For so many high achievers, failure feels like the end of the world. But a subtle, yet crucial, shift in how we look at failure can be the difference between becoming an expert in something or learning a new skill, and giving up and feeling like a failure.
Today I’m discussing what I mean when I say failure is data and how we can overcome our fear to get what we want.
Ready? Let’s get started.
In this episode:
- How being good at failing leads to growth personally and professionally
- Using failure to reassess so you can achieve better outcomes next time
- How failure will help you get what you really want
Listen to the episode here:
Failure Is Data
I’ve decided to call this episode the companion episode to Perfectionism is Fear. If you haven’t listened to that one, I highly recommend it after you finish this one.
I have been on a fucking journey y’all. If you’re a regular listener, then you’ve heard me talk about this on previous episodes. 2020 really shook something up in me and I have spent the last year or so confronting old childhood trauma, dismantling old belief systems, feeling my feelings, the whole nine.
And one thing that has been really interesting to me about this whole process is how you can totally get and understand a lesson in one area of your life while it cripples you in another area. And when you finally realize the dichotomy, it seems hilariously obvious.
And a few weeks ago I had an epiphany around the funniest thing. Doing my nails.
I’ve been getting my nails done off and on since college. And I’m talking, nail extensions. Not getting my natural nails painted. I like having long nails and it is one of my favorite ways to treat myself. I had a salon right across the street from my apartment and every two weeks I would walk over, get my nails filled and painted some fun color, and walk back.
When the pandemic hit and salons closed, I had already been tinkering with the idea of doing them myself for a whole host of reasons, chief of them being that all of the salons I had been going to didn’t seem interested in following Michigan’s new safety laws for the service I was getting. Gross.
So when the pandemic forced my hand, I took to the internet and bought all of the supplies I would need to do my own nail extensions at home, including an electric file.
When I say that I was terrible when I first started doing them myself…I really genuinely and truly mean that I was terrible. If you have never had to wield a metal file with sharp little teeth rotating at 15,000 RPMs with your non-dominant hand then you haven’t really lived.But most importantly...I practiced. Every two-three weeks I hauled out all of my supplies and I sat there with a movie playing and I practiced. Click To Tweet
My very first try took me almost four hours from start to polished. Four hours. And I cut myself. A lot. I didn’t even take pictures of my attempts in the earliest days because my cuticles were so cut up. But my options, at that point, were to keep trying or give up and not have any nails at all which seemed too much to ask with everything else going on.
Now, if this had been almost anything else in my life I probably would have done it three or four times and then stopped and said “well I tried. Didn’t work. Time to try something else” and then promptly given up.
But as I said, I like having my nails done and also…it was a pandemic, we were under quarantine…what the fuck else was I going to do?
So instead I watched YouTube videos about how to file your nails with your non-dominant hand. I watched a LOT of YouTube videos about that. I watched videos about the different kinds of drill bits and which ones worked best depending on what you were trying to do. I read a lot of articles about how to properly prep your nails so they wouldn’t lift or pop off.
But most importantly…I practiced. Every two-three weeks I hauled out all of my supplies and I sat there with a movie playing and I practiced.
And every time I failed, I didn’t make it mean anything about me (which is definitely not my usual perfectionist MO). I simply viewed it as data to use to improve the next time. When I cut myself, I would look up different ways to hold the drill or how to stabilize my hand better. If the product was lumpy, I would look up better application techniques. If the shape was weird, I’d watch videos about how to get the shape I wanted.And every time I failed, I didn’t make it mean anything about me...I simply viewed it as data to use to improve the next time. Click To Tweet
For some reason, I decided that all my failures were just data I could use for improvement. And I didn’t even realize it until a couple weeks ago when I finished doing my nails and was super proud and super impressed with how professional they looked. Perfect shape, perfect apex, perfect length, super smooth, no product on my skin. Everything about them was salon quality and it only took me two hours. I felt like such a badass!
And if you’re thinking, oh my god why have you spent so much time telling me about your freaking nails, woman? I’m going to tell you. While I was admiring my nails and sending pictures to my sister and my best friends (because obviously I had to share these masterpieces with everyone), it hit me out of nowhere that I didn’t let all my failures stop me from getting really good at it.
I didn’t try a few times, realize I was bad at it, and give up. I just kept trying. And learning. And practicing. That’s it. And now, even with salons opened again, even when the pandemic fades into a yearly flu-like situation, I will probably never go to the salon to get my nails done again. One, because I like doing it myself and two, because I’m so fucking proud that I taught myself how to do that.
And the funniest thing about this is that I have so much evidence that I have failed over and over but not let that stop me from continuing to learn and try. After a cousin showed me the knitting basics and gifted me some needles and yarn, I taught myself to knit almost ten years ago. Anything I know how to do beyond knitting and purling is something I taught myself from YouTube. I taught myself how to decorate cakes and cupcakes. Hell, I taught myself how to write a freaking book.
And that’s why the realization that I’m very good at failing but not quitting in some areas of my life but totally shit at it in other areas of my life was hilarious because it should have been so obvious. Yet it wasn’t.Failure is data and nothing more. Click To Tweet
Which is why I really wanted to share this story with you today because I want to drive the point home (for both you and myself) that when you fail it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It doesn’t mean anything about your intelligence or your ability other than you’re still learning. Failure is data and nothing more.
When you fail whether it’s in your business or something else, you’re given an opportunity to step back, look at what didn’t work and see how you can do it differently next time to get a different outcome.
What about that coaching package didn’t work, what about that new hire didn’t work out, what about that pricing structure didn’t meet my needs, what about that social media post that flopped needs changing.
That’s it. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible coach or you should never hire again or you’re the worst at pricing your services or you should never post on social media again and it’s all terrible and you suck.Look at what didn’t work and see how you can do it differently next time to get a different outcome. Click To Tweet
It is only data. And data is a neutral thing that allows you to see the holes and course correct. I really encourage you to sit down with your journal or a pen and paper or your favorite talk-to-text app if you’re not a writer. Whichever way you process your thoughts and experiences best.
I want you to take a minute and objectively look back over your life no matter how far back you have to go and find an instance where you failed at something over and over and over again but you kept going. I bet you have at least one. If you have more than one, great! Write it down or speak it or catalogue it in your mental files. However you do.
And the next time you encounter a failure in your business and you’re thinking about giving up or can’t stop telling yourself you suck. Pull that little nugget out and remind yourself that you have failed but learned before and you can do it again. And then look at what didn’t work, find the data you can use to improve, and try again.
Alright, that’s it for me today. Bye, y’all.