Say Goodbye to “Failure”
Here’s a simple thing that could change your whole outlook: Banish the word “failure” from your vocabulary.
We live in a culture of reward and punishment; success and the f-word (no, the other one). There’s a dank, stinking puddle of judgement and shame ready and waiting when things don’t go as planned.
Fail fast, fail often is a concept that serves a purpose in the world of software development, but it doesn’t work well when you don’t have venture capital or a big budget of your own. Or a team to help pick things up when they fall apart.
Failure has grown in popularity – and profitability – among celebrities who tell all, along with their stories of stellar success.
Those of us who aren’t gracing the stages of big conferences or showing up on A-list podcasts often find out the hard way it’s too easy to make the leap from “The plan was a failure” to “I’m a failure”.
Maybe celebrities feel the same way, even after they publish that best-selling book. If so, they can use this technique, too.
It’s a way to stop the failure monster before it gnaws a hole in you psyche.
Instead of saying “I failed”, stick to the most basic facts, and see how that feels: “Okay, that didn’t work the way I hoped it would.”
Whatever happened might not be a big deal. You might feel embarrassed. You might have lost some money.
Or you might feel like utter crap. You’re allowed to feel that way. Just don’t get stuck there.
Here’s the big reason you don’t give in to “failure”, and why you might want to dump the word altogether: Thoughts form neural pathways. You can imagine them as ruts in the brain. Repeating the same messages over and over makes the ruts deeper.
The habit of failure-thinking undermines your confidence and can become so ingrained, your default state is feeling discouraged to the point of wanting to give up.
Banishing the word failure and replacing that message with something else helps you create new neural pathways. Changing what you say to yourself generates new, healthier habits of thinking. Instead of beating yourself up, you establish a practice of shifting to a stance of learning.
Your plan didn’t work out. It’s disappointing. It happens to everyone. Give yourself a little time to let the dust settle and start feeling better. Then start asking questions. What went wrong? What went right? What do you need to change to make it work better? What things can stay in place?
And remember, always: A plan or project going sideways is about the research, components, and timing. A project isn’t you, even if you poured endless hours and energy into it.
If the thing that didn’t work is marketing, then know this: Marketing is about trying and testing. That’s true whether you’re starting out on your own or the CEO of Coca-Cola (anyone remember the disaster of New Coke?). Huge, well-established companies with multi-million dollar budgets don’t always get it right, either.
Marketing, and business for that matter, is not a laboratory experiment – it’s something that happens in the real world, where things are unpredictable and don’t always go as planned.
You can’t ever have total control over outcomes. Sometimes things work out better than you ever dreamed. But when they don’t, think about how you respond. There’s one f-word that can be cathartic, and one that might be better left behind.