You can either fear failure, or embrace it, but one way or another you’re definitely going to fail, probably loads of times.
Think about it – you’re never going to get everything right first-time round. And anyway, life would be pretty boring if you did because you’d end up stuck in the same job forever because you’d have no impetus to move. And you’d never improve. You’d never get to try anything new. You’d never change. You’d never have to grow a set of balls and go out into the world.
Me, I embrace failure. Scratch that, I LOVE failure. I love it because it forces you to be brave. It forces you to seek fulfilment. It forces you to work out what you’re passionate about and to go for it.
Just as well I love failure because I’m an entrepreneur and that means I fail all the time.
The feeling of failure, the word failure, creates crappy feelings and behaviours. If you feel you’ve failed, you might think ‘I’m a failure’. You might just stop, drop your head, and start dwelling on that ‘failure’ and that feeling and never move on. You might get stuck.
So, I don’t use the word failure. I see failures as lessons. Something didn’t work out the way I had hoped? What is the lesson? What have I learned from this? Reframing the event like this allows me to pick my head up, stop dwelling, and move on with greater knowledge and greater resources.
Maybe you learn that you’re not very good at something – fine, can you get better? Do you want to get better? Is there something you’re better at and would be happier doing? If you don’t love something and you’re not good at it, why the hell would you do it?
Maybe you invest everything in something and then realise that you don’t really like it – fine, stop doing it. You put the effort in and it didn’t work out. The effort is a success, the outcome was unexpected but, well, that’s life – move on.
Maybe you fell short of your expectations but actually love the work – well, get your finger out and get better.
Once a client recommended me to a friend who needed some videos produced. He set me up with a meeting. I was delighted. It did not go well. The potential client grilled the shit out of me. He grilled me because my website was down (it was being re-designed), because my YouTube channel hadn’t been updated in a while. In the end of the day he said: ‘I think you’re a good guy but I don’t think your work is up to scratch and I don’t think you can do for me what you say you’re going to do.’
I had failed. And I felt like shit. I failed because I wasn’t sufficiently prepared and I had let myself down.
I could have argued with him, told him he was wrong. But he wasn’t wrong. I had to accept my failure. I listened to what he had to say, he wished me luck and shook my hand.
I had a choice. I could dwell on my failure or I could sort it out. I had fallen short of my own expectations and I could either quit or I could improve. I love producing so quitting wasn’t an option.
So, after a few minutes of licking my wounds I got my act together and called my website guy. I described the nightmare meeting and explained that I needed the website up and the content up.
I had just lost a national client. That national client had just pointed out in no uncertain terms that I was failing. And you know what? I was glad! I was glad because I learnt a lesson. I had been shown, explicitly, what was expected of me and how I had to get there. I was now conscious of how my online presence was coming across, of how me and my work were being perceived.
By the end of the next week my website was back up and my YouTube channel had been updated. I sent it over to the prospective client.
In the interim I had another failure pointed out to me – I was seriously undercharging – I was charging about an eighth of normal industry rates (no joke).
Another week and a half later and I was invited in for a second meeting. The prospective client was impressed – he loved the website, he loved the content. When I told him my revised prices he looked at me completely differently. He knew and I knew that I had upped my game, that I had listened to him and put the work in. My work was on point, my marketing was on point, my price was on point. I got the job. That client is now one of my biggest clients – we’ve done 5 TV commercials for them and we’ve just signed a 6 month retainer with them for 2018.
That failure was a game-changer of a lesson.
I have had many, many failures. Or did I? Did I fail when I walked away from acting? I was in three movies that have been distributed. I was paid. I could have felt like a failure when I moved into producing (I had been certain that I wanted to be an actor), but was it really a failure, or was it just one big lesson that taught me that what I really love is what’s behind the camera?
Did I fail when I lost my houses and businesses in the North? No, not in my view. That lesson taught me all I know about business – this time round I’m on much more solid foundations because I know the value of a brilliant accountant, a brilliant bookkeeper. Those failures set me up to do it right this time.
Ups and downs, failures and lessons. Fail again and learn better. Learn again and learn more. Every single failure you have is a lesson. Don’t dwell on the failure, focus on the learning – take on the lessons and move on, stronger, to the next idea.