How to Turn Setbacks into Success
People often look at my success and assume I haven’t had any failures. Excuse me while I laugh. Have you seen my recent blooper reel?
The truth is I have experienced plenty of failure. And many are a lot worse than a flubbed line. I just don’t usually publicize them.
Here are three failures, just from last year:
- Batch releasing my podcast. I thought people would love this. They could binge-listen to my show, just like Netflix, right?
As it turns out, not so much. Yes, I had a few hundred fans do this, but it’s barely worth the effort. I doubt it is something I will continue.
- Best Year Ever launch video. I work with one of the premier video production teams on the planet. But when it came time for the main launch video for 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever I just couldn’t get it right.
We had to shoot it three separate times to hit the level of quality we are committed to. But that wasn’t our biggest Best Year Ever setback—not by a long shot.
- Best Year Ever Leaders Edition. Our overall launch was hugely successful. We literally quadrupled our sales from last year. However, one piece never got off the ground at all.
We shot three videos for a special Leaders Edition. But I wasn’t happy with the results, so we scrapped them. We then rebuilt the entire course from the ground up, but I still wasn’t happy with the final product, so we scrapped that, too.
Then were dozens of other mistakes, too, most of which we recovered from. But still, across the board, these mistakes represented a significant negative impact on my business—not only in expense and burden on my team, but also in lost revenue.
If you’ve ever had a product slip or not ship at all, you know what a massive face-palm it can be. But still, in spite of these failures—or maybe because of them—we managed to double our revenues and profit for the year.
But while failure, mistakes, and bloopers are inevitable for all of us, we can choose to respond in ways that help us on the road to success. Here are six steps for making sure your failures move you forward.
- Acknowledge the failure. There’s no point avoiding the obvious. The first step for processing failure is to admit our initiative, product, or promotion just didn’t work. We have to be willing to say, “Now that was a failure.” Rather than defending it, there’s enormous freedom in simply declaring it.
Take responsibility for it. More then merely acknowledging it, we need to own up to our part in the failure. Blaming outside forces, including other people, might cushion the blow to our ego, but it won’t let us get beyond what went wrong or what was missing. More importantly, it won’t move us forward.
Mourn it (if necessary). Some mistakes are simple things we can blow off—like thirty-seven takes on a simple video. (I’m not making that up.) But others are major emotional letdowns. There’s nothing wrong with being real in the midst of a disappointment. Grieving is often a natural part of helping us get beyond a setback.
Learn from it. Once we’ve faced our failures for what they are, we can begin to analyze them for what went wrong and why. There’s learning in the middle of every letdown. For example, I’ve gone over the Leaders Edition failure in my head a dozen times and now see several things I will do differently next year. I can hardly wait to get started!
Adjust your behavior. Learning leads to action. Whether it’s retrying a video take in a different way or reworking a major product, once we learn from our mistakes we can act in ways that minimize or even leapfrog those problems going forward. In this sense failure always serves to make us better—if we allow it.
Enter into the next project. Failure is part of life. But so is success. It just takes working through our setbacks and staying on the path. A process like this can reframe our failures so we see them as practice—and even the vital preparation—for success. So what are you waiting for? Like I say in the blooper reel, a lot, “Let’s try that again.”
To err, as the old saying goes, is human. In other words, if at first you don’t succeed … you’re normal. But—and this is big—we don’t have to be defined by our failures. We can work through them, get past them, and let them fuel our eventual success.
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