall among the stars. You might be short of the mark, but you’ll have made significant progress.

We build strength

Fail once and it’s disheartening. Fail twice and it’s a little less so. Fail a third time and it’s even easier still to accept.

All because you’ve been there before. Gradually, you overcome any fear of failure and hold back less. 

A failure isn’t a failure; it’s a challenge to overcome.

Learn from it and pursue your goals and dreams with everything you’ve got.

This is how successful entrepreneurs make it to where they are.

We acquire experience

Experience is the greatest teacher. There’s nothing like first-hand experience of a problem to learn how to solve it.

Don’t get me wrong. Failure hurts, but it also gives us the chance to walk away with a deeper understanding.

We’ll reflect on the nature of the problem — did we understand it correctly? Did we address it from the wrong angle?

Then if the same issue arises again, we’ll know better how (not) to deal with it.

How to overcome your fear of failure

Pop quiz: What do Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson and the great Abraham Lincoln all have in common?

The answer is, they all persevered in the face of failure but just kept going. If they’d let the failure overwhelm them, they wouldn’t have risen to the top of their field. 

You can be like them.

You need to dispense with your fears and believe in yourself, your skills and your ability.

This is how to beat your fear of failure:

Understand that it’s okay to fail

It’s okay to fail in business. We all drop the ball at some time or other.

This is just part of the learning curve, so don’t worry.

The trick is to keep an open mind and heed the lessons the experience is teaching you.

Always ask yourself: Where’s the lesson here?

Give yourself the freedom to fail

Playing it safe will get you nowhere in business.

If you don’t take any risks, you’ll never create opportunities to learn anything worthwhile.

In fact, feeling too comfortable is the thing you should fear.

The bigger you fail, the greater the lessons you can learn.

Make the fear work for you

Okay, I know it’s a bit ‘Rocky V’ to say use the fear to your advantage, but it’s true.

You don’t want to fail and you can use this fear to drive you forward to success.

Let it motivate you to do everything you need to do to succeed.

Don’t, however, let it stifle you into inaction or playing it too safe.

Consider potential outcomes and courses of action

Failure can come as a shock to us, especially since we’re so focused on succeeding.

Take a leaf out of Tim Ferriss’s book and create three lists:

  • List 1: the feared possible outcomes.
  • List 2: ways to prevent these outcomes.
  • List 3: courses of action if they do occur.

To succeed in business, you need to fail.

When you set out on a business journey, you’ll need to strap yourself in for a few failures before it all starts to come together.

These failures, however, will also set you free.

They’ll pave the way for you to try new and exciting approaches in your business.

Embrace the failure.

Learn from the lessons.

Enjoy the success.

If not, you can always do it again…

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