You need to fail.
We are taught to fear failure. That failure is bad and, if we can help it, avoided.
The reality is that we have to fall on our a** sometimes.
Everybody fails. And if you haven’t, you either haven’t tried anything new or it’s just around the corner, lying in wait. We need to stop fearing failure and embrace it. Understanding that failure is inevitable is KEY to making sure you don’t panic when it happens. Every success is built on the back of hundreds, if not thousands, of failures.
How? First, there is a crucial thing you need to understand. Failure is nothing more than a sign that you’re innovating, experimenting, and not afraid to try.
To succeed, you have to try new things. If you try new things, some of those things WILL flop.
Success lies in being comfortable with failure.
All Failures are NOT created equal
An amazing former boss and mentor of mine divided them into two groups, Big Fs and Little fs.
The Two Types of Failure
Big Fs are the huge, giant blunders that are difficult to view in a positive light. These are failures like your start-up going under, losing a key client, or not passing a class in school. The important thing to remember about these failures is that while they happen to everyone, they are rare. These may be harder to bounce back from but you won’t encounter them very often.
On the other hand, there are Little fs. Little fs are your everyday, garden-variety failures. They’re the refusal of a project proposal or a cooking attempt with a “foolproof” recipe that fails spectacularly and sets off your smoke detector. Little fs happen all the time. These failures may cause a little dejection but are good for you and crucial to your growth. As long as you are innovating, learning, and growing, you will encounter different Little fs over and over.
Those are the types of failures. How do we deal with them?
Dealing with Big Fs
Dealing with Big Fs is not easy. No matter how many times you go through one, it sucks. A lot.
When you have a Big F, you will have invested a lot of time, effort, sweat, and tears into trying to make it successful. When you are recovering from a Big F, it’s okay to take time to feel sad, angry, and disappointed. But don’t wallow. Instead, give yourself a set amount of time, anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, to process and just feel bad.
Once that set amount of time has passed, take a deep breath, and dive back into it. Go through the guts of what you were working on and pick it apart to figure out what went wrong. See what you could have fixed, what you could have done differently, and then get to work on making it better. Rework, rejigger, “re-whatever” the things that didn’t work, and double-down on what did. Continue to mold and form until you are ready to try again.
Dealing with Little fs
Since Little fs occur relatively frequently, dealing with them does become easier over time. When it comes to these, you may still feel bad, but I’m setting the actual limit for your suffering this time.
That’s it. That’s all you get. And I’m being generous.
Feel sorry for yourself for a maximum of half an hour, then it’s time to get over it.
From here, the process looks very similar to dealing with Big Fs. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and look at why this thing didn’t work. Then tweak, nudge, and reiterate until you have a new and improved version. Then try again.
Keep Pushing Forward
Being comfortable with failure is more art than science. As you try new things and push the boundaries, you will encounter failures – some big, some little. That’s okay! Keep working towards what you want and, eventually, you will succeed, and if you don’t, you will learn.
Failure is not an option – it’s a requirement.