How To Deal With Failure

It was a mistake that cost me over $100,000. Writing about it now, after all of these years still makes me sick to my stomach.

In 2003, I owned a real estate business. During that summer, I was doing a heavy amount of marketing and advertising. It was working but I wasn’t. In a few months, I had generated well over 300 new leads.

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t contact those leads. I did. Once.

The problem was that I never followed up with any of them after the first contact. If they weren’t ready to buy or sell a house right away, I forgot about them. A year later, I was bored one day and thought it would be fun to see how many of those people ended up buying or selling a house.

It wasn’t fun. It was miserable.

Many of them had moved already. I calculated my lost commissions until I hit $100,000 and couldn’t see the computer screen anymore for the tears.

To say that I’ve failed many times as an entrepreneur would be an understatement.

So, what do you do when you fail?

First, there’s the obvious “pick yourself up”, “dust yourself off” and other clichéd phrases of inspiration designed to motivate you to keep trying.

But there’s more to it than that.

1. Re-define Failure

Failure is nothing more than feedback. While it may not be the desired result, it is a result nonetheless. Failure to you might not be the same as failure to someone else.

When a UFC fighter loses a match, he fails. If I was in the UFC Octogan, it wouldn’t matter if I lost the match. Success or failure would be 100% determined by whether or not I didn’t get killed.

Are you defining failure by other people’s definition and standards?

When an entrepreneur goes bankrupt, most people would say they’ve failed. But what makes people an expert on your potential? Nothing. Walt Disney went bankrupt more than once and you’d be hard-pressed to find an entrepreneur who doesn’t want the type of success he had (and continues to have).

Abraham Lincoln and J.K. Rowling both failed many times by other people’s standards. But not by their own.

2. Evaluate & Find The Good.

Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I used to have a hard time grasping this concept. Some things seem so bad that you can’t imagine any good came out of it. But I’ve learned that Hill was right.

The mistake I told you about at the beginning of this post was one I struggled to see the good in. Lost income is never a good thing right? Well, after realizing I failed miserably at follow-up, I put a system in place. The new follow-up sequence not only fixed the lost income problem so it wouldn’t happen in the future, it gave me a significant advantage over my competition in the marketplace.

3. Immediately Identify Your Next Steps.

The worst thing you can do when you fail is to do nothing. You have to keep moving forward. The easist way to do this is to put an action-plan in place. Determine your next steps, big or small, and get to work. Even if something fails, you’ve created momentum.

It’s important to keep that going. The worst result of failure is that it causes you to procrastinate on what needs to be done next.

4. Get Help.

Maybe you’re not sure where you went wrong. Call in some backup. Having a fresh set of eyes take a look at your situation can help you see what you missed or where you came of the rails.

This is where having a coach comes in handy. As long as you’re seeking the assistance of someone who knows what they’re talking about, you’re good.

Never be afraid to ask for help. It can be the different between success and continued failure.

5. Know The Difference Between A Temporary Setback and Permanent Failure.

Failure is only permanent if you decide it is. Too often when you fail at something, you assume it’s a permanent result. In reality, almost all failures are a temporary setback.

A few years ago, I was close to becoming the host of a new TV show designed to help leaders. After all of the interviews, phone calls, and screening, it was down to me and one other guy.

He got it, and I didn’t.

At first, all of my self-doubt demons popped up. Maybe they didn’t want me because I have a lot of scares on my face? (I was a bit of a daredevil as a kid). Maybe they didn’t want me because I wasn’t smart enough? Wasn’t a good enough communicator?

It took me awhile to realize they didn’t want me because the other guy was truly the better fit. It had very little to do with me actually.

Does this mean I’ll never host a TV show? Of course not. It’s not one of my goals (and wasn’t when they reached out to me) but it’s also not something I look at as being over.

It’s a temporary setback, not permanent failure.

When you can re-frame how you think about failure and how you behave after you fail, you’ll experience freedom and success. Failing is never fun, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience if you have strong habits of what to do when you fail.