Failure can be taken one of two ways: Either as a catalyst for learning and doing better next time, or as the ultimate defeat you never let yourself recover from. This is true in your professional and personal life. Don't be that someone who thinks they "failed" at a romantic relationship and therefore ignores all the lessons to learn about themselves. After the experience, you should be thinking about what you want in a partner and what you want in a relationship. You shouldn't be focusing on the negative events of the past.

The same is true in business, and most billionaire business magnates will tell you that they had plenty of failures on their way to the top. Quite a few experienced startup founders will even tell you to fail fast. Think of it this way: Would you really want to trust someone to be an expert (in anything) if they simply lucked out time and time again? You'd probably (rightly) assume that since they had no experience with failure, they wouldn't know how to handle it when it comes along. However, some people are more prone to clinging to failures than others. They blame genetics, personality or past experiences. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, here are some of the best ways to get over it.

1. Accept and Process It

Maybe you think you've mostly gotten over a bad business experience, but you find you still obsess about how you should have acted differently. There's a big difference between lingering on a failure and taking the time to accept it, process it and glean lessons from it. Putting down the failure in writing is a good start, as well as steps you could have taken differently, positive things you learned from it, and what you'll do if faced with it again. Then? Burn that paper to help yourself mentally move on. It's done its job for you and it's time to move forward.

2. Talk About It

Sounds simple, right? Whether you call it "venting" with a friend over happy hour or spending a few sessions on it with your counselor, talking about failures is perhaps the best way to let them go. However, be careful who you talk to. You need a sounding board sometimes, and other times you need expert advice (whether that's from a mentor in your industry or a therapist). It can be helpful to have have friends who do not work in your field, so you can get more objective advice that is not affected by deep knowledge of what you do. Listen to your gut and ask yourself if you want advice or just a sympathetic ear. Then ask yourself what you need.

3. Find Like Company

Does it feel like you made such a "stupid" blunder that nobody else could have possibly done so before? That's very unlikely. There's nothing new under the sun, and that includes mistakes and perceived failures. For analytical types, finding statistics on just how common the glitch is can be soothing, but don't let yourself get sucked in. Joining a "woe is me" community full of victim mentalities isn't going to help you get over it. Appease yourself with the facts, but don't linger. Again, push forward.

4. Challenge Yourself to Do It Again

Get back on the horse and ride again, even if the horse threw you off the last time. This only works in some instances of course, but if it's possible and safe to do so, don't shy away from your failure. Face it by trying again. For example, maybe you made a mistake when giving your first startup pitch. Perhaps it was your first sit-down with an angel investor or a speaking engagement at a networking event. People mess up. Practice makes perfect, so give yourself a reasonable timeline to prepare and give it another shot.

5. Focus on the Positive

Don't brush mistakes under the rug, but also don't stop yourself from looking at all the positives you've managed to create. There's always a balance in business. Maybe you didn't snag that one big client, but what about all the others you've secured? You've likely already proven you can be successful on this path, so don't let one fall determine who you are or color your impression of an already positive overall effort.

Focusing on the negative is unfortunately a common human trait, but it doesn't have to be for you. You're in control of your thoughts and actions, so manage them wisely. Generally, the more positive your attitude and outlook, the more that will permeate the rest of your actions and thoughts, creating a better experience going forward.

Published on: Sep 16, 2014