Moving on from Failure the Right Way

moving on from failureWhat do Emily Dickinson, Oprah Winfrey, and Marilyn Monroe all have in common? Well, apart from being some of history’s most well-known women in their respective fields, all three have suffered the same thing: significant setbacks during their careers.

Dickinson received countless rejection letters before her work was published, Monroe was told she should set her sights lower and become a secretary, and Winfrey was even sacked from her job as an on-screen reporter because she was, laughably, told she was “unfit for TV.”

But another thing these women have in common? Their willingness to keep trying in the face of adversity and even downright failure.

Yet that’s easier said than done. So how exactly do you motivate yourself to fight back when something serious stalls your business or career trajectory?

Keep It in Perspective

Key is you need to try to keep everything in perspective. When you look back at the many years you’ve been in your business or profession, the failures you’ve experienced are going to pale in significance or become memorable in a positive way because you used them as stepping stones to success. Take successful Australian businesswoman Sarah Cordiner as an example. When the government completely cut funding to her company training for long-term unemployed people in remote areas, she was devastated. Instead of wallowing in failure, however, she immediately spent eight weeks launching a brand new idea.

As she writes on her blog: “That unfortunate experience gave me not only the chance to reduce the high-risk operations of my business; but also the Captain’s hat to lead the way of a new and wonderful era.” Don’t think of problems or failures as a sign that you should be discouraged. Instead, use them as learning and motivational tools to continue going at it. As they say, it’s just a matter of perspective—and having a positive perspective or outlook is what matters here.

Continue to Believe in Yourself

Try not to let a failure debilitate your confidence or make you limit your belief in your ideas or what you’re capable of. Success doesn’t come easily and if you open up a conversation with other brilliant businesswomen, it’s likely they’ll have their own stories of failure, too. They’ll also surely mention how these stumbles made their drive to succeed stronger eventually, and made success even sweeter.

Consider joining a networking or business/professional group either online or face to face. This will put you in touch with plenty of admirable women who will give you valuable advice, especially in regards to maintaining confidence and the drive to move forward despite encountering business or career setbacks.

Use Your Mistakes as a Springboard

As painful as it may be, try to assess to what led to the failure you just experienced. Write down any points you feel contributed to what happened and then address them: what would you do differently next time? You may even need to speak to your boss or mentor and ask them to be honest about how they feel you could have avoided the situation. You could also post on a careers forum to see what other businesswomen’s opinions of what you did wrong are and how they would have navigated the issues.

Australian businesswoman Leanne Faulkner runs a small consultancy firm called Fortitude at Work in which she helps small business owners navigate the pitfalls of entrepreneurship. She sold her first company after suffering a breakdown because of the pressures of running a business.

“I think failure has been my greatest success,” Faulkner told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If I hadn’t really had that breakdown, which my husband calls a breakthrough, I wouldn’t be advocating for mental health for small business owners”.

Be Better Prepared

Once you have a good sense of how you would catapult yourself over the obstacles you faced last time around, think about how you can prepare yourself this time around. Was the failure because of poor people management? Consider professional development with a focus on people management and ask your employer to support you by way of funding or at least attending during working hours. Was it that your own business ran out of cash? Research different ways of gaining funding and attracting clients and set about making them a reality.

While business or career failure is often seen as a negative event, it also allows you to take a look at things in a different, more productive perspective. This gives you the necessary insights that will help you improve yourself and avoid the same failure in the future. Experience is the best teacher, after all.

Reset Your Goals if Needed

Now that you’re ready to get going again, it’s a good time to reflect and determine if your goals are the same as they were before you encountered failure. Just make sure any aims you’re dropping or tweaking are because of a more realistic approach or a genuine change of heart rather than because of a dent in your confidence.

Again, asking for second opinions can be vital for success, especially after experiencing failure. As such, consider seeking advice from fellow career or businesswomen. At Behind Closed Doors, we believe mentorship is and should never be underrated and use it, together with networking and other resources, to help women achieve true professional development in their own careers and fields.


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