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The thing nobody wants to talk about… Failure

Failure is painful. Tremendously painful. On top of this shame and guilt kicks in. Sooner or later we all have to go through it. In order to grow and evolve we have to make mistakes and fail. When you are facing this situation, you might have the feeling that there is no tomorrow and that there is no solution to get out of it. You tend to have a very narrowed vision of the situation and it’s  difficult to actually try to gain different perspectives on the matter. 

How to change your mindset and gain a positive outlook on failure?

First of all, talking helps. Don’t keep it all to yourself. And with talking I don’t mean, discussing with the voice in your head. You will realize when sharing, that it is already really helpful to simply get it off your chest. Now, we all need a different amount of time to process things. Don’t stress yourself. Take the time you need. But I can promise you already now: by speaking things loud out you will feel liberated already. 

There are some really amazing events which were created to celebrate the learning effects of failure such as the “Fuckup Nights” which started off in Mexico and has spread all over the world. People gather to share and learn. Interestingly enough, you might realize that through this pain and learning, you will grow stronger and things will turn to the better. If not even better than before. Now imagine going on stage and talking about your failure. Imagine you tell a whole room full of strangers that you “fucked up” really badly. As a CEO your company had to declare insolvency and while you’re cleaning up the whole mess you became pregnant despite not wanting to have children. Indeed your husband actually made already an appointment for a vasectomy but you had to push this, as there was no money left. Or you had a very successful company, so successful indeed, that you were becoming a unicorn company. YES! And then bankruptcy with liabilities of EUR 160 million  making this indeed on of  the biggest bankruptcy’s of the country (Austria). OUCH. It took him 6 years to somewhat recover from this. 

A few years back when I was still living in Singapore, I had the chance to see the real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, live on stage. This was truly such a memorable experience. He was talking about his life after he ended in jail and as mentioned already before, his life took off after all of these experiences. 

It’s also important to talk to people about what is going on, because it’s so easy and tempting to turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide in such situations. Being honest often strengthens relationships and can truly help you face difficult times and your inner demons. Shame and guilt can be tricky to handle. If, for whatever reason you’re not yet ready to talk to someone or you need more time: write down all your thoughts and feelings. Then burn all the pages. It’s really important to let go of all of this so that you can work on new options and solutions . Lies and secrets will only lead to a downward spiral, as you need to continuously create new lies to cover the old ones and you don’t have the time and energy anymore to actually focus on the important things (solve the problem).

Failure often pushes us beyond our comfort zone. That’s why It’s so painful because we are forced  to make radical changes immediately and that makes us feel very helpless and scared. On top of this: the more successful you are, the bigger the downfall. Often Managers/C-Level Executives are used to having control due to the nature of their business and it can be tremendously challenging and difficult to accept that somethings can’t be controlled. Accepting to let go can be tremendously hard. 

It’s always good to remember that failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.

Try to focus on the positive things which have happened within this experience, what could you learn? What did you benefit from? Sometimes you might have to leave people behind and others might show up unexpectedly and support you. Try to be opened minded and be opened in doing things differently, as you’re failure has shown, that your previous ways in dealing with things might be outdated. Focus on what you have right now at this moment and be present. Worrying is not being present. Worrying about something means, you’re muddling somewhere in the future. You can’t find solutions in the future. You can only find it in the present. You might think worrying is a responsible thing to do. No it is not. Its is simply wasted energy. Instead of worrying, your time is much wiser spent thinking what needs to be done to get out of the situation. What do you need? Who can help you? What resources do you need? What helped you in the past, to get out of a difficult situation?

Things will get better. It’s about focusing on the right things. 

Every failure is a lesson. If you are not willing to fail, you are not ready to succeed.


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