Here are a couple more points to add to my blog post, from the last month, where I started sharing lessons from my recent business failure. I am following here the same process I teach at my workshops, where my clients learn how to extract lessons from direct experience to make them part of their mastery. I am honoured to have heard dozens of incredible stories as my clients reflected on their failures. Here is my share…
Weakness is Strength
My husband and I were both familiar with this great strategy advice. And, it ‘s hard to apply it to your life, especially when strengths is among your core values. When it comes to strategic weakness, I must admit my husband is much better than me. Still, we both shared the Hero story – we can do it, we’ve got it, help is limited, and some people need it out there. Not us.
In so many instances, we chose to play strong and pressed for what we felt was right, when a much better strategy would be to admit the weakness and to ask for help.
Vulnerability, as Brené Brown, Ph.D., demonstrated in her research, is a great source of power. Admitting weakness works beautifully together with soft focus and curiosity, discussed above. When we ask for help, we show up in our full humanness and attract all sorts of help – and it is up to us to decide what to accept and what to decline gracefully. Asking for help unlocks the wealth of information, the range of options, and the variety of skills we could not dream of having, should we continue struggling by ourselves. And we could also notice that we have already tried most of what is offered and, with the new information, we could see that the only real option is to end the game.
Say the F. word.
The world will not end. About a year into the project, we sensed the probability of failure. The project was too hard, too confusing, and too slow, and the amount of time and effort required was way more than we could afford. Still, we did not want even to think about stopping. Remember, we did not do failure. We both were raised to believe that if you work hard enough, at the end you succeed. So, we doubled our effort and marched on.
Wise people do not shy away from failure. ‘Fail fast’ is the motto of successful venture capitalists. Sometimes simply considering that project could be a failure opens up a much more useful discussion than recommitting to fight until the last bullet.
The moment it comes to mind, discuss potential failure.
Be brave. Bring it on. Do not forget to add curiosity and unlock your focus.
Has anything changed? Is the idea still viable? Are we still passionate about it?
If the answers are mostly positive, by all means, continue – with all the adjustments due to new information.
And, if there are mostly negative answers…
Be strong. Be cool. Admit failure. Implement the exit plan. Shake hands with your partners, hug your teammates, and leave the arena.
And go for a long walk. There is a new idea waiting for you out there.
For my doctoral research, I study leadership strategies for experimentation and learning on the job. I run experiential workshops for participants to explore approaches to overcome fear of failure, deal with resulting negative emotions, and develop own practices for learning from experience.
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