One of the toughest experiences in life is working hard on a demanding project, and then failing completely and utterly. Failure can shake your confidence and make you question your abilities, but it is also an opportunity in disguise. For both people and businesses, how you respond to failure is a key part of becoming successful in the long-term.
Many new ideas fail – that’s just the reality of life. What separates successful companies from unsuccessful companies is the ability to bounce back from the failure and come up with new ideas. It’s possible that the next idea will fail too, and the idea after that, but every step of the process better refines your business and gets you one step closer to overwhelming and sustainable success.
So how do you stay motivated and accept failure, rather than being destroyed by it?
Some of the most successful companies in the world have released products that failed: Apple released the Newton, Coke tried to offer New Coke, and Microsoft had trouble with Vista.Trying something new is always risky, but the failure of a product or idea isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s more likely just the first step on your path to success. When you fail, just tell yourself that Steve Jobs failed sometimes too.
It’s important not to be discouraged by failure, but to realize that it is an essential part of the process. This is something that nearly every start-up company goes through. You start out thrilled and excited about your idea, then realize how difficult it is to execute. This is known as the “trough of sorrow.” What separates successful start-ups from those that ultimately fail is the ability to push through this stage by experimenting, experimenting again, and making changes.
Learn and Try Again
Take the lessons learned from your recent failure and use that information to inform your next product launch or next business move. For example, Apple moved on from the Newton, but took the key concept of a small, portable computer to create the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Without that failure, where would Apple be today?
If your product failed because it wasn’t ready for market or because customers didn’t understand it, that doesn’t mean you have to scrap it completely. It could just be a matter of re-positioning, re-developing, re-branding or taking a new sales tactic in order to sell it more successfully. As an individual, you can improve your personal performance by trying a new value proposition on the next sales call, or suggesting a different positioning strategy. You’ll never know what may ultimately be successful if you don’t speak up and try it out.
Innovate or Die
It may seem wiser to minimize the risk of failure by taking a less risky route for your business. However, without taking any risks, your company is guaranteed to fail eventually. If you never try anything new or different, you may be able to have a moderate amount of success from the start and avoid outright failure. But that initial success will drop off as more innovative competitors step up and offer your customers something much better.
In order to nurture innovation and inspire great ideas, you must create a “culture of failure.” If your employees are too afraid to try something out-of-the-box for fear of failure, then you could be missing out on fantastic ideas. If employees know that it’s OK to fail sometimes, it opens everyone up to more innovative ideas. Many of those ideas may fail, but one idea could change everything and be the key to your entire business.
Next time you fail to reach a sales goal or fail to convince a customer of your company’s value, don’t look at it as the end of the world. Accept that you failed, learn from the experience, and come up with a new, and better idea for next time. You can learn to love failure, until you find success.