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Bouncing back from failure
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Bouncing back from failure
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Bouncing back from failure
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
6 October 2015

Bouncing back from failure

Although failures can hurt head, heart and hip pocket, they’re also a sure sign that we’re trying to innovate, grow and move forward.

Written by Pip Lincolne

This blog post is sponsored by Xero

What does this mean?

This blog post is sponsored by Xero

What does this mean?

Failure. Ugh. It’s a word that strikes angst into the hearts of many. A judgment. A sentence. A vote of no confidence. Failure is the outcome we avoid at all costs, yet despite best laid plans, perceived failures rear their head frequently throughout our professional and personal lives.

We might be out of step with our target market. Someone might be doing it better. Our point of difference might be too slight. Maybe we run out of energy, time, money or motivation?

Whatever the circumstance, we’re left feeling a little (or a lot) disappointed, possibly bitter and sometimes even ashamed when things go pear shaped.

I get that. I really do. I’ve felt tripped-up with the best of them and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a serious wallow in things-gone-wrong.

Soaking up how it feels when things don’t end the way you planned is a really important part of processing the experience. Once you’ve felt the full force of waylaid plans, it’s a good idea to step back, plan your next move and head stoically into the distance where hindsight will provide a much nicer view of what went “wrong.”

While such failures can hurt head, heart and hip pocket, they’re also a sure sign that we’re trying to innovate, grow and move forward. Sure, things always don’t go as planned, but the alternatives—not trying, being fearful, staying put—are equally perilous.

I’ve had all kinds of potholes trip me up along the way. When my partner and I had our shop—Meet Me At Mike’s in Richmond— and we reached the end of our 12-year lease, the landlord bumped our rent up by 400% per annum with a “pay up or get out” demand. Gulp. Disaster. It was totally naïve of us to assume that our long, loyal tenancy would guarantee our security moving forward.

Yes, it was a kind of “failure” or “mistake” on our part, we should have had a smarter exit plan as our lease neared its end, but this failure was a cue to step up, reinvent, change plans and move on. We were forced out of our comfort zone and into riskier territory. We had to wake up, shake up and adapt.

Failures are like that. They’re an enforced gearshift, an opportunity to change your approach and take stock of what’s really working and what you need to let go of. Of course, when you are battling through adversity and feeling the hot flush of failure shame, you want to smack those who say ‘things happen for a reason’ fair in the chops. I’d encourage you to take a deep breath and shore yourself up instead. There’s no shame in the fact that you took a risk and it didn’t work out.

Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Walt Disney are just a few visionaries who buggered things up royally or faced serious adversity before zoning in on a winning formula. Imagine if they’d let failure shame get in their way.

Obviously my own tiny creative enterprise has nothing on those guys, but I’ve pushed ahead towards something that’s meaningful to me in similar ways. Our exploding lease failure lead to a new, more affordable and appropriate shop on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. We later closed that shop due to waning turnover and eroded point of difference, replacing it with a full time creative career authoring books, writing columns and making things.

Circumstances that might be viewed as failures or disasters lead to responses, shifts and opportunities that I’m thankful for (and feel more suited to!)

Phew!

So how do you get back up when you’ve been given a good kick in the pants, professionally? How do you recover from ‘failure’?

1. Talk it out

Talk to your trusted friends or family members. Talk to professionals; accountants and legal advisers. Process and pull apart what’s happened and work out the smartest way to respond and build a smarter plan moving forward.

2. Hold your head up

The tough stuff can have us hiding out and making the shape of an ‘L’ on our own foreheads. Remember that crappy stuff happens to everyone, it’s how you adapt and respond that makes the difference. It’s time to step up (after a suitable period of feeling sorry for oneself!)

3. Take some time

Retreating to regroup can be a great idea too. Don’t rush into a knee-jerk response to your “failure” to try and make it go away. Much better to take a considered approach and make a pragmatic plan for recovery.

4. Skill up

Are there things you need to learn more about that could improve your chances of success next time? Head back to the drawing board and gather more smarts, do the work and make a plan for growth (rather than bitterness and shame.)

5. Look after people

Manage your relationships with honesty and kindness during these tough times, be they professional or personal. These circumstances will pass but the people in your life remain steady and vital to your health and happiness. Do your best to treat people with compassion (even if you want to slap everyone and get under the doona with a very big bottle of wine!)

6. Keep things in perspective

Know that down the track you’ll be able to see this as an important turning point, rather than the end of the world. I promise. For real. These are the experiences that transform us and make us who we are.

Pip Lincolne

Pip Lincolne is a one-woman crafting, writing whirlwind. Read more about her—and get updates at meetmeatmikes.com.

Image: supplied by Pip Lincolne

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