Most of us have heard about failing forward. In reality that can be easier said than done.
The most challenging thing to think about in the midst of failure is your next move. Yet that is precisely what your mind needs to be focused on. If you linger in your feelings of disappointment, you'll miss the opportunity right in front of you.
However rational you believe yourself to be, you still have emotions. And if there is one thing about failure that is so powerful, it is the emotions of frustration, embarrassment, and even discouragement. You’ve been there. I’ve been there. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve poured your heart and soul into something.
It can wreck you if you let it. I’ve known people who missed their goal so much so that they could barely find the courage to come into work. They feared they would be criticized, ridiculed, or even fired. I’m sorry to say that some leaders don’t create environments where failure is celebrated as part of the success process.
Here are some next steps for moving beyond failure I would consider:
Take a breath. In the midst of all the emotion, acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling. Being frustrated is OK.
Let go of the notion you should get it right the first time. If you’re trying to lead and do something that has never been done before, you shouldn’t carry the burden of having to get it perfect out of the gate.
Get with a mentor. It’s always helpful to have feedback and perspective from someone you trust.
Do something physical. Just because your mind may be stuck, doesn’t mean your body has to be. Go to the beach, go for a run, play a round of golf, or do whatever you do to relax.
Don’t let disappointment linger for longer than a day. Be disappointed for a moment, but don’t stay there. It’s unnecessary.
Identify what you learned. Failure is only wasted if you don’t learn anything from it.
Determine what you will do next. The quickest path to overcoming failure is to stay in motion.
It’s Your Move
I would strongly encourage you not to equate failure with "bad" things. Failure is just failure. It is not good nor bad. What it tells you is you haven't landed on the right formula for success—yet. And the reality is that formula keeps shifting just like everything else in your life. We don't live in static environments, and neither do we lead in them.
It may surprise you to know I don’t hire people on my executive team who can’t tell me about a time when they failed at something. There is a particular kind of humility and honesty that comes from those experiences. Failure teaches you to be a good listener, diligent observer, and someone with a bias toward action. All of those traits are necessary to lead through change.
It’s never the failure that is the main thing. It’s always how you respond to failure. More important, it’s what you do next that matters most.