Learn how to deal with failure in business from Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, JK Rowling, Steve Jobs, and Michael Jordan.
We assume everyone will judge for failure in a task, but the reality is, they judge how you dealt with it.
Failure is an inevitable reality of life. It can take the form of failure to remain financially profitable or unable to close a deal or to the extent of closing on the business altogether.
The greatest and successful individuals have tasted failure. They are what they are not because of their success in their first attempt but because of their early few failures.
Tough time doesn’t last long, but tough people do.
Before we get into dealing with failure, let’s see what it is.
What is Failure & What’s Not?
The definition of failure differs from person to person. For example, someone who didn’t achieve the sales target can be considered a failure. But failing to meet a sales target doesn’t make the individual or the team a total failure.
It’s a part which didn’t meet the expectation.
There can be various reasons why the target was not met by the team. Some of them can be:
- The goal was set way above the team’s capabilities
- The external factors (holidays, working days) impacted the team’s performance.
- The team had internal issues (Marriage of key member)
- The team had no sense of the target being worked out by the manager
So on and so forth.
Such reasons make the sales target as unachievable, but then they aren’t a representation of the performance of the team as a whole.
Similarly, when a business fails, there can be various reasons like a bad business plan, improper execution in critical elements, lack of a proper team, bad financial decisions, non-adaptability to changes, etc. are different reasons business succumbing to failure.
So typically, failure is when the parts do not make the whole right.
The best example I can think off in this IPL 2019 season to explain is Royal Challengers Bangalore team. It probably is the best team on paper where each individual has proved on an International level and yet each of the team members (the part) doesn’t come together to form the whole (the team) to win for RCB. To win matches, it has to be fielding, batting and bowling each part take the responsibility and make it happen.
How to Deal With Failures
So, as one is working day in, and day out on the business, one has to realize what isn’t working and move towards making it work. So here are some of the best ways to handle failure in business.
1. Acceptance is the Key
Genuinely accept things that are working and things that aren’t working.
Do not try to shy away from things that aren’t working and hope they will in the long-run. It’s better to acknowledge than put a close eye on them.
Acceptance is the key. Once you know what isn’t working and accepted it, one can work towards fixing it.
Once the acceptance is registered in the mind body and soul, one can make the next move in the right direction.
I will share with you one of my failure in starting an IT coaching class in Surat. After a few days, we (me and my cousin brother) were clear the business isn’t going to work. We accepted – it isn’t we both have the time or energy for it. Soon we moved in the right direction to sell it off to a potential buyer who can make it happen. It will give us the best possible price for the setup.
Acceptance is the key, and then one can move in the right direction.
We will find the same story in many failure stories.
Walt Disney was a school drop out, made an attempt to join the army but failed. One of his venture the Laugh-O-Gram studios miserably failed. The studios went bankrupt, and Walt Disney was perceived as not capable of running a business. A newspaper fired him of “being not so creative.”
Fast forward it today, and Disney Studios by Walt Disney entertain us and will for generations to come.
He accepted his failures, learned from them and moved on with his desire to entertain people.
2. The Business Fails, But that Doesn’t Make an Entrepreneur a Failure
The most important point to realize here is YOU are a separate entity from YOUR business. It’s the business which fails for various reason and not the entrepreneur, blogger or the freelancer.
How you deal with failure is essential.
If you are using failure as a process to learn, it is the best part of your career.
As I told you about the IT coaching institute in Surat, I didn’t have any significant failure before it. It helped me learn a lot. If I consider the amount I have lost, it was quite an amount but can I get the same amount of coaching paying the same amount anywhere, the answer will be NO.
Learn from the failure, analyze what went wrong, take care of those things in the next venture.
I formed a partnership after selling off the IT coaching institute on a website called ExcelDataPro with my schoolmate Faeem. It is doing very well because I worked on the reason for failure which was lack of my time.
World’s most successful entrepreneurs have more than one business as a failure.
Before Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft, a company called Traf-O-Data was a failure by him.
That doesn’t make Bill Gates a failure. It is a learning experience that helped him weed out things that don’t work when forming Microsoft.
3. Keep Improving with Each Attempt
No one can guarantee success in business. Being a success in the first attempt isn’t a blessing but a curse. There are unexpected circumstances that will take place, and one has to learn to deal with them.
The point here is to be flexible and adaptable to such kind of changes. If one allows and accepts the unexpected turns, then it will be easy to recover from the failure.
Just because one doesn’t find a successful way of doing certain things doesn’t make him or her a failure.
Even a child doesn’t succeed walking in the first attempt. It is a process where he learns to walk and can’t just start walking.
Similarly, it is a business, and everyone can’t just start doing it in the first attempt. It is the process where one has to learn to walk.
Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America in 1861 at the age of 52. But prior he failed in business, had a nervous breakdown and as well as was defeated in the presidential election in 1856. He learned from his experience.
4. Avoid Emotional Decisions
According to research, there are two parts of the brain actively taking part in decision making.
One is rational and second is emotional while an individual’s rational brain is busy figuring out probable outcomes of a situation the emotional brain takes over the charge.
In an unbalanced state of mind, we are prone to make decisions entirely based on emotions. It is because these decisions make us feel comfortable.
A failure in business whether small or big weakens the capacity to think wisely and take rational decisions.
In such a state of mind, an individual is vulnerable to take emotional decisions.
Before anything, one should get the stability first.
Let the rational brain focus on important decisions. Keep emotions aside for a while.
JK Rowling is the most famous failure of modern times. The author of the Harry Potter book series had a traumatic childhood, strained relationship with her father and an ill mother to look after. All these left her emotionally distraught and upset.
When she started Harry Potter, she was diagnosed with clinical depression and suicidal. 12 major publishing house rejected The Harry Potter manuscript. Almost every attempt failed to live a normal life.
She was still convinced of the rational decision to publish Harry Potter. Success came in 2004, where she became the first billionaire author writing books.
5. Stop Obsessing Over Failure
Dwelling over a business failure will never change the result. Obsessing over a failure makes the situation worse. It will create an intense emotional loop that will hold you back from moving on.
One can keep worrying about the past but how long?
The best way to let go is to own it, make peace with it and finally learn from it.
What would you do if you are to leave the company you started?
It happened with Steve Jobs. He was fired from (Apple Inc.) which he co-founded in a garage.
Instead of crying over what his people did to him, he founded NeXT and Pixar. This lead Steve Jobs back to the position of the CEO of Apple Inc.
In 2005 he said,
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. – Steve Jobs
6. Release the Fear of Being Judged
The fear of failure, in reality, is the fear of being considered a failure.
We care more about what others things than what we think of our self-esteem.
What will my friends or society think about me?
Unknowingly, it gives away too much power to others opinion.
Remember, everything you did; every single step you took around the business was to keep it floating.
You have given your heart and soul to it.
No matter how it ends, what others will think can’t decide your fate.
Try to free yourself from being judged.
One failure or even the next failure will not make those who hate you start liking you. Those who love you, don’t love because of what you have achieved but to make sure you become an achiever.
We know about Steve Jobs and his association with Apple but do you remember who founded Nokia or BlackBerry?
Even if people judge, they have a short memory.
7. Develop a Mindset to Experience Failure
Our core upbringing as a person, an entrepreneur or a businessman has nurtured a negative attribute towards failure. We think failure means stupidity, weakness, and inability.
If one looks into the history and see those who have achieved massive success, they all had failure as their first outcome.
They kept themselves motivated with a positive mindset. The difference between high achievers and an average person is they didn’t give up their winning mentality.
Legendary Michael Jordan has missed more than 9,000 shots in his career and lost 300 games. 26 times his team members entrusted him to take a winning shot, but he missed all of them. He failed but never gave up.
It is the power of a positive mindset.
Learning from experience to make better plans for the future will help you find success and read my success mantras
Further Reading …