Embracing the Process: Finding the Lessons in Failure

September 1, 2018

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There’s an awesome saying from Benjamin Franklin that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. While he is correct - those things are definitely happening to all of us - there are a few other things that are certain. And one of those is failure.


Failure is something that most of us fear. There is nothing scarier and more humiliating than the idea of failing. The fear of public speaking isn’t about actually speaking; it’s about failing to speak well in front of people. Fear of failure is paralyzing; we’d rather stay stuck in one place because it’s safe and comfortable than to try something new and possibly fail. But the reality is that failure is coming for all of us. We will all experience failure at multiple points in our lives, personally and professionally.

I’ve experienced more failures than I care to think about in my career. From failed marketing campaigns to client relationships that didn’t work out, I’ve seen well-laid plans fall apart and had to go back to square one. I won’t lie; the first few times it was TORTURE. I wanted to run and hide, close down shop, and go make bracelets for tourists on a beach in Costa Rica. At first, I was scared to keep putting myself and my work out there. What if I failed again???


That’s when I realized that I would. I would fail again and again and again. And every single time I failed, I would have new knowledge to take into the next experience. And that new knowledge was going to get me closer to success.


So how do you get there?

How do you embrace the failure and keep looking towards future success?


Give yourself the space to grieve

When you have an awesome plan that goes awry, it can be sad, frustrating, and demoralizing. Give yourself some space to feel those things! Feelings don’t go away if you stuff them down, so take the time to feel them. Cry, or nap, or do some yoga - whatever will help you process those feelings. Once you’ve cleared your head, acknowledged your feelings, and given yourself space to grieve, you’ll be able to start moving forward.


Find the lessons

You’ve felt the feels, and recharged your heart; now it’s time for the most critical step. Sit down with your favorite notebook, and your best brain clearing drink, and ask yourself “What are the lessons here?” Write down everything that you learned from your work, your process, and your failure. What was awesome? What was terrible? Where did things fall apart? What was out of your control? What can you take away from that failure and use moving forward, and what can be left in dust? Having that information is necessary to get to the next step.


Make a new plan

You’ve gleaned the lessons from your past failure. You’ve given yourself time and space to heal. Now you are ready to move forward with an open heart and a new plan. Embrace the failure that brought you here and the new lessons that will make your plan that much better. Create a new strategy to help reach your goals, and start the process all over.


Is this process a 1oo% fool-proof system to avoiding failure? HECK NO!


Failure is going to happen, and it’s going to happen over and over. Until one day it doesn’t, and you hit upon the winning plan where everything clicks. And when it does, you’ll know that all of that failure and all of those lessons happened for a reason. You’ll have so much knowledge and experience, and it’ll make your victory that much sweeter. Because the actual achievement isn’t winning or losing; it’s being brave enough to put yourself and your plans out there over and over, knowing full well that a failure could be on the horizon.


Embrace the journey.


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Cathy Tilton