Tawanda Chirenda, Founder, Becoming a Willing Student, Toronto, ON
Everyone fails at some point in life, especially entrepreneurs. The most important question for an entrepreneur is not whether or not you will fail, but how you respond to failure. There are basically two ways to respond to failure.
You can give in to anger, despair, feel sorry for yourself, and complain that the world is unfair, or you can acknowledge and accept what has happened, identify learning and growth opportunities and bounce back.
Accepting failure does not mean giving up and letting the stress and frustrations take over. It’s about acknowledging that something has not worked as expected and leaning in to experience the full range of emotions that come with failure, and trusting that you will bounce back.
I am not suggesting that this is easy. It’s not. It is very normal to react to failure with symptoms of anxiety and depression as long as that anxiety does not paralyze you.
The most important thing to do when you have failed is to reframe your failures. Reframing your failures is a great way to build resilience and grow from the experience. You are not your failures. You are you. Your failures do not have to define you. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of attaching themselves to how many times they have failed, “I am a loser, I have failed so many times.” This attitude only paralyzes you and inhibits you from learning and growing from the experience.
You have to learn to let go and move on. Your failures are not who you are. Your failures are simply opportunities for learning and growth, nothing more. I know it’s not easy not to feel ashamed or embarrassed when your business idea doesn’t work out as you expected, yet failure is a blessing in disguise. Instead of beating yourself up too hard, look at the situation as an opportunity for personal growth.
When I look back at all the missteps I took on my entrepreneurial journey, I realize that most of those failures actually contributed to the success I achieved later. No one wants to fail, but it happens. Failure sucks, but that’s how we grow. I will be honest with you, there are some failures I did not want to learn from and I repeated them until the lesson was learned.
Imagine your business or start-up was a 1 or 2-year college class, and you are now at the scheduled end period. What did you learn? What would you do differently?
By focusing on personal growth, it will feel less like a personal failure and more like a learning and growth experience. Take a moment and step outside your immediate anxiety response. Focus on what you have learned about yourself, your company, your market, and your life as a whole, you will realize your failures have actually enriched you.
No one wants to fail; re-frame it in terms of what you have learned and you will benefit in the long run.