What To Do When You Fail
If you were around for the article that Allied Teams wrote on “Five Mistakes Startups Make in the First Five Years,” you might remember reading that nine out of ten startups fail.
The truth is that 100% percent of startups fail. The one startup out of ten that became successful learned how to fail better than the rest.
“Failing better” means using failure to your company’s advantage. There are countless steps, tips, and techniques on how to process failure. Today you will read about three ways to fail better.
When you fail, smile
Smiling has a direct link to your brain. Smiling more often will release serotonin, dopamine, and endomorphin, reducing stress, increasing productivity, lowering blood pressure, and keeping your heart rate low and steady.
As they start to tip over for the 27th time, a smile creeps on their face. They land on their rump, which causes their baby fat-filled cheeks to jiggle. Their eyes go wide and they stand up with an even wider smile.
How can a person possibly smile after failing so many times?
The best leaders know how to follow and learn. When learning how to fail better, who better to learn from than failure experts babies.
Did you know that children smile up to 400 times every day? As a founder or key member, you probably do not have the time to smile hundreds of times a day. As responsibility begins to play a more critical role in life, a person’s smile rate decreases. The average adult person smiles 20 times a day.
We can learn from children how to recognize see failure as a temporary setback. They fall, they get back up, and try again with a great big smile. They are not worried about if they will learn to walk. It is only a matter of trying again and outlasting their personal record.
The act of smiling will decrease stress. Decreased stress is linked to increased productivity and successful decision-making. Successful decisions lead to successful startups.
If you can count on one hand how many times you smiled today, try to smile more often. If you do not feel compelled to smile, fake smiling works as well.
When you fail, your body’s stress levels increase tremendously. There is a lot at stake and you are the one responsible. Your heart rate increases, your chest becomes tighter, and you begin to enter ‘fight or flight' mode.
Stress can lead to high blood sugar, which leads to type two diabetes. Stress also leads to a weakened immune system and increased depression. Insomnia, which lowers the brain’s ability to rationalize and make decisions, is also a direct result of stress.
When you Fail, Turn to your Team
Being a founder or critical member will require substantial energy and add stress to your life. Trusting others will remove some pressure, freeing your mind- the mind that led you to this point in your career- to work on other problems that need solving. Solving every problem in the company is not your job as a leader.
Failing better means working smarter to fix problems and ensure they never happen again. You can’t be at all places at once. Leaders must learn to rely on their teams when challenges arise to organize the best solution.
Ensuring issues gain solutions is your job; however, you can accomplish this by delegating roles and trusting your team.
Back in the day, queens, kings, and rulers had advisers. They gave their opinions and offered revolutionary solutions to the ruler that the ruler could either approve, disapprove or adjust.
A great example of an adviser making a difference is the late Torcuato Fernández-Miranda of Spain. While the King was willing to transition the government, he knew he needed help. In three years, Fernández-Miranda was able to push King Juan Carlos to democracy without bloodshed.
While you are the glue of your company, your trusted team represents the axels and bearings that equally hold the company together. Rely on them to offer solutions. Use their minds and place your confidence in them when you fail instead of attempting to solve the problem on your own as so many failed startup founders have done in the past.
When you fail, make a lesson out of it
Smiling and trusting your team is a great start when learning how to fail better than your competitors. The true challenge comes in daily life. It is easy to say, “Hey, learn from your mistakes.” But how do you apply this in life?
Make failure personal but do not take it personally.
Taking failure personally is when you assume the world is out to get you and you can not seem to catch a break. Making excuses for why you missed a piece of code or blaming the sales team that didn’t quite reach the net goal profit will not change the fact that your company messed up. Everyone messes up; it’s ok.
Make the failure personal. Allow it to push you to do better. Challenge yourself and your company.
It is a fact that you failed. You (or a team member) made a decision that cost your startup a lot of money. You spent weeks preparing for a deal or grant that you were confident about and yet still did not get the deal or receive the funding. No matter what the mistake was, you can and should learn from it.
When failure strikes, try to smile. Breathe in the frustration. Train your brain to handle failure as a learning moment. It is impossible to succeed without failing. There is not one person who became successful without ever failing. Go ahead and Google it. I dare you.
Write out the variables and constants that led to the mistake.
Did your team communicate effectively and efficiently? How can you improve communication? Did you get enough sleep? Was your fatigue affecting your team or your decisions? What were your goals? Were your goals realistic?
Adjust what you and your team think may have gone wrong and continue pushing forward with a smile on your face. When you do not take failure personally, you are choosing not to become prey to failure.
Wallowing in mistakes will not change your mistakes. Learning from them, however, will ensure that your company does not make the same mistake again.
When it happens, Smile, lean on your team, and learn what you can do to either fix the problem or ever make the same mistake again.