I hope that if you’re reading this that you’ve come to terms with the fact that because you’re a human, you’re going to experience failure. And if you’re someone who puts yourself out there, takes risks and tries new things, you’re going to fail often. But how the heck do we pick ourselves up after we've failed or fallen short or completely fallen flat on our faces? And how do we make sure that we learn from it and get back on the horse or the bus or the bike—or whatever metaphor you want to use—to keep going toward what we’re focused on?
I want to share with you how I deal with failure because as a human who sets audacious goals and wants to grow as a person and a professional and a parent and a community member, it’s an everyday thing for me. I live by the credo that if I'm not failing, I'm not pushing myself enough. I also believe that the shortcoming, stumble or total splat is only a failure if you let it define you. It’s a gift if you let it teach you.
I have a process I take myself through after every failure to not only get over it, but to find the lessons. Andit works like a charm.
Review. Revise. Release.
Review requires us to think about what happened and why. This is hard because it forces us relive what happened and risk felling the guilt, regret, pain and/or shame again. But it’s the only way for us to get to the good stuff about the times we flop—what we can learn from them. The why part is especially important because it gives us the clues we need to avoid repeating the behavior.
Revise prompts us to problem solve about how we can avoid repeating the same behavior.
Release commands us to let it go—that it happened and all the icky emotions around it. If you do the first two steps, this one is actually possible because you’ve faced the pain head on and found the lessons to be learned.
Here’s an example of how it works.
I recently didn’t hit a revenue goal in my business. My first step was to Review not only what happened, but also honestly explore why. I didn’t do the income-producing activity required to create new revenue. When I looked at where I actually spent my time versus where I had planned to, there was a big disconnect. I had allowed other things to divert my attention from what my carefully planned schedule said. The things that were supposed to be sacred and untouchable were annihilated because I was reacting to other people and what they were asking of me instead.
Once I understand the what and why, I can figure out how to Revise what I do moving forward. I recommitted to my habit of not answering text messages and emails outside of my time blocks designated for doing so. And I recommitted to keeping my personal work hours untouchable, even if it means others have to wait a couple days to get on my calendar.
Then it comes time to Release it. Sure, I could beat myself up, and sometimes I do allow myself a pity party that can last five minutes or five hours. But then it’s time to let that shiz go. How can we expect to ever move forward if we’re carrying around the weight of our countless missteps? So I forgive myself, and move on. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to do so when I’m armed with some precious new knowledge because I screwed up in the first place. See, I told you it was a gift.
It’s super important to go through this process as soon after your failure as possible, so you can get to learning and forgiving yourself parts quickly instead of staying mired in the mistake and your shame grows into some serious self-doubt.
When you start doing this process religiously and apply it to all parts of your life, you’ll be amazed at how differently you view your failures. And then you can teach others to do the same thing by applying it at work with your colleagues, with the organizations you’re a part of and with your kids. For example, Nate had a really bad tennis meet recently and was mired in the angst of losing to someone he really felt should have been able to beat. Because at 13 he’s heard me take myself and him through these steps before, when I said “Ok, buddy, let’s go through what happened,” he knew what was coming. The process got him to identify that he brought a whole bunch of other stuff on the court with him that shouldn't have been there, which led to a great discussion about mindset, compartmentalizing and focus. We also talked about how the student he was playing against works hard on his game all year long, while tennis for Nate isn’t one of his top Priorities.
"Don't be upset for the results you didn't get for the work you didn't do," I told him, which is something I’ve said to myself and those I coach many times.
Then we talked about how he was going to Revise what he does moving forward. It included strategies to clear his mind before he walks on the court and just how much time he was willing to invest in upping his tennis chops. He left the conversation feeling much better about himself, his loss and his realization that he wants to focus on the fun of the sport without putting pressure on himself to win. Especially since he’s not willing to put in the same effort as his other extra-curriculars.
What failure are you still holding onto and haven’t forgiven yourself for? It’s time to Review, Revise and Release!