How do you know you are growing? If you are failing, you’re on the right path. While failure is always positive, the day to day experience can still be difficult and mindset matters. When it comes to failure, we’re often afraid of what other people might think rather than the actual failure. Failure also means that you are trying, experimenting and learning. When we embrace failure — and also those feelings we experience around failure — we can start to see the truths it uncovers for us. Failure lets us know when things aren’t working, and when we need to either adapt or stop what we’re doing, and this can include stepping away from your original idea or business. Rather than being afraid of it, failure is something that we should all work hard to do more of — whether we own businesses, freelance, consult or work for someone else — and encourage and support others to do it too. So how do we embrace failure and make it work for us?
When we embrace failure — and those feelings we experience around failure — we can start to see the truths it uncovers for us.
What exactly is failure?
One person’s failure can be someone else’s success. Starting by unpicking what failure is — does it even exist? — is a healthy way of learning to take the sting out of it but also to love it.
What’s the goal?
Some substantial and healthy goals are a really good way of looking at failure in a different light. Once you start thinking about every failure as leading you closer to your goals, failures become something to look forward to.
Think of it as part of your journey
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all roadmap for businesses. You’ve got to explore different paths to know what works for you. No route is a complete dead-end either, they all lead to something else. So when you fail, just do what you would do if you were on a journey and lost your way: don’t panic, have a rest, something to eat or drink and work out what you’re going to do next. You’ll have it figured out in no time.
You learn more by failing
Failure gives you an opportunity to see what went wrong, and also what you would do differently next time. The only way to grow is by trying, adapting and trying again.
Embrace being human
While you can plan for things to run perfectly, it’s not always the case. Maybe it was your fault, or maybe it was out of your control. Either way, it’s happened.
Laugh about it, and sleep on it
Shit happens, and it’s ok. Laughter and sleep are the best medicine for anything.
Our Community talks about failure
And lastly, some thoughts from our community about their feelings about failure.
Chantal Gagnon, Stationery Designer, Socolo
“I consider failures valuable for what I can learn from them and I trust that they are leading me to my next endeavour. Through failure, I have altered my definition of success. If I am about 70% happy with how a project turned out and had fun doing it, got to experiment and had time to live life rather than simply work, that is 100% success to me.”
Poppy Norton, Jewellery Designer
“After working as an in-house stylist on interiors magazines for about 13 years and being very much in control of my shoots from start to finish, I don’t think I worked terribly well as a freelancer. I certainly didn’t enjoy it as much. I think this was when I decided that whatever came next, I wanted to be in control.”
Johanne Penney, Founder, Amp Up Your Voice
“We are all on a journey and you will inevitably stumble or fall at some point, whether that is professionally or personally. So it’s about how you get up, move and learn from each of those events. If you are able to use it as a learning curve, it can really contribute to your success and you can teach others who are coming up the ladder behind you. However, it’s quite subjective as to what a person sees as a failure. I try to think positively about every experience and not see it as a failure per se. But I have made many missteps over a long period of time, for example jumping into a job or position that wasn’t right for me because I was desperate to move on. I might mope for a bit but I try to have that reflective piece on what happened, what I could have changed or potentially done better and try not to dwell on it too much and focus on what I will do in the future. But I’m a Pisces so that can be quite hard.”
Harriet Bornemann, Textile Designer, Bloc Studio
“When you’re starting off, failure is inevitable as you’re really doing trial and error. I think my first experience with failure was making my second colourway in the blue/yellow colourway which didn’t sell hugely well. My reaction was to go in the opposite direction and use more neutrals. I really want people to see Bloc Studio as this fun colourful brand but then super colourful homewares aren’t for everyone. It’s a balancing act between what is commercial and what is true to Bloc Studio as a brand. I see this colourway as maybe not a failure but one of those things that just didn’t work as well.”
Leo Taylor, Writer & Artist, Ordinary Shapes
“I’m possibly not very good at failing. I don’t like to do it. I listen in awe to the guests on the How To Fail podcast. My daughter, who is learning to read, whispered to me the other day ‘Mummy, what if I get a word wrong?’ I told her that if that happens it doesn’t matter because that’s what learning is and she can just try again. At one point I wanted to do a PhD after my Master’s. I’ve yet to start it, so maybe that’s a failure.”