The best way to learn anything is to practise, and that includes getting the most out of failure, writes Ethan Fleming, the founder and CEO of Get Going PT.
The secret to failing is to understand that very rarely will a setback completely destroy you, so taking a risk on the good chance something might work will give you more opportunities to reach your vision and push your business to its potential compared to sitting back in fear.
Setbacks are learning curves
The first thing to realise is setbacks aren’t setbacks. They are learning curves and awakenings, a reality check that what you are doing isn’t working. Too many business owners try to turn failure into success by force when the important step is to recognise which parts aren’t working and why, and then find an alternative way to achieve your goal.
Some of the world’s most important discoveries have come about because of mistakes, or on the way to trying to do something else, like the invention of the microwave. If you deny that there’s a problem, that something doesn’t work, then you deny yourself the lesson you can take from what you tried. We make progress on the back of what went before, whether or not it succeeded, so build on what you learn even if it didn’t bring you what you wanted at the time.
Failure is in the eye of the beholder
No one cares about your failures as much as you do, so don’t be disheartened by your setbacks. Mostly, people want to know what you’re going to do about it, so take what happened in your stride and focus on how you’re going to apply that to your next move.
On the flip side, it’s also possible to care too much about what others think. The idea that spawned my business started as an assignment for a Certificate IV course I was studying. I wrote a business plan for a mobile personal training company and the teacher shot it down. Some would call this a failure, but it was actually a springboard because it highlighted for me that I really did want to pursue this business idea and also that I knew enough to see how it might work beyond what the lecturer said was “wrong”. Fast forward a few years and I was right. The lecturer saw failure where I saw opportunity that I was able to turn into success.
Resilience takes practice
Mental resilience is a habit. It’s much harder to tackle the big hurdles without learning to overcome smaller ones first, so try doing something hard every day; this practice will help you get better at dealing with the “hard” on any day. For me, one of the things that I don’t enjoy but insist on doing every day is having a freezing cold shower. It’s absolutely horrible, but it reminds me that life is full of things we don’t like but sometimes and they just have to get done in order to achieve longer-term goals and success.
Once you get used to facing challenges, you will also recognise, and be able to call on, the mental state you need in order to work your way through an issue or overcome a problem. It’s like training — at some point training becomes so ingrained it’s second nature. Building resilience is about seeing a challenge and “instinctively” reaching for a solution rather than shying away from it because you haven’t had much experience dealing with adversity.
See the bigger picture
When you’re focusing on something challenging, a lot of your energy understandably goes towards working your way out of it. That can be draining, because at that stage you only see the pain.
The easiest way to become resilient through the hard times is to realise you chose this journey, so don’t complain when it gets hard, it’s part of the package. Instead, by embracing the life you have chosen, you can remember what it was that brought you there and what you’ve set out to achieve. This reframes failure as a stepping stone to your goal and provides fuel for your fire. Climbing a mountain is hard, but having climbed a mountain is success. Choose the view from the top.
Resilience is not something entrepreneurs are born with; they need to work at it like everyone else. Without practice, however, overcoming failure becomes harder to do. By training yourself with difficult tasks to build resilience, and by employing a “lessons learnt” approach, you can take on just about any challenge.
Ethan Fleming is the founder and CEO of Get Going PT.
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business.
Maja has an extensive career as a journalist across finance, business and market intelligence. Prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja spent several years unravelling social, political and economic intricacies in Eastern Europe.
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