How can we harness the power of authentic failure? Let’s first start with it’s no secret that our society and culture is success-driven. In fact, one can’t turn on the news, or go through their social media timeline without reading about how company’s like Google or Apple are so successful because they make record sales in the billions, or we hear about our favorite brands signing a new celebrity spokesperson, or some twenty-five year old whiz-kid who successfully sold their idea for millions. Let’s face it, we love success. We love winning. But ‘authentic failure’, that’s a whole other ball game we don’t prep anyone for. In fact, it’s like the scarlet letter ‘F’ to entrepreneurs who are allergic to that word. It’s not something we want to embrace as an option most of the time. From personal to business failure, we’d rather skirt the issue, shudder at the unwelcome tsunami it could have on our psyche. Or worse, we fear we could get sucked into a depression-driven abyss we’ll never be able crawl out of.
So what if we take a different perspective? Especially when it comes to our business or as an entrepreneur? We look at authentic failure as a badge of honor in a way. It shows off our resilience. How many of our heroes or leaders we have heard of that first failed before they hit their stride? Who doesn’t like a good story about how character is shaped by overcoming adversity?
So let me share my story about authentic failure. I’ve been in business for four years. I look back and can’t believe how those years have gone by so fast. It’s not been the most straightforward path, but it’s definitely been a path that’s proved more rewarding. I’ve learned more about myself, what I’m made of and who I am than any other time in my adult life. I can look at a challenge and know that I can face it, and if it takes me down, I will come back up and reinvent myself. Did I always feel like that? Oh no. Actually, I was scared of failing. Which is why I tried so hard all the time not to. Scared of the shame that comes with the feeling if I failed.
I’m a true-blue entrepreneur. I know it’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. I run a woman-owned tech business that helps other startups and companies resolve technology bottlenecks and drive product incubation. I’m shaped by my experiences and what hasn’t completely broken me down, I was forced to embrace and change. You see, around four years ago I wasn’t just laid off once. I got laid off twice. Yep. Back in 2010, I had gotten my “DREAM” job as a Vice President. Then was laid off. I worked hard to get another job of the same caliber. Was elated to get a job offer. Then I got laid off again in 2011. UGH. The market was rough. I was going in circles, and knew I had to create a new opportunity for myself.
At the time I felt crushing failure. I had a mortgage and I was totally unprepared and unsure what should be my next steps. I didn’t end up homeless, but I did end up in the unemployment line after having earned a six-figure salary. My entire identity and foundation that I had built was unraveling piece by piece.