6 Tips For Overcoming Failure

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

I walked into the buzzing workspace with my head down. I paused to stand up a little straighter until I heard the familiar crack in my upper spine. It was time to shift gears into networking mode.

“Act intelligent,” I told myself. “Don’t tell them that your company failed. Don’t tell them any of it. And don’t forget to smile.”

Don’t tell them any of what, exactly?

I’ve started over a dozen projects over the course of my roughly 13 year career, and every single one of them has failed.

There was the first creative advertising agency I birthed from my kitchen table in Brooklyn. There was a photography company, two record labels, a music and technology-themed podcast, countless blogs, and an artist management operation. There was an online content and lifestyle brand.

When I lived in Los Angeles, my dream was to host a music show at my favorite radio station. Despite putting in the late nights for years on one audition tape after another, I never actually made it on-air.

I’ve even failed at trying to be normal. I’ve been fired in a spectacular way from one job and laid off from two. I went through a breakup with my best friend, boyfriend and roommate of two years, and a week later stood next to my younger sister as her bug-eyed maid-of-honor.

It wasn’t until years later — at last! — that I finally hit on something as a marketing consultant.

I’ve always figured that my collective failures were due to something that was inherently wrong with me. That I wasn’t smart, tough, or curious enough. That I lacked drive or assertiveness. That I was broken and therefore “unfixable.”

It’s not hard to believe that these assumptions sent me into a downward spiral after each perceived failure. I would place blame and project shame onto everything I could. I became jealous and resentful; defiant and argumentative.

After my marketing business became profitable, I began to earn some confidence back. My mind became clearer – enough for me to see the big picture. Over a short period of time, I discovered that I had been looking at it all wrong.

Failures are actually little lessons that make you resilient. They prepare you for the next big thing.

And while I still struggle with failure, I’ve learned a lot about it. Here are some key findings I’ve learned along the way.

  1. No matter what, understand that you belong here.

You’ve already earned your seat at the table. It has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve been “successful” in the past. You’re taking a risk, and therefore you are brave. Brave-hearted people will always have a seat alongside others who are taking risk. Know that you are enough.

2. Know your WHY.

Be intimate with why you started in the first place. Your WHY will keep you going when times get tough. A big lesson I’ve learned is that it’s not enough to do something because it’s “fun,” “cool,” or that it creates a nice little title on LinkedIn. Keep your ego out of it.

3. Please understand that intellect has NOTHING to do with success.

Neither does being left or right brained, or whether or not you attended a fancy school. Success is about timing, luck, perseverance, and attitude.

4. Be Fearless.

With enough time and curiosity, you can figure out how to do almost anything. It’s going to be hard, but it won’t be impossible. Be fearless and persist. Disregard the nay-sayers.

5. Get bullet-proof.

Surround yourself with people who keep your spirit high. Exercise, rest, eat well, and give yourself what you need in order to stay clear-headed and productive. Know your symptoms when you begin to feel tired, stressed, or unhappy, and avoid those associated triggers like the plague.

6. Befriend rejection.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that failure is not something that “happens to you.” A failure is simply life’s way of closing one door and opening another. Don’t get me wrong, mourn failure when it happens. Cry, be pissed off, whatever it is that you need to do to acknowledge it — then let it go. Move on.

Back at the networking event I hovered near the bar, preparing to refill my glass with juicy rose for the second time in ten minutes.

Another gal entered the room, breathless. “Oh my gosh, my yoga class ran over.” Trying not to roll my eyes to the back of my head, I moved to top off my glass.

She looked straight at me. “And what did you fail at today?” She asked with a wink.

I smiled.

If we become comfortable with failure, we’ll know what to do when it comes to town. And it will. Especially when we choose to play big. And what’s life without that?