4 Ways to Flip a Failure

Practice makes better, according to career consultant Diana Henderson.

From Diana: Failure doesn’t limit success; it’s an exhilarant for success. Yet, we’re so afraid to fail because it means potential rejection or loss. What if we flipped that perspective on its head and challenged ourselves to fail? I believe two things would occur.

First, I believe we would attempt more times. If we aren’t afraid of the outcome of failure, we’re more likely to give the effort a shot—and do so more often. Practice doesn’t actually bring perfection, but it sure makes you better. And through the law of large numbers, that alone increases your chance of success.

Secondly, I think we would attempt with abandon. My favorite definition of the word “abandon” is a lack of restraint or control where “with abandon” means unrestricted effort. In other words, an attempt without boundaries will achieve an outcome with no limit.

As you rev up for the new year, test yourself to think about failure differently. Here are a few points of encouragement to do just that.

Realize that risk = reward

On an episode of Shark Tank, a young woman had incredible passion for her flavored tea business. As she described her vision for the company to the prospective investors, it was apparent that she was still constructing her business plan. Her zeal was contagious, but the investors were hesitant to contribute funding because she “lacked focus.” Was that failure? She didn’t get the funding she was seeking, however, each investor offered guidance on how to focus her message and encouraged her to keep going. To top it off, she was able to share her business on a nationally syndicated television show. The key is that she took a risk by going on the show and came a step closer to her ultimate goal. There’s reward in that risk.

Remember “no” is not failure

There’s a saying in sales that the next best thing to a “yes” is a fast “no.” Meaning, if the answer is going to be a shutdown, better to learn it sooner rather than later. I take it a bit further and recognize a deeper lesson—“no” is not rejection, it simply means there’s something missing to achieve a “yes.” That missing element might be better timing, the right audience, more funding, etc. Your objective is to uncover that missing element, adjust accordingly and give it another shot. As mentioned above, another attempt is simply bringing you closer to your desired success.

Document and learn

I once delivered a presentation that went more poorly than I had expected. Instead of making excuses, I grabbed a pen and paper and documented the things I wished had gone differently. I did this not to wallow in my failure but to understand what could make it a success in the future. What’s critical in this exercise is recognizing all the variables within your control, and those that are not. As you develop a game plan for how you’ll approach the situation next time, you’ll know how to handle the controlled variables differently and you’ll be more aware of how to navigate the uncontrolled.

Enlist accountability partners

I have several business accountability partners that I share my goals with to keep me on track. These are trusted friends that care enough to call me out if I’m shying away from taking risks and cheer me on when I’m attempting a feat larger than my confidence. These confidants aren’t just “ear ticklers.” They don’t tell me just what I want to hear; they tell me what I need to hear. I’ve grown accustomed to their feedback and insights, and consider them paramount to my success. Surround yourself with business accountability influencers and no doubt, your failures will become success.