“Failure.” The very word reeks of pungent negativity. It is understood as the product of ineptitude, the result of work gone wrong or not done right. It hurts to fail—to not be good enough. Yet, the fact of the matter is this: failure is good. It teaches us. It forces us to grow, to adapt, and although it may initially knock us down, it ultimately builds us up. The darkness of failure is merely the precedent to success. It’s plain and simple a prerequisite to winning.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. We know failure sucks. We know “it doesn’t matter how many times you fall off the horse, it matters how many times you get up.” The stink of failure is something we learn to live with and bounce back from, but there are some steps one can take to ease the process. It does not have to be a soul-sucking, heart-wrenching experience that brings us to the brink of abysmal despair.
If we have a process to deal with it, a set of steps to follow so that we do not lose sight of what matters (the future), then we can go through the motions and accept failure as part of life. Moreover, we can embrace it as a positive aspect of life, which is really the only option considering no one, absolutely no one, escapes failure.
In my own experience, the following steps have been tremendously helpful facing and overcoming immense, crippling, hurtful, failure:
Accept failure as a step along the road to success.
Frankly, this may be the hardest step of all, which is unfair because it’s the first—but it’s necessary. Neil Patel said:
“My first failed startup took two years to die. It should have taken two weeks. The mantra ‘fail fast’ wasn’t part of my vocabulary at the time. As a result, I denied defeat and keep the nightmare alive for way too long.”
Just as recovery programs proclaim the significance of acknowledging ‘there’s a problem,’ so too should entrepreneurs recognize the failure of their startup or enterprise. If a business is doomed, recognize it. It can save enormous heartache, lost capital, and botched relationships (both professional and personal).
It’s terrible, but when it’s time to cut your losses, it’s time to cut your losses. Don’t drag it out or you will make it so much worse than it already is or needs to be. If you see your failure as just a step along the longer road to success, then the sting will fade. If you see it as the conclusion to your career’s work, then why would you ever get over it? Try until you succeed, not until you fail.
Feel the sting of failure, but don’t let it cripple you.
It’s okay to feel morose or even depressed, but you should never let your ambition or reasoning skills be compromised because of your altered state. Feeling bad is natural, and is even necessary for getting you back to where you were.
Understand what went wrong.
Reflect on the business and evaluate what went wrong. Create a list of literally everything. Make a bad hire? Put it down. Spend your capital ineffectively? Write it down. Lack of motivation? Write. It. Down.
By writing down what went wrong, you will take something away from the train-wreck. It won’t just be some painful memory—it will be an enlightening experience. Write it all down. Take it all into account. Remember it for the next opportunity.
Failure is awful but it’s a part of life. The only way to move past it is to accept it, feel it, and understand it. Only then can it be put to bed, so you can get out of bed, and find the next step on your journey.