This article is inspired by and draws on our podcast series Embracing Failures with Chiara Condi, Wayan Vota, and Shabnam Aggarwal.
Let's talk about the dreaded F-word that we often fear and have probably been taught to avoid; “failure” that is. Throughout our school years, we are afraid of ever disappointing our parents and teachers by getting an F or 0, but it’s not until we’re adults, move to live on our own, and start living our lives, that we realize failing isn’t the end of the world. In fact, Chiara and Shabnam said that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve their goals if it wasn’t for the failures. Sometimes you learn more from failing than you ever would from succeeding.
Overcoming failure starts with realizing your mistakes, and communicating it.
Failure as Wayan puts it is a natural, normal aspect that happens every day. The big challenge is talking about it. Outside specific industries and even societies, speaking up about failures is uncommon. According to Shabnam, we’re the generation of sharing, yet, we mainly try to share positive things. But if we don’t share our failures, how do we reduce our or others' chances of failing the same thing over again? To quote George Santayana, “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Don’t paint a glossy picture of your failures, be honest with yourself, and others
It’s important to recognize when things are not working early on to try and mitigate a massive failure. It’s a huge difference to correct a mistake that would have been a 100% failure, to 80% failure. That means you still succeeded 20%. What Wayan said struck a chord. We often get so clouded with negativity when we fail that we forget our victories. So next time you fail, remind yourself that it’s ok to feel bad but also to celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
But even if you weren’t able to notice the failing indicators early on, you never start again from square one according to Chiara. Don’t wallow in the fact that something you’ve worked on has not resulted in the outcome you expected. Be flexible! Once you realize that failure is not an end, but a start of something else, then you can succeed.
Moving on after you’ve failed is all about learning from your mistakes.
You’ve already conquered the most significant obstacles to overcome failures. So now all you have to do is learn from your experience and not make the same mistakes. Here are two simple yet effective questions Wayan suggests you ask yourself after you have failed.
Why did I not get the results I expected?
How can I improve the results?
Nothing is ever destroyed, it’s always transformed - Chiara Condi
It’s just about gathering everything you’ve learned from your failure and move on. You are meant to do something else. Or you’re meant to do the same thing, just differently!
Fear of failure? That’s the old me.
It’s scary to fail. It’s scarier to fail for the first time.
So maybe take Chiara and Shabnam’s advice to start small and start today. Do something concrete and think about what you can start right away. Trust Chiara when she says that the smaller steps will leave more lasting results. Don’t dive from the tallest cliff right away, choose a mini one. Baby steps. If you find something that interests you, try it out. See where your interests take you. Most of the time, you don’t need to leave everything behind to do something different. These baby steps will help you prove whether you should pursue this new path says Shabnam.
Or go a different direction with Wayan’s recommendation to set an exciting, aggressive goal! Something you know you won’t be able to achieve 100% and work through the process of not reaching that goal. Remember to ask yourself those two questions above and gradually adjust your objectives to push yourself a little further. You’re going to master overcoming failures in no time!
And to all you entrepreneurs and brave individuals out there, Shabnam has a few words for you. Be a little naive, be a little idealistic. There’s a reason you believe your business will succeed. So don’t let the losses get you down.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn
Remove the stigma of talking about the dreaded F-word! Let others know that it’s alright to fail. Have you ever failed? Share your failures with us in the comments below!
Marketing & Communications at Funzi