Everyone talks about transmuting failure into feedback. It’s the holy grail of entrepreneurial acceleration: You recover from set backs faster, get smarter and rocket up the learning curve to the milk and honey on the other side.
If only it was easier done than said!
When you’re deep in the trenches, up to your elbows in a real-world business ass kicking, it’s kinda hard to relax into the lotus position and remind yourself to think positively.
Until now, because today I’m breaking down five street-tested tactics that snap you out of failure just as fast as they push you into learning and growth. Let’s do it.
1. Change your State
This one tops the list because it’s a mandatory first step. When your business knocks you down a peg, you’ll want to “figure things out” and “brainstorm”. Problem solving is what entrepreneurs were made for, but you’ll just be spinning your wheels if you don’t change your state first.
Failure or Rejection will leave your brain marinating in a bath of nasty chemicals. These chemicals were originally designed to keep our monkey ancestors safe in the jungle, so they’re mainly about survival, rapid escape and tunnel vision. Not exactly the secret sauce for problem solving.
So you’ve got to change your state and flush that mental marinade out for a fresh one. Even if it’s only a temporary change, it’ll give you the opportunity you need to think clearly and take intelligent, inspired action.
Changing state is simpler than you think and simple is good – when you’re deep in failure the way out needs to be easy to find. Start by changing up your environment. This won’t solve big problems, but relocating your physical self will create a temporary gap between dark emotions.
Use music as a weapon – you’ve spent years creating powerful emotional anchors to certain songs, so treat them like a drug and inject some optimism! Food works the same (be careful with this one though – it’s a double sided sword).
Best of all, use your physiology: Moving your body will flush out that nasty brain-sauce. Getting a massage works too. Sex? Even better. The more you move, the better you feel. Wink wink etc.
2. Find a way to have a little victory
Use this tactic to show your unconscious monkey brain that you’re a winner who wins. You can condition yourself to be “on a roll” by making little victories stack up, making your failures seem insignificant.
You may have mess up that big sales opportunity, but you sure as hell can show your housework what’s up. Or get yourself down to a shooting range and metaphor the shit out of that cardboard target. I like to write, because getting words on the page counts as a small victory – so if my day isn’t going great I’ll turn the tide mentally this way.
What you consider victorious will be very personal, but every client I’ve worked with has had a ton of small ways they can “win”. A few small wins will get you back into a winning streak again.
3. Get Philosophical
Once you’ve changed your state and lined up a few micro victories, it’s time to plot your big bounce back. You need to do some thoughtful beard scratching here and pose yourself some deep and meaningful questions.
Questions are great – our unconscious mind has a handy habit of answering any question we pose of it. In some way or another. These questions are taken straight from my therapist swipe file. They’ve been designed to hone in on the fastest way to bounce you back.
Ask: What is it precisely that I’m feeling?
Understanding what this failure really means to you is essential. Name the emotion and it has less power of you, because once you identify precisely what you’re feeling you can start to work with it. Name the tiger and it’s on it’s way to becoming your pet.
Ask: What do I want to feel INSTEAD of that feeling?
Stop and think about this one. So few people ask this of themselves. When you’re feeling like a failure… or afraid, stuck and worthless… you need to get clear about what you want to feel instead of that shitty feeling.
Ask: What would I have to believe about myself in order to have that ideal feeling?
This question cuts through months of wasted psychoanalysis and delivers laser guided radar right into your hands. The answer will lead you to straight to a limiting belief you’ve been unconsciously wrestling with, or some kind of capability gap you need to fill. Therapy rarely gets this good and almost never this easy.
4. Get old-school philosophical
Next up, don your toga because it’s time to go Greek. The teachings of the Stoics are a mandatory part of your entrepreneurial education. There’s a reason why Tim Ferris, amongst other entrepreneur powerhouses, is nuts for this school of philosophy.
Stoicism offers the perspective that we don’t control anything in this chaotic world… and… that’s okay. In fact, Stoics believe that even our bodies are not “our own” – which is why the philosophy is taught to elite special forces units.
When you embrace Stoicism, even torture doesn’t faze you. You realize that everything you believe you “own” or “control” (things other people take for granted) are just transient gifts the universe has kinda given you. It’s not even important why. Your body isn’t “yours”, your health isn’t yours and certainly that sale you were hoping to close wasn’t yours.
Stoicism is the antithesis of entitlement. It’s a surrender to the forces of nature in the universe that we can’t control – or really, just a letting go of the illusion that we ever had control in the beginning!
Stoicism says we control one thing only: Our beliefs. And no one and nothing can take that power away from us, no matter what shit the universe throws our way. Therein lies all your power. Soldiers being tortured let go of attachment to the physical self and strengthen the bastion of their beliefs and resolve.
When you embrace Stoic thinking, you let go of the misguided belief that you “deserved” victory or a win of some kind. This frees you up to assess the reality of the situation and plot your next move forward, neatly bypassing the whole phase of “ooo I wish that had worked out!” that most people go through. Stoicism offers a lens to view life and business through, giving you clarity to focus on what matters.
5. Get Gratitude
I know I harp on and on about this, but it’s the most essential step of all. Especially if you dip heavily into Stoicism, which is the most macho of all philosophies. It can kinda leave you feeling jaded about the world.
Gratitude is important right after you’ve surrendered to the fact that you can’t really control anything. Because your life is damn awesome. Look around you and realize how good you’ve got it.
Overzealous stoics focus only on lack of attachments, glossing over the incredible gifts they’ve been born with. If you’re reading this, you are one helluva lucky human. As entrepreneurs, we can get caught up chasing some objective and eventually convince ourselves that IT’S ALL OVER if we don’t win.
It isn’t. It never is. Plus, that kind of thinking marinates you brain in a stinking sludge of scarcity – a vileness so pungent that sales prospects, business partners and everyone else can smell it from miles away.
You can never bounce back from failure without gratitude, because you’ll always feel like you needed something and missed out.
When you *get* gratitude, you’ll realize that every rejection is perfect – because it makes room for more of what you want to unfold. That sentence won’t make any sense at all if you’re not already part way there. Get in touch if you want help figuring it out.
There’s no excuse for letting Failure and Rejection slow you down. Master these fives steps and every set back will make you smarter and more nimble. One day, you’ll look forward to hearing the word “no” in a business context; the whole meaning of the word will have been transformed.
Or maybe it was you who transformed.
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Regarding change your state: I work from home. Sometimes I go to a library or simply borrow some office space from a local client. I prefer the later because there’s usually a fridge and a microwave.
Regarding gratitude, I’m a Ziglar fan and know exactly what you’re talking about. “The more grateful of a person you are, the more you have to be grateful for.”
Switching up the environment is a great strategy for a quick state change (although it needs to be followed up with other strategies to be lasting)…. and it’s definitely a problem for those of us who work at home.
I’ve worked out of suburban homes, a log cabin in the alps of New Zealand and currently my west village apartment in New York. When the state changing options of nature are right at your doorstep, it’s perfect. Ditto for the urban jungle of coffee shops and sheer humanity. But I find the suburbs really oppressive because you can’t necessarily quickly find a new environment without hopping in your car and driving a while.
Don’t know what I’m getting at here. I just don’t really know how people who live in McMansion-ville work from home.
I’m third generation self employed/work at home, so I guess its different for me. Growing up, every friend or family member we ever visited had one room in the house that was “the office” and that’s the way it was.
I had an office for a few years along with a couple employees and really didn’t care for the whole away from home office thing.
I see, I see, so you’ve no doubt got it down to a fine art. Personally, I’ve experienced benefits with a non-home office – particularly when I made a “no working at home” rule. I’d stay at the office for as long as it took to get things done and it basically resulted in me using my time far more efficiently.
As the team at Commit Action grows, we might take space in NYC. Right now though I’m at home all day long.
Great article, Peter! And eye-opening content I haven’t encountered before, as usual. Well done!
Thanks Joy! I try to keep it fresh 🙂
Nice article Peter.
The number one coping mechanism to cope with rejection/failure is definitely to have the right mental state in the first place.
As a matter of fact, failure is a part of success.
My mental state is that it’s not about FAILURE, but what you do AFTER failure.
They say that Thomas Edison made hundreds (some say thousands) of attempts before he succeeded in making the light bulb.
Michael Jordan allegedly missed 26 game winning shots.
The response after the first (and the second, and third, etc) failure wasn’t to quit, but to try harder!
I think that this is at the essence of all “great” people. The never give up, never say die attitude.
Reframing Failure into “Feedback” actually makes this whole process of moving on and taking action a lot easier.
You keep giving me such awesome value for free! This was one blinder of a post. I love it when you hit me with stuff I haven’t heard yet and you just did it again! Knocked me off my feet!
You’re welcome Chris. Glad it’s hitting the spot 🙂
that was a boom there. its really encouraging.
Peter, I work retail sales, rejection here is a fact of
Life, I really enjoyed you’re post, sometimes we focus so
Intensely on our failures it almost becomes an expectation.
I’m going to start stacking my gains and focusing on the gratitude of my wins, and lump my losses into “feedback” gaining something from everything.