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What Do You Want To Learn This Year?

Fail often AND apply your learnings from those failures

Focusing on how we failed may make us feel uncomfortable. It’s important to feel uncomfortable in all aspects of life, that means you’re growing and learning.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

By: Heather Wentler – StartingBlock Madison Entrepreneur in Residence

If you never know failure, you will never know success – Sugar Ray Leonard

January is the time of year when company marketing strategies deploy messaging on us about how we need to buy, and buy more, to achieve becoming a better version of ourselves. I don’t make annual resolutions for myself in January, I don’t set intentions, nor do I berate myself for not trying to become a better version of myself. Why? Because I’m a lifelong learner which means I’m changing my ideas, viewpoints, and beliefs as I go through experiences. You could think of it as I’m setting resolutions on a daily or weekly basis instead of only once a year.

Our Past Influences Our Feelings and Reactions to Failure

Focusing on how we failed may make us feel uncomfortable. It’s important to feel uncomfortable in all aspects of life, that means you’re growing and learning. It’s also important to recognize that while we’re growing we make mistakes, we fail, and we have to acknowledge and be held accountable for those failings and make amends for them if necessary.

Many of us have a really hard time admitting when we failed, when we were wrong, and when we wronged others. These are systemic topics and issues, and ones that I see many Gen Z individuals trying to not repeat – as well as some of us Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers doing our best to accept and change as well. It’s hard to reprogram our brains from what we’ve been taught from an early age around what failure looks like and to not get too wrapped up in our feelings rather than acknowledge, learn, and adapt.

Some of us may have trauma wrapped around failure. Maybe when we didn’t achieve academically, or through sports, or our family’s expectations there were actions placed on us, or we placed on ourselves, that caused trauma. Working to uncover and understand why we have certain feelings and behaviors associated with failure helps break through these responses, ends the cycle of perceived expectations from others, and also changes how we respond to others when they don’t meet our expectations.

Fail Fast, Fail Often…And Grow through those Failures

As an entrepreneur and a member of a company team, we hear and use the phrase “fail fast, fail often” as part of what keeps us going. We try new ideas, strategies, processes, and techniques to see what connects with our target markets. If we don’t try new things because our fear of failure holds us back, you’re always going to fail. What’s the quote “We fail 100% of shots we don’t take?” Exactly.

When we try new things and fail to hit the mark we often try to hide these efforts or briefly touch on them if asked by those we report to. Instead, I believe we should analyze our failings deeper to understand what did and didn’t work, why, and how are we using those lessons as we go forward into new strategies or processes.

When we admit failure we may feel we’re showing vulnerability. This may be why when people express how a company or strategic process fails they will point to a person as the reason for the failure instead of looking at the process and where communication, leadership, and the overall process broke down. Failure doesn’t typically happen because one person didn’t do something, there are usually many levels as to why and how the failure occurred. Being able to accept your part in the failure shows that you’re willing to accept responsibility and also look at the experience without focusing solely on your involvement to be able to move forward.

2023 – The Year of Growth from Failure

When we read articles from Forbes, Entrepreneur, or people’s social media accounts we tend to only see their success. No one wants to hear about the failures. Without hearing of the failures we’re not hearing what actually got them to success. Failure are lessons, without lessons we don’t learn, we don’t grow. Embrace the failures. Talk about how those experiences have made you better at your craft, and as a person, so you can teach others.

We are all perfectly imperfect humans. We’re all learning, we’re all growing in our knowledge and how we relate and work with others. If there’s one thing I hope we all will embrace in 2023 is that this is who we are and how we can change the face of entrepreneurship through embracing our failure and no longer having it feel like a bad word.

Want to talk more about how to embrace failure? Or to talk about anything else related to running and working for a startup venture? Schedule an Office Hour with me.


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