Dealing with Failure

Photo by John Liu via FLICKR

When you’re starting out on a new adventure, trial and error are to be expected and you need to prepare yourself for some missteps and blunders. Instead of focusing on perfection and lamenting your mistakes, why not put extra effort into learning from your errors and finding a way to grow success from failure.
If you’ve ever tried to learn to ski…or ride a bike…or a horse…or any number of activities that involve balance and motion… then you know that an integral part of the learning process is falling down.

Similarly, sometimes the only way to improve and advance professionally is to fail. When starting – or restarting – a creative endeavor, it’s natural to suspect you’re trapped in that clichéd “two steps forward, one step back” dance that ends feeling like you’re going nowhere.

The truth is, trial and error is to be expected when you’re just starting out. Instead of focusing on perfection, put extra effort into learning from your errors so that you will not only survive, but thrive.

Learn from Mistakes

One easy way to avoid hopelessness in the face of short-term failure, and the embarrassment of a thousand tiny little mistakes, is to keep your eye on the big picture. When it feels like everything is going wrong, take a moment and just step back and regroup. If your projects have stalled and your inspiration’s disappeared, spend some time researching trends, trolling for advice, and earmarking some tips and tricks of the trade.

They say, “Knowledge is power” for a reason, so seize the endless streams of data available online and set up a list of go-to online resources you can refer to when you need some inspiration, guidance, or just a nudge in the right direction.

Revamp Your Plan 

If you find you can’t seem to gain any traction, it may be time to check-in your strategies and routines and streamline your creative efforts. Make sure you’re seeking out knowledge and inspiration online and in person and make sure to strengthen relationships with like-minded colleagues and potential mentors.

It’s important to revamp and refresh your goals and strategies by reviewing your own set of personal analytics and capitalizing on what’s working while ditching anything that’s begun to drag you down.  Temper online activity with offline interactions, and make time to attend local events or meet-up gatherings tailored to your areas of interest.

Track your efforts and see what’s working and what needs to be abandoned. By reframing and refocusing, you can begin to steer yourself out of the stormy seas of catastrophe towards more tranquil (and prosperous) waters.

Own Your Mistakes

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we can make an enormous blunder that affects not just our own creative efforts, but the livelihoods and professions of our clients and colleagues. When that happens, your best bet is to take responsibility and own up to the outcome of your actions. Don’t try to make excuses or pass the buck, even if you could displace the blame.

It will actually strengthen your personal relationships if you take the responsibility for all that went wrong. By owning up to error, you can begin regaining trust and recovering the respect and confidence of your customers and your coworkers.

Keep Hope Alive 

When failure seems to be raining down on you, take a deep breath and remember that nothing is ever as bad as it seems and that many opportunities are disguised as setbacks.

As real estate entrepreneur Nick Ruiz explains in a recent interview, “Failure exercises your adversity muscles. This is important as an entrepreneur because as you grow your business, more and more adversity and bumps in the road will come about.”

“I’m a big fan of newer entrepreneurs failing early on in their career,” says Ruiz, “It teaches them quickly to what to avoid so down the road, they can maneuver around the expensive and extremely painful mistakes later on.”

What mistakes and missteps are you most grateful for in 2015? Let me know where you messed up and how you recovered in the comments.

Good luck with all your creative endeavors!


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