“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” -J.K. Rowling
Failure. Urgh. It’s such a horrible word and feeling it’s meaning is so much worse.
Despite an epic career with more highlights than I can mention in one blog, I have always struggled with failure. Not nice. Maybe it’s because I’m so driven. Maybe it’s because I like to do things my way. Maybe it’s a combination of creativity, determination, ambition, optimism and even naivety. One thing is for sure, I seem to fail as much as I succeed. So much so that I’m actually getting used to it. Turning my back on my pride and embracing the unknown is something I’ve really learnt to do and on the occasions that I do it, magic seems to happen – even though it doesn’t always feel like it at the time. “Have Faith” is a mantra often muttered under my breath.
My first memory of failure was aged 4. My school teachers decided to give an award for the “youngest child in the school.” I won.
Well…At least I felt like I had won for a few seconds until another kid in my class cried out in disbelief, “but I’m one day younger!” As I stood there on the stage hugging my trophy I suddenly felt like a wanted to cry. Not fair. Not my fault. Why me? I had gone from youngest ever hero to “ooops!” embarrassing mistake in a split second.
“Shit!” The now crimson-faced Head Teacher would have to think on her feet to resolve this one! Fortunately, Christine (the girl who was a day younger than me) wasn’t wearing her school uniform that day. So, my award was quickly renamed, “the youngest in the school wearing a uniform.” Aged 4 that was good enough for me. Sorry Christine, no-uniform-no award. Being the nice child that I was, I then offered to share my award with Christine, and our photograph was published in the local newspaper. Two cute little kids, holding one trophy.
Life has kind of continued like that. You win some, you lose some. Somedays you get the credit, other days you don’t. One thing is for certain, on that day I learned that the feeling of failure goes away with a clever re-framing of perspectives and an empathic display of humanity. I can remember plenty times since then, standing up and declaring my way was best. Many times, it was. Not every time though!
Some of my failures have hurt and certainly lost me time, friends, love and money.
Many of my failures have left me questioning “what on earth are you doing?”
But with each failure comes reflection. If I hadn’t failed, what would I have learned?
I’ve been made redundant more than once (3 times to be precise), I’ve started companies and closed them down, I’ve been sacked, lost in love numerous times and missed out on the top spot on plenty of occasions. But show me someone with a good life story who hasn’t?
An epic life definitely bears it’s consequences. But in a way, that’s what makes it epic. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be very exciting would it?
So how do you bounce back and keep going? According to highly successful people like Richard Branson,“The ability to bounce back after a setback is the single most important trait an entrepreneurial venture can posses.”
1. Focus on Why.
Many times when we’re chasing our dreams, we can lose sight of why we were doing it in the first place. It get’s hard. When times get hard it’s easy to get distracted and veer off track. Then the hard gets even harder.
It can be easy to give up when we experience setbacks. This when it is fundamental to pause for reflection. Take the time out to get specific. What is the purpose? What is the goal? What really motivates you. It might not look attractive to others, but if it matters to you, then hold onto it and use it’s power to drive you forward.
2. Award the “baddies” in your mind-movie. Then change the scene.
There is alway a certain person, or group of people, whose opinion is now making us feel small. They are usually the people who signify what we are fighting against, or who have doubted our success.
Imagine that everyone in your life is playing the role in your life-movie. There are baddies. The movie wouldn’t be a block buster if there weren’t. All good movies, script and plot, scene by scene reveal how good overcomes adversity and the hero triumphs over evil.
All the times that you are fighting against other’s opinions, believing our way was better and we’d show them in the end are just the plot and scenes in your life-movie. When we fail at a task or don’t see the results we originally wanted, the baddy wins, and we feel shame.
Don’t despair, there are award ceremonies where you can hand out awards for the “best supporting ass-hole in a leading role” or “most epic fail scene as played by a leading actor.” Hand out the awards, and then re-cast the roles, scripts and plot for the next scene in your life.
Trust me, I do this all the time…it works!
3. Surround yourself with the people you need.
When life’s curve balls hit you square in the face, you’re sometimes so shocked and stunned that you just freeze. You go into a brain vacuum and you can hear voices on the periphery offering you all sorts of advice, none of such that you are actually listening to…it just adds to the confusion.
Belief is the ultimate motivator towards success. Because whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. And having resources that tell you you can, will help you to believe again. Perspective is everything. Surround yourself with the people that believe in you – they will always be there to remind you to get back in the ring.
4. Admit your fears and learn from them.
No fear exists without negative imagination.
The feel is real, the why is a lie.
What is it that you fear if you continue to move forward? What do you fear if you were to give up? Ask the real questions.
Is your fear big enough to stop you in your tracks? Are you rationalising your fear and turning it around so that it sounds logical.
Are you making excuses for why you can’t move forward? Are your fears valid? Is that REALLY true? How do you know 100% without doubt?…you see, if you question your fear, it eventually goes away, and you’re left thinking…
“OK screw it, let’s do it.”
5. Keep moving forward
Even when your belief is in the toilet and you can’t even imagine the end goal anymore, trust your previous instincts and just keep moving forward. Look at your failure, but whatever you do, don’t stop. As J.K Rowling also said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation upon which I rebuilt my life.”
If you just stop. There’s nothing. When you admit your strategy was off and you need to re-focus you will begin to move forward again. In time you’ll increase your self-trust, your efforts may start being rewarded, and like magic, new doors will open.
When you bounce back, it will become your story. Those failures will be what made you. They’ll be the very thing you’ll be able to hold onto when you’re wondering how you got so lucky as to be where you are. You’ll remember how you stood back up and tried again. And no one will be able to take that from you.
And when you do win, do it graciously, other people probably made sacrifices so that you could have your glory.