Several years back I purchased Organize.com, a thriving e-commerce company with millions in monthly sales. I came into this company thinking I was the bomb.com. Little did I know, 6 months later, due to unforeseen events, we were out of business. I felt like my world was going to end. I was 4 months newly married and everything I had worked for in my life was gone.
Guess what helped me get past all the pain? Coping with failure. You've probably heard that message before. And, while there's a lot of truth to that, it still doesn't change the fact failure is one of the hardest experiences you'll have to overcome in your life.
In this post I'll teach you 8 techniques I've used in my life to help me cope with failure.
1. Use failure as a stepping-stone.
As an entrepreneur, I've come across countless articles and quotes proudly telling me that I should accept failure, smile, and keep my head up. In other words, I've been told to stay positive.
The thing is, when you're forced to shut down a business and let really awesome people you care about go, staying positive is the last thing on your mind.
"The concept of positive thinking has been misused, misconstrued, and abused by us all," says Graham Young, vice chairman/COO of Graham Theodor & Co.
"Despite what we hear, it has nothing to do with smiling and being happy with everything that happens to you. Anyone who says that is either lying or crazy. Positive thinking, rather, is used so that we can learn, grow, and evolve from what we experience in life."
While it's important to accept failure and not let it bog you down, it's also perfectly acceptable to get upset about it as long as you remember that failure is "a stepping-stone in your journey that is getting you to where you need to be."
2. Reject rejection.
In order to handle rejection, we have to reflect on the past, analyze/study it. Next, just like a computer we have to reboot. Next, get it out of our system by rejecting every aspect of it.
I feel rejecting rejection is one of the most crucial steps in getting past failure. Just like any successful entrepreneur who is told over and over and over that they will fail, you must too overcome and reject the thought that this failure will stop you from becoming who you're meant to be.
3. Get the negativity out of your system.
Failure can take an emotional toll on a person. And, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's alright to accept the way that you feel so that you can get those negative feelings out of your system. If not, and you bottle up those feelings of sadness, grief, and anger, you'll open up the door for outbursts and anxiety to consume you later on. When you cut loose emotionally on others - and it will happen - you'll push away your loved ones and stay dwelling on the past.
Instead, be open and transparent about your failure. Vent to your friends and family. Write a blog post about how bad it hurt, or what you would do differently. Exercise. Yell. Scream. Cry. Have a couple of drinks. Do whatever it takes to let it all out.
However, don't do this for too long. Give yourself a day or two and then start moving forward.
4. Don't make it personal.
This could be one of the most important things to keep in mind about failure. Just because you experienced failure, like a business going bankrupt, doesn't mean that you are a failure.
In other words, it's important for you to separate failure from your identity. If not, your confidence and self-esteem will suffer - which will prevent you from ever moving forward.
Follow in the steps of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah - succeed after failing - by not making or taking it personal.
5. Have a sense of humor.
Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen from the University's School of Psychology found humor to be one of the most effective coping strategies for people dealing with failures. That's because humor can help heal those wounds since it can combat fear and make us feel relaxed and comforted. Humor also reduces stress and spreads happiness.
So, don't be afraid to laugh by watching your favorite comedy or even making a little fun of yourself.
6. Follow the 24-hour rule.
You can't change the past. It's done and over with. You can, however, change your future. That's why constantly dwelling on your past mistakes won't help you achieve a prosperous future. With that in mind, the sooner you stop living in the past, the sooner you can start planning for your future.
That's why you should follow this simple rule from former legendary Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, "give yourself a mere 24-hours to celebrate or brood. After the 24-hours are up, it's time to put your focus in preparing for the next game."
Shula's philosophy was "that if you keep your failures and victories in perspective, you'll do better in the long run."
Apparently, it worked. Shula holds the NFL record for most career wins: 347 over 32 seasons, as well as leading Miami to two Super Bowl victories.
7. Rely on your support system.
Whether it's your spouse, best friend, parent, or mentor, it's vital that you have a strong support system around you when times get tough. These will be the people who you vent to, turn towards when you need advice, find inspiration, or get that little push to help you get over this hurdle.
I know without my system, it would have been extremely difficult for me to overcome my previous business failure.
Something also to note, don't always assume your support system will be those closest to you. In my case, my father has been my harshest critic. Make sure these people are building you up, not tearing you down.
8. Start working on your next project.
Want to know what will keep your mind occupied so that you won't keep harping on the past?
Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, dust yourself off and get back to work. That's what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did with Traf-O-Data. While just teenagers, Gates and Allen came up with an invention that would measure traffic patterns in 1972. From 1974 to 1980 the company kept losing money and eventually folded.
Can you guess what the duo were working on around the same time? A little company called Microsoft that was founded in 1975.
Even though their first company didn't work out, Gates and Allen learned from their failures at Traf-O-Data and used that knowledge to make their next company a success.
Here's to becoming the next big success.