What Happens After You Fail?
As I wrote about last week, my first business venture, Souky Souky, by all traditional definitions, is a failure. You can read more about that here, but the short version goes something like this: to date, I have not turned my side hustle into a profitable business. Please don’t think I’m being hard on myself. You will see soon enough, that I am not. I am simply stating the facts as they stand today.
If you have ever started your own business or even thought about it, failure is the thing that keeps you up at night. Or even more likely, it is the thing that prevents you from ever even daring to try in the first place. What if my business is not successful? What if I pour my heart, soul and money into an endeavor that does not work out?
At best, your failure would be gut-wrenching. At worst, it would be gut-wrenching and financially devastating. In either scenario, your failure would also be accompanied by something even greater (and by greater, I mean worse): embarrassment and shame. What would people say and think?
When you put yourself out there in a public way, both success and failure take center stage. Both are visible. And it can leave you feeling very exposed.
I, of course, know all of this intimately because for the past few months this is what I have been wrestling with. My business was (is?) failing and I, in turn, was feeling like a failure.
Now before you start feeling sorry for me, I need you to know that, after doing some serious reflecting over the summer, I have for the most part come out on the other side of these feelings. I can honestly say that I feel VERY good about my business and where I am at. More specifically, I feel brave. I feel proud. I feel inspired. I feel accomplished.
Do you find that hard to believe? My business is basically a flop and I feel accomplished. How is that possible?
Well, allow me to explain. But just to save you some time I will tell you the MOST important part first. Ready?
There is no such thing as failure.
Do you hear me?
Failure is not actually a thing.
And no, I’m not just using this as a defense mechanism to make me feel better about my own “failed” business venture. I’m stating the facts. Just as I did earlier when I said, “I have not turned my side hustle into a profitable business.”
Failure is not actually a thing. Fact.
Hear me out. Failure is story we have made up. We have told ourselves that things either work out or or they don’t. You either win or you lose. You achieve the goal or you don't.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can reframe the way we think about failure. Or better yet, we can eliminate this word from our vocabulary entirely. When we do so, failure loses its power.
So how do we do this? It’s simple. It is so simple, in fact, that I am frustrated that it has taken me 42 long years to actually figure this out. Ready for it?
Instead of thinking about a situation in terms of whether you failed or succeeded – think about what you learned. You see…every endeavor, whether won or lost, presents an opportunity for learning.
Even the “failed” experiment tells the scientist something. They learn what doesn’t work and that new knowledge can inspire future studies. And you know what? If they keep trying (re: failing and learning) they might even one day make that truly amazing discovery. Or they won’t. It doesn’t matter. They have learned. And that knowledge will serve them and those that follow in their footsteps.
Failure does not serve us at all. It paralyzes us and keeps us stuck. When we buy into the concept of failure, all it does is give us permission to quit when things don’t go immediately and exactly our way. As soon as “it doesn’t work”, we give up and crawl back into our safe, boring hole of self-doubt and depression. Which, admittedly sucks, but it is less scary than being out on that stage being judged. Amiright?
But here is the other thing…when you buy into the idea of failure it guarantees that you will live a life riddled with fear and anxiety. Life will pass you by because you will be either too afraid of taking opportunities (and risking failure) or too worried about the outcome (possible failure) to enjoy the process. It is a miserable existence. I, unfortunately, can speak from experience on this topic.
Learning, on the other hand, serves you. It inspires you to approach new opportunities and experiences with curiosity and excitement. Instead of being worried about the outcome, we concern ourselves with personal growth. And here is the thing - growth can be measured in many ways. Personal growth isn’t measured by money, fame or followers. Personal growth is measured by learning.
Did you learn something? (The answer is always ‘yes’ BTW). Great! You have succeeded.
So yeah, my business is not profitable at the moment. Will I keep at it? Maybe. Probably? Hard to say. And honestly, I’m not too worried about it. What I can say is that I have learned so much in the process of building and running it. I have learned that I really am not a fan of “selling” and the true meaning of the phrase “operation costs”. I have learned to ask for help and for forgiveness. I have learned to take it slow and that nothing is ever really THAT important. I have also learned an important lesson in failure and resiliency.
Am I cured? Will the failure ghosts of yesteryear disappear forever? HELL NO! Are you high? I’m fairly certainly they will visit me the moment I press publish on this post. I will have to remind myself that failure is “FAKE NEWS” every. damn. day. Probably 10 times a day.
But I a committing to do just that. I want to live a life grounded in the sole goal of learning. How much more fun does that sound?
So, tell me, what have you learned lately?