If you’re a true Project Manager or an Entrepreneur, you’ve definitely encountered a project or business failure. As someone who is both, I can definitely attest to experiencing both. There’s no shame in admitting defeat, but the most important take away from failure is building resiliency. Resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” In my mind, resilience also means learning from your mistakes. With that, I couldn’t help but let out my inner nerd and paste this Batman quote:
But it’s so true!!
So if you’re in the middle of a pity party and need a little kick in the ass motivation to get back in the saddle, read on for my steps to recover from failure.
Know when to fold ’em
If you’re managing a project, or scrambling to start up a business, but it seems like nothing is going your way, then at some point you need to step back and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”. If a legitimate answer doesn’t automatically come to mind, then you’re likely in need of a reset. For those of you who know me, you know that I’m a big fan of the law of attraction. This principle is based on learning to trust your intuition and paying greater attention to the energies at work around you. When we get stressed and busy, we often deny, neglect or blatantly ignore obvious signs that we are going in the wrong direction. When you step back to see the forest from the trees, it’s often then that you see the answer was right in front of you all along. Sometimes that means coming to the realization that you need to stop what you’re doing, and shift your efforts somewhere else.
Give yourself a 24 hour grief period
Accepting failure includes a grieving the humiliation or embarrassment that come with it. Grieving failure is a natural and very human reaction. But learning, and moving past it, is more powerful than anything. So give yourself 24 hours to eat your feelings, cry to your bestie, and anything else that helps you feel better, but know that once the 24 hours is up, you’re moving on to bigger and better things.
Assess “what went right” before “what went wrong”
Negativity breeds negativity. It’s human nature to gravitate toward negativity whenever things are going wrong, because it provides a comforting excuse and somewhere to place blame. Despite this I challenge you instead, to try to think of all the things that went right. Did you really nail the scope, but fail at staying on budget? Did you discover a huge gap in the market that could be satisfied with a new product or service offering, but fail at the execution strategy? Decompose the components that worked, then the ones that didn’t work, so you can decide whether it makes sense to give it another go, but in a different way.
Move on with resilience and reason
Once you’ve had time to digest, assess and recover from failure, it’s time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on. There’s no such thing as a perfect Entrepreneur or Project Manager, but what sets the good apart from the exceptional, is the ability to be resilient and overcome a challenging time or situation. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “David & Goliath”, he explains how overcoming disadvantages or failures has led to some of the greatest discoveries and success stories of our time (the discovery of cancer treatments by a man who grew up in poverty during the Great Depression, the dyslexic founder of Imagine Entertainment, the list goes on). It’s easy to get caught up in the world of Kardashians and Trumps who don’t have to try very hard to get their start in the world, but we need to remind ourselves that these are the exceptions to the rule. The rest of us have to fall a few times before we figure out how to run marathons.
The moral of the story is that there is almost no such thing as success without failure, but it’s those who learn to overcome struggles that end up becoming or developing something extraordinary. Failure is often touted by self-help gurus as the key to success, and knowing that will help you realize that sometimes it is the greatest gift of all.