In part one, I discussed fear and how to overcome it. I suggest reading it before this article on learning from failure.
Failure comes in many different forms, and your realization of the failure can come either suddenly or slowly. The slow recognition of the failure may be the most gracious because you may feel that you have some options still available to turn things around. The sudden realization of failure is most likely the hardest–being so unexpected. In the end, though, the feeling is roughly the same.
How could I have made that decision? Why did I do it that way? Why didn’t I see that? If I had only known that earlier? Those are some of the questions that may haunt you once the point of failure hits. While those questions initially surface only as a way to kick yourself in the backside for starting something that, in hindsight, you perhaps shouldn’t have started—you can turn them around to be beneficial. You can use them to make failure educational. So, when you find yourself in a pit of despair because you tried something that didn’t work out, get O.U.T!
Own The Failure
The first step in turning your failure into a learning opportunity is to own the failure. Now is not the time to pass the buck, lay blame elsewhere, or try your best imitation of “Teflon man.” Now is the time to simply say, “Yeah, I got here because of me.” You may feel that it is counterintuitive, but by realizing that you were empowered to make the decisions that got you into the failure implies that you were also empowered to have prevented the failure.
Understand What Triggered The Failure
The next step is difficult, and it may take a little or a lot of research. However, with the benefit of hindsight, you have an advantage. The question you need to ask is, “Where did things go wrong?” In my professional career in Information Technology operations, I have spent multiple hours doing root cause analysis. It involves looking at the data and letting the data lead you to theories. Once you have a theory, test it out in different scenarios to see if that theory holds up. Your analysis may lead you to a specific decision that turned your ship into a wrong decision. The study may yield that you never even should have started a particular project because you were doomed before you began. Either way, now is the time to dig in to find the truth. Once you find the truth, incorporate it into your decision-making process.
Turn The Page
The last step is to turn the page—get over the fact that you had a failure. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but you need to do it! Once you turn that page, you have a feeling of empowerment or even accomplishment. If you leave that page unturned, you may still have lingering thoughts of failure or also being a failure. How sad would that be? You may have just learned a piece of truth within months or with a few thousand dollars when someone else had to spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in school tuition to learn. In most positions within the economy, an academic pedigree isn’t a good indicator of future job success. What is a good predictor of future job success, though, is past job experience. Now, you have that experience.
Fear Of Failure
So while you have ample justification for wanting to avoid both fear and failure, don’t! Analyze your concerns and analyze your failures. Learn from them both! By learning from both of them, you will likely accomplish more not only in your professional life but also in your personal life. Once you exercise these muscles in one part of your life, you will end up feeling more confident. Confidence breeds more confidence.
If you still feel unsure of starting a new effort, you may benefit from hiring a coach. By working with a coach, they can help you work through some of the decisions that you will need to make and can likely highlight some items in the future that you’d need to try to avoid. Hiring a coach is an investment, but they may be able to help you avoid some of the more significant challenges you’d be facing.