How do you react when you fail? This is such a big topic, we can’t believe we haven’t tackled it before.

If you’re living life and taking chances, the question isn’t IF you’re failing, it’s when and how often. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a very empowering reaction to failure, which is kind of inconvenient considering that we’re all going to do it – and actually should be looking for opportunities to do it more.

Most of us grow up thinking failure is unacceptable. As a result, we spend a lot of time in the land of perfectionism where there are very few risks and fewer opportunities for wins and losses where we could work the muscle of how to make failure work for us.

We love the question Sara Blakeley’s dad used to ask at the dinner table every night: “How did you fail today?”. Failure was celebrated, not shunned. No wonder she is the fearless leader of a billion-dollar business today. 

We’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how this plays out in our own lives. Unfortunately, we do not see many leaders stepping up to embrace failure, which likely won’t change unless we see what’s possible if we could allow it to happen. What would happen FOR us if we saw failure as a means of learning and becoming more of who we want to be? How could it not drastically change the impact on our lives and our teams?

Where do you land when it comes to failure? Are you a lover or a hater? 

Obviously failure isn’t something any of us actually enjoy. But for a lot of really successful people, the long term gain is worth the pain on the front end. This camp of people is able to push through disappointment and a little shame with a certain type of narrative, which in the face of a screw-up, usually includes the following key steps:

Feeling the feelings. Take responsibility for the loss and get honest with yourself about how bad something went, so that you can actually move forward and turn it into something positive.

Choosing the choice. You’re not a victim – you get to choose your reaction and narrative. It seems simple, but so many of us choose default.

Looking for the lesson. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do with that to prevent an exact replay?

Why is all of this important? 

Because how you handle failure has a wide ripple effect on your success and those around you. And as a leader, we know you want that impact to be positive. Modeling a healthy response to failing will encourage innovation, growth, and connection. And wins! Go get more of those by choosing the narrative you want, instead of defaulting to one that doesn’t serve.

Not sure what your failure response is? Try this exercise: 

  1. Write out 3 failures that come to mind. (we hope this comes easily for you)
  2. Record your default narrative for each one.
  3. Write your response to that narrative as if it was your best friend’s? How would you want them to process it?

Next week, we’ll talk about what you can do with narrative. Don’t miss it.

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