I recall a time when aged seven, I came home at the end of the school term with a second place grading out of a class of 30 children (the system back then in Nigeria was that the teacher would grade numerically from top to bottom).
My dad understandably expressed his displeasure, as according to him there was no excuse for missing the top spot.
Or in his words, “if the other kid who achieved first place also had two eyes, and two ears like me what was my excuse”?!
Long after my dad had stepped down in his role of judge and jury of my performance, I still continued to beat myself up if I ever fell short of the high expectation that seemed to forever lurk in the shadows.
I would withdraw into a state of extreme worry and self-blame even long after the situation had occurred, until my confidence would plummet.
Transitioning to entrepreneurship was a turning point.
It revealed the magnitude of the journey I was about to embark on, reinforced how important my interpretation of failure was and especially the consciousness to do so from a perspective that propels me to keep moving forward.
This is my new narrative.
Firstly in changing my view on success from short to long term — I appreciate and embrace the fact that adversity and failure is unavoidable along the way. What is within my capacity however is how I internalise and interpret it. With this mentality, I am granted the prerogative right to navigate new territories, discover what works and what doesn’t and consequently extrapolate relevant lessons. I recognise the power of accumulated application of what I am learning now rather than prematurely judging my results merely based on the early stages.
Secondly, the disassociation of myself from the failure itself –I am not a failure despite meeting with defeat. To make the healthy separation requires the ability to take a step back, be analytical and most importantly assess what is within my power to do differently next time. This is not a case of absolving myself of responsibility or avoiding accountability, but the effective approach of not allowing failure to become intertwined into my identity.
Lastly, recognising that quite often the fear of failure is ingrained into how we think others would judge us. The fear of losing their respect or how they may no longer hold us in high esteem can itself be the root of the irrational way we react to failure. Just like the little girl inside me who still believed that her worth to her parents was in direct proportion to the level of her academic performance. That constant need for approval carried on into my twenties.
It took deep reflection and analysis to reach the point where I realised that the concomitant of entrepreneurship is the self- confidence and belief that your product or service can add value to an industry. To relinquish that is to give others the power to define your path and take precedence over our own voice.