Every entrepreneur will face setbacks and failure at some point in his or her career. But failing to reach a goal doesn't mean the end. It's your attitude toward failure that can mean the difference between wallowing and moving on. Here are four reactions to failure that you need to avoid in order to keep building and moving forward.
1. Assuming that failing is the opposite of success
Arianna Huffington failed to sell her second novel--but she jumped back. She says her mother reminded her that “failure is not the opposite of success; it's a steppingstone to success.” This is an important mindset shift to make: Remember that each time you fail, you learn something. Each time you fail, you gain experience. And each time you fail, you come away with tools that you can use to be successful in the future.
2. Pretending that everything is fine
There's a lot of advice out there suggesting that you maintain a positive attitude in the face of impending doom. While it's crucial to stay positive, don't conflate that with pretending that nothing is wrong! It's easy to carry on as if everything is fine, in the interests of positivity–and that can blind you to the tactics that you might need to take to avoid failure. Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist.com, says that a crucial strategy is to admit failure in order to move forward. “My approach,” he says, “is always to admit as early as possible that the approach is failing and work to resolve the situation, without letting it drag on.” You need to admit that something is wrong before you can make it better.
Psychologist Guy Winch reports that when people fail they often develop an unconscious fear of future failure--and that can lead to self-sabotage. When you're afraid to fail, you take fewer risks and chances, and have fewer opportunities for success. You might make excuses for why you're not taking chances. To move forward, you need to acknowledge your fear--and remember that innovation and success are all about risks.
4. Dismissing your disappointment
It's natural for self-doubt and disappointment to come with failure. And why shouldn't they? Failure is hard. It can make you question your goals and strategies. But philosopher Roman Krznaric argues that simply trying to feel better without honoring those feelings of doubt and disappointment is the wrong tack to take. Those bad feelings, he argues, can make us more empathetic to others. Failure can build your character, and make you a better communicator--and, thus, better at connecting with people, building your business, and paving your way to success.
So live with your failure for a while. It's OK to feel bad about it--for a little while. Then pick up the pieces, do what needs to be done to move forward, and remember that failure can teach you what you need to succeed.