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5 steps to turning failure into success

We’re sure someone has told you to 'embrace failure' at some point and you might have said "why dwell on mistakes" but here's what it really means and how to do it.

We’re sure someone has told you to ’embrace failure’ at some point and you might have said “why dwell on mistakes” but here’s what it really means and how to do it.


Failure can be painful. The “normal” reaction to failure is to distract yourself and do something completely different right away, but successful entrepreneurs typically defy this “normal” reaction. They go back and try again at things they fail at – just look at Dick Smith or Richard Branson.

It’s because they believe in something called the “failure faith,” a powerful conviction that every setback offers vital lessons that could not be learned any other way.

When you fail at something (for example; an agreement with a new supplier or a corporate client deal), what’s the best way to be comfortable with it, and hear it out?

Here are five ways to cope with failure and turn it into one step along your journey to success:


1. Forgive yourself

It may sound lame, but it won’t do you any good to torture yourself over what you should have known. The most unproductive thought in life is: “If I knew then what I know now.” That’s a fantasy. Once you forgive yourself, in the words of Harvard professor Ellen Langer, you “create the freedom to discover meaning” in what you failed at. Langer likes to point out that minoxidil was a failed hypertension medication with the miserable side effect of unwanted hair growth. Researchers forgave themselves long enough to “find meaning” in the failure by developing Rogaine from it.


2. Talk it over

Find a shoulder to cry on, but not just any shoulder. Tell your sorrows only to people who have the “failure faith.” Most people don’t want to talk about failure because they are ashamed of it, which is why you are unlikely to get helpful support and insights from people who aren’t also successful entrepreneurs.

The truth is that there are some things that only other entrepreneurs will understand. You might be better off talking over your setbacks and frustrations with your local restaurant owner than a close friend.


3. Be honest about what really went wrong

Once a deal or project falls apart, own up to what went wrong. Start at the beginning. Maybe you were working with the wrong client or supplier. The real lesson might be about choosing these people more carefully, not about details of the execution that went badly.


4. Take responsibility

Don’t rush to blame the client or supplier. Maybe you didn’t communicate your expectations properly from the start. Maybe you avoided asking difficult questions. Maybe you neglected to ask the customers what they really needed. Whatever you do, don’t blame your partners or your team members. It’s tempting to tell yourself that they need to be different next time. But you can’t control them. Assume they will remain the same, and that you’re the one who must learn and change if you want a better outcome.


5. Try, try and try again

Get back into it right away. There are good reasons why your second attempt at anything is always stronger than your first. As long as something’s worth trying, isn’t it worth trying more than once?

Remember, you’re trying to succeed brilliantly at something most people can’t do at all. You’re taking roads paved with bumps, potholes, and occasional sinkholes. But what’s the alternative? If the work were any easier, there wouldn’t be any profit in it. So go out on a limb, every day, and sometimes the branch will break under you. But face it. You keep going out on that limb because that’s where all the fruit is.

We all make mistakes but do you think we are too scared of ’embracing’ failure?

Content was adapted from Brilliant Business by Lewis Schiff