By YUME H. (Via Ezine Articles)— How can we harness the power of authentic failure? Let’s first start with it’s no secret that our society and culture is success-driven. In fact, one can’t turn on the news, or go through their social media timeline without reading about how company’s like Google or Apple are so successful because they make record sales in the billions, or we hear about our favorite brands signing a new celebrity spokesperson, or some twenty-five year old whiz-kid who successfully sold their idea for millions.
Let’s face it, we love success. We love winning. But ‘authentic failure’, that’s a whole other ball game we don’t prep anyone for. In fact, it’s like the scarlet letter ‘F’ to entrepreneurs who are allergic to that word. It’s not something we want to embrace as an option most of the time. From personal to business failure, we’d rather skirt the issue, shudder at the unwelcome tsunami it could have on our psyche. Or worse, we fear we could get sucked into a depression-driven abyss we’ll never be able crawl out of.
So what if we take a different perspective? Especially when it comes to our business or as an entrepreneur? We look at authentic failure as a badge of honor in a way. It shows off our resilience. How many of our heroes or leaders we have heard of that first failed before they hit their stride? Who doesn’t like a good story about how character is shaped by overcoming adversity?
So let me share my story about authentic failure. I’ve been in business for four years. I look back and can’t believe how those years have gone by so fast. It’s not been the most straightforward path, but it’s definitely been a path that’s proved more rewarding. I’ve learned more about myself, what I’m made of and who I am than any other time in my adult life. I can look at a challenge and know that I can face it, and if it takes me down, I will come back up and reinvent myself. Did I always feel like that? Oh no. Actually, I was scared of failing. Which is why I tried so hard all the time not to. Scared of the shame that comes with the feeling if I failed.
I’m a true-blue entrepreneur. I know it’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. I run a woman-owned tech business that helps other startups and companies resolve technology bottlenecks and drive product incubation. I’m shaped by my experiences and what hasn’t completely broken me down, I was forced to embrace and change. You see, around four years ago I wasn’t just laid off once. I got laid off twice. Yep. Back in 2010, I had gotten my “DREAM” job as a Vice President. Then was laid off. I worked hard to get another job of the same caliber. Was elated to get a job offer. Then I got laid off again in 2011. UGH. The market was rough. I was going in circles, and knew I had to create a new opportunity for myself.
At the time I felt crushing failure. I had a mortgage and I was totally unprepared and unsure what should be my next steps. I didn’t end up homeless, but I did end up in the unemployment line after having earned a six-figure salary. My entire identity and foundation that I had built was unraveling piece by piece.
So with very little clarity and no idea of my next move, I dug really deep inside. Deeper than I ever went before. Between the mix of grief of my losing my job and fear of losing my home, I did have at least two things going for me. And those two elements became the initial corner stones of what would become my new foundation. One was my faith or spirituality. And the second thing, I knew I had talent. I knew when I looked in the mirror, I was as good as the best of them.
After all, I spent the past 15 years of my life working and honing my craft. From internships, working my way through college with odd jobs here and there, to landing my ‘real’ first job after college. I did my share of dues. I had also caught some really lucky breaks. And even if I was having a bad run with my career, I felt that I didn’t need to completely break myself down by further questioning if I was any good. I had that going for me at least.
So after much deep contemplation, I took my severance package and started my business. Four years later, it was the BEST decision I made. WHY? My logic then and still is now, at least I won’t lay myself off. Haha. Here’s the fun part. I do better now then when I was a Vice President earning a six figure salary, plus feeling the pressure that I always had to be ‘available’, even when I was not at work, and the 55+ hour work weeks. I was forced to make changes to my budget and lifestyle by creating a different kind of work and life balance. I’m so glad they laid me off and I finally got the HINT: The merry-go-round was NOT working for me!
Failing had taught me so much. Authentically facing my failure taught me so much more. I’d like to share these 5 things I learned:
1. Authentic failure teaches real confidence. Not the fakey kind that is boastful and feels like it needs to be pretentious or wear a hyped-up ego mask. It’s that solid feeling when you can look someone squarely in the eye or give them a firm handshake, because it represents your inner strength and character forged by having to deal with adversity.
2. You know what you are made of when you hit bad times. And everyone hits rough patches at some point, it’s just being human and knowing we have ups and downs. It also helps to know that there is a sense of resilience and confidence that comes along with the ability to creatively bounce back.
3. It makes you more flexible. I once heard a proverb that said, ‘if you don’t bend, you break’. I liked those words, because we are all more flexible than we give ourselves credit for. Being flexible means you can look at another point of view about a situation and come up with alternatives instead of feeling stuck and defeated.
4. You can laugh at yourself. Sometimes authentic failure just teaches us humility about what happened, and once we get some distance to see the situation in another light, we don’t have to be so serious about it. Once I realized I had other options I felt I could breath again, I realized, wait, maybe this isn’t so bad. I can actually venture off to do what I want. That’s pretty cool. It was a gift, a fresh start in a new direction.
5. You learn what you like and what you don’t like. Authentic failure can mean life lessons like accepting that maybe I was trying too hard to be like everyone else, and I wasn’t as cut out for working for others, but I’m more cut out for being my own boss. Failing at something is a subtractive method that helps refine options so you focus on areas where you can do your best. How can you know what you don’t want or what’s not working unless you experience it? Embracing authentic failure is a pretty good teacher.
What I learned has helped me so much as an entrepreneur and business woman. It’s taught me to connect with others in ways that’s deeper with more gratitude. I also take these learnings into my work with my own clients. My clients know that if we mutually decide to work together, I’ve got the passion and commitment to follow the project through. And set backs are not going to cause me to be so easily discouraged. In fact, I’m more open to exploring and finding solutions to problem.
I hope my perspective helps you to appreciating authentic failure as a gift and an opportunity. Learning from our authentic failures can do us a world of good when things appear bleak. It gives us a chance to step back, trim the fat and focus on what’s important. I wish you the very best in your business adventure’.
Yume H. owns Yume Consults. A woman-led tech company for startups and businesses. We connect the dots across teams, eliminate bottlenecks, improve ROI and deliver successful digital projects.