How to Deal with Failure and Disappointment in Business
[Time to read: 6 minutes]
Why do I always screw-up? Why does it never go right for me? I’m never going to succeed!
That’s a depressing start to a blog! But I remember having these thoughts many years ago.
At times I struggled with how to deal with failure and disappointment in business.
Failure – even the mention of this word back then used to bring a ‘sinking’ feeling in my stomach as I used to remind myself of previous times I screwed-up. For many in business, experiencing failure creates negative emotions.
In this blog we’re going to explore failure and disappointment in business; what happens when we experience disappointment and what we can do to avoid the negative feelings associated with failure and disappointment that many in business struggle with.
What is failure?
Well, I think we all know failure, but when researching for this blog, I looked it up on Wikipedia to see what it said:
“Failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective and may be viewed as the opposite of success.”
So pretty obvious, but it focuses on the original intention to succeed – and an expectation for a specific result, that doesn’t happen.
What is disappointment?
Wikipedia states: “Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest. Similar to regret, it differs in that a person who feels regret focuses primarily on the personal choices that contributed to a poor outcome, while a person feeling disappointment focuses on the outcome itself. It is a source of psychological stress.”
It refers to a ‘feeling’ that follows the failure of expectations and it touches on disappointment being one of many causes of stress.
What happens when we get disappointed?
Disappointment is a powerful emotion, in-fact it’s one of the tougher emotions we experience. Disappointment hurts!
People react to the emotion of disappointment in different ways – some get angry; some get sad; some beat themselves up and some blame other people.
Let’s face it – in business there are many opportunities to fail and thus many opportunities to experience disappointment. From my personal experience in business and that of my coaching clients we all have experience of failure and disappointment.
Here are some examples of typical business ‘failures’ can create disappointment:
- Not winning a business opportunity
- Losing a customer
- Losing a valued member of staff
- Messing up a presentation or a sales pitch
- Making a mistake…just screwing up!
In this blog we’re going to discover how to respond to the feeling of disappointment in different ways – more empowering ways.
What can we do to overcome disappointment in business?
Better Out Than In!
As we discovered earlier there could be many reasons in business why we could be feeling disappointed. If for example you’ve made a mistake – be honest and apologise for it. You’ll gain more respect with honesty than anything else.
Perhaps you’re disappointed about something that someone else screwed up, don’t hide it – talk about it – be curious to find out what happened. How could you help that person improve in the future?
If there’s no-one you can talk with, then write about your disappointment. Perhaps you need to vent about it to get it out?! If you do then write down your frustrations – by writing this on paper, you can ‘say’ everything you want to – once you’ve done that – destroy it.
Each of these are great ways to ‘extract’ the disappointment.
As the saying goes “Better out than in!”.
What Can You Learn?
So, in the previous section we discovered that talking about the failure and disappointment can help to extract the negative emotion. Be mindful of how long you focus on the ‘problem’ though. When we focus our time on a problem, it tends to get bigger in our minds.
Focusing more time and energy on what you can learn about the perceived failure will help point you in the right direction so you can move on.
As Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
With every mistake I’ve made in business (and I’ve made a few!) I’ve learned something. I moved forward trying to not repeat those mistakes. I tend to make new ones now!
…But seriously, I think Business and Life is about making mistakes, learning from them, not repeating them and to keep moving forward.
So, next time you experience a failure, try asking yourself these questions:
- What can I learn from this situation to help me?
- What could I do differently next time?
- How will this situation serve me?
- How could I use this situation to help others?
Learn from People That Fail the Most
I love reading biographies and auto-biographies about successful business leaders. Every holiday, I take a book with me to read. Last time was a book about Elon Musk.
One thing I’ve learned from reading these books is that the people that succeed in business the most, tend to have had huge failures – and lots of them.
These books are full of insights and learning opportunities for us. You get to learn about their experiences; their ‘failures’ and their successes. But I think perhaps most importantly you get you learn about their mindset – how they keep going forward despite the mistakes and failures.
My favourite reads so far have been about Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. But there are so many leaders to read about.
So, why not search for a book about a business leader who inspires you?
Create New Insights
Learning from other business leaders by reading books about them is a great way to create new insights. Another way is to read quotes. I’ve got to admit I’m a big fan of quotes – I try to read one each day. I find they create so much inspiration for me.
Here are some of my favourite quotes about failure:
"I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."
"You can't control the events of your life, but you can control what they mean to you."
"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."
So, what have we learned?
We’ve learnt more about what failure and disappointment is and how disappointment can be a source of stress.
We’ve learnt that people can react to failure and disappointment in dis-empowering ways including anger, sadness and beating themselves up.
I shared four ways to help transform the way we deal with failure and overcome disappointment:
- Getting rid of the disappointment as quickly as possible. We discovered ways of how to do just that.
- Learning from failure is the key to not really failing at all.
- Learn from business leaders that succeed the most as they tend to fail the most.
- Creating new insights for yourself by reading quotes that other people have written about failure can help to shift how you perceive failure.
In summary, realising that failure is part of business and life has been key for me. Understanding that sometimes things just don’t go our way helps.
Appreciating that you may not be able to control the events (‘failures’) that you experience, but you do have control of how you think about them; what you do about them and what they ultimately mean to you, will help you move forward.
And finally, discovering that if you look close enough at the perceived ‘failures’ you see, you’ll find the seeds of success and that is the sure way to move towards that.
So, let me ask you a question:
What’s been your biggest ‘failure’ in business?
Oh, and one more:
What can you learn from it?
So, don’t let the perceived ‘failures’ you see be your downfall.
Business ‘Failures’ are sometimes a topic for discussion during coaching sessions with my clients. If you would like to learn how coaching can help – CLICK HERE – to read my blog article where I share the Top 9 ways Coaching helps Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please comment and share.
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