Why Failure is the New Black, and How To Wear it
I just did a Google search of “succeed by failing” and got more than 18 million results. Not surprising. Over the past few years, more and more entrepreneurs and executives have been going public with the role of failure in their eventual success. Failure has become downright fashionable.
Even my PSDNetwork co-founder, Heather Boggini, is fascinated with failure--well, mostly with my failure. At our weekly check-in meetings, she asks me: “What are the top three screw-ups you made this week?” I always have an answer.
Why is failure so important? My friend Jeanne Sullivan, a general partner at StarVest Partners, says she, like many venture capitalists, will not invest in a CEO who has not experienced failure. That’s because failure is inevitable for entrepreneurs. An investor needs to be able to trust that your response to failure will make you and your business stronger.
Even before the recent fascination with failure, the most frequently-asked questions I would get from women entrepreneurs were about failure. The questions used to be about how to avoid failure. Now they’re about how to embrace failure. The questions may have changed, but the answers have not. Do what the pros do:
Take a breather. It can seem impossible to identify, analyze, and control your emotions when you are living through an epic fail. It’s not. Trust me, I know.
One of the best things you can do to regain your emotional intelligence is to take yourself out of the mix. Turn off your phone, turn off your email. Don’t sign into Facebook, Twitter, or the like. Take a breath. Go for a walk. Go to a coffee shop. Put yourself in a different environment, cut off temporarily from the noise. Creating a new, quieter reality, even for a day, will help you clear your head.
Simulate your worst-case scenario. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to simulate the experience of the epic fail that I dreaded. I wrote out exactly what I feared the most, how I felt, and what I thought would happen when I failed. I itemized the issues that I thought would block my ability to rise again. For each item on the list, I created a plan and acted upon it. I regained power over the failure.
Focus on your goal. The best entrepreneurs focus on the big picture. They have a mindset that is open to course corrections (Notice, I didn’t use the word ‘failure’) that bring them closer to achieving a greater purpose. They know that entrepreneurship is tough, and will be tougher if they focus their energies on the noise of success and failure. Instead, they focus their energy on keeping the ship moving. They are human, of course, and they feel the pain. But the pain is temporary. The goals are not.
Stop judging and start learning. The best female entrepreneurs I’ve met understand that life is a test kitchen of trial and error. Sometimes you will succeed. Sometimes you will not. These successful women know that neither the success nor the failure defines them.
When you are in business you have customers. Your job as an innovating entrepreneur is to build a business that fulfills your vision. You are the vehicle. That’s it. You aren’t “less” because something you did failed. It’s not a reflection of you as a person. It’s an indicator that a product or feature, or how it’s being marketed, needs to change. Stop judging yourself or those around you, and start learning. Failure is a great indicator that it’s time for a change.
Are you ready to wear failure as a badge of honor? How have you turned your failures into your successes?
PATRICIA FLETCHER | Columnist
Scholar-practitioner, experienced high-tech marketer and advocate for meaningful innovation, Patricia Fletcher is passionate about leveling the imbalanced technology playing field to include all the best innovators. She blogs at www.psdnetwork.com and tweets at @pkfletcher.