Handling failure instead of walking away
Sometimes we entrepreneurs fail to get what we want. It can be hard for us to know how to handle failure.
- We work in isolation a lot
- We make decisions by ourselves
- Sometimes we feel uncertain and not very confident about our business
- We can sometimes feel downright sad and hopeless about how things are going for us
- We are not taught ways to handle failure in school
- We might have had parents who wanted us to succeed so much that they didn't allow familiarity with failure
One of my own mentors gave me a strong reminder that, in fact, we may fail in the short term but win in the long term – even through others who we teach, after we are gone. The truth is, failure is a part of our legacy just as much as success. The biggest way to handle failure is to discipline ourselves to choose the good – to keep making our small steps toward our goals even in the face of what seems like bad times.
Look at these examples of failure that turned into world-changing successes:
- It took a small group of Quakers almost 3 generations of tireless and relentless work to end slavery in the United States. They had to have felt like failures so many of those years. Most of them died without achieving what they wanted.
- Nelson Mandela's constant modeling of the good went a long way to ending apartheid in South Africa. He kept going in prison as a way to handle the failure of becoming imprisoned.
- Gandhi's living of a non-violent life eventually turned the tide of life in India. He suffered many failures along the way.
- Countless every day people have, against all odds, volunteered their time and work to take a stab at easing homeliness, hunger, and illness in the US and in many other countries. These people remain largely unknown to all of us (except for occasional names like Mother Teresa) yet one by one they have made a tremendous difference in another human's life. It is hard to imagine how much the ripple effects of all these actions have had on the world, or how much worse the world would be absent the works of these volunteers. Yet many of them feel like failures, thinking that small actions don't lead to success.
- The Great Smoky Mountain National Park (the most visited national park in the United States) was started by a very small group of people in Tennessee who worked for many years to set aside this land for the enjoyment of all of us.
- Teachers who have had a profound impact on students over time. I don't know about you, but I still remember Mrs. Carey, my first grade teacher, and how she instilled a love of learning in me that has served me to this day. In her classroom failure was just another chance to try again. She taught persistence as a way to handle failure.
Watch your response to a failure and see how to turn it around
It is how we respond when times are dark, sad, scary or hopeless that makes our lasting marks. As Henry David Thoreau put it, “One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something.” Mother Teresa said, “We cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
In the end, positive results are only possible because the people responsible for them focused on the positive possibilities rather than the failures – even in the worst of times. Choosing the good when we feel hopeless means supporting the good that exists now, and standing up for the good you hope to create.
Learning ways to handle failure is a critical responsibility for an entrepreneur. You are the shepherd, the leader of your life and of your business. Organize your life and thoughts around those things you wish for, and when you fail find a way to handle that failure and stay on track. The things you wish for do not happen by chance – they require your choice even in the face of failure.
Entrepreneurism requires character. The ways you learn to handle failure and how you refocus yourself toward success – they are the guts of your business.
If you need some help in facing a failure and want some ways to turn it around, consider booking an hour with me and we'll dig into it and start turning it around. I'd be honored to work with you to reframe and change your failure.