Here is a 5 step process for failing the right way so that it turns into a win. Because if you want to increase your success rate, you actually have to fail more. High achievers know this and learn to enjoy the process. The problem is that your primitive brain hates to fail, so you need to retrain it. Now more than ever, you need to learn this skill because times of upheaval lead to more mistakes and failures.
0:45 – An experience that helped me learn to enjoy failure
5:27 – #1 – Redefine Failure
6:43– #2 – Look Forward to Failure
10:37 – #3 – Support Yourself No Matter What
16:50 – #4 – Zoom Out to See the Big Picture
18:58 – #5 – Revisit Your Mission, Values and Vision
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This is episode 52 – How to Turn a Failure into a Win. As Thomas J. Watson once said, If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate. High achievers know this and expect to fail, in fact learn to enjoy the process. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and you’re listening to the Mindstory Speaker podcast for influencers who speak live or online to build their business.
Now, before I learned how to turn a failure into a win I suffered a lot. Then something happened that taught me not to do that. I was asked to speak at a global company event of franchisees. Most of the attendees flew in from all over the world the day before and were treated to a huge celebration the night before. My speaking slot was 8:00 am the next morning. Many couldn’t drag themselves out of bed to attend. Those who did were jet lagged, hung over and were just there to look good to the company president. The organizer of the event hadn’t announced my topic or why they’d want to attend. When I got on stage most people had half closed bleary eyes. The organizers wanted me to do an icebreaker with the group to start things off but most people arrived late and were still eating breakfast. No one wanted to participate. After a while of trying to get things going I dropped my entire talk and chose to sit on the edge of the stage and just open up a conversation about what would most serve them today. I was able to engage a small group who were not hung over or jet lagged. That way I was able to do a customized version of my topic for people who were ready and interested to learn. Afterwards the organizer told me she thought it was a complete failure, the wrong thing to do, and they were highly disappointed. Even though the people who were engaged found it very helpful. I left feeling like a failure and disappointed in myself. I spent a week feeling unmotivated to continue promoting my business. Then something unusual happened. I got a call from the speaker who went on after me. He didn’t hear me speak, but he heard that they didn’t like how I chose to give my presentation. So, he tried to do his whole pre-planned talk. He said several people were fully asleep on their arms on the table, and no one participated in any of his activities. Afterwards the organizer told him she thought his session was a complete failure, the wrong thing to do, and everyone on the planning committee was highly disappointed. We laughed about how we got the same feedback even though we took an entirely opposite approach. Just to be on the safe side we contacted a third speaker on the agenda and asked him how it went. He said he tried to do his best but the organizer told him she thought his session was a complete failure, the wrong thing to do, and everyone on the planning committee was highly disappointed. Now, that’s not to say we all couldn’t have done better. If you always blame others for your failures, you’ll never grow. That said, failure or success is in the eye of the beholder. In the end it’s not what you do, but what you THINK about what you do that matters. Once I changed what I thought about the experience, I could truly learn and grow and find peace of mind again. Basically, I was only down for the count for a week, whereas in the past if I experienced something like that, I’d be down for many weeks. You can’t continually build a business if you’re going to feel defeated for weeks on end. Then you’re always playing catch up, which is what I was doing, waiting until I felt motivated again to keep growing. Now, I keep growing even if I’m still feeling defeated, because those defeats happen periodically and will continue to happen for me and for everyone who’s out there trying to grow and make a living and make a difference, so learning how to process feelings of defeat and keep growing anyway is a massively important skill to learn.
So, I wanted to about today is…HOW TO FAIL SUCCESSFULLY. Most people don’t understand that the path to success is paved with failure. They don’t realize how much it takes to succeed and the level of resilience necessary to achieve that. They look at successful people and wonder how they got there, or they feel envious or try to find fault with them to feel better about themselves—like assume they cheated to get there. Goodness knows I’ve done all those things, and am not proud of it. That way of think isn’t helpful. Many of them just learned to fail successfully. The good news is that you can build this vitally important life skill, just like any other skill you’ve learned in your life. Here’s a specific process to do it.
There’s a lot of strategies you can learn about how to AVOID failing and about how to succeed, but there’s not enough information about how to fail properly. Given you’re going to anyway, why not do it right?
The 1st step is to Redefine Failure. It’s helpful to think of failure as something that didn’t work the way you had planned. It’s merely an unmet expectation. Why is that definition so important? Because it reminds you that failure is just an interpretation of a situation, NOT the situation. For example, was my speaking engagement a failure? I expected to get a good review from the organizers and I didn’t get it. But, a few weeks later I got a good review from someone who attended. Everything is simply an interpretation. I ended up deciding it was a success, because I tried something different instead of sticking to the script, and for several people it seemed to make a difference. Could I have done better in some ways? Sure. But I’m more open to looking at that if I decided it was a success, I interpreted the bad review as simply someone else’s opinion and not an indisputable fact.
The 2nd step is to Look Forward to Failure. At the subconscious level, at the survival brain level, we are programmed to avoid feeling pain. So your survival brain will talk you out of possible failure situations. For example, keeping your expectations really low is one way to do that… saying to yourself “I’ll probably mess up.” Or, apologizing for yourself. Have you ever heard a speaker start with saying “Wow, I’m really nervous”, or “I didn’t really prepare much…” That way if they get bad reviews, at least it met their expectations. In other words, the survival brain will ensure you fail in your mind first, just to avoid an unmet expectation. This is a bad habit of mind, and I encourage you to retrain your brain on this. As Sir Ken Robinson once, in his famous TED talk, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
In some ways, the biggest failures are where you don’t try anything new or original just to avoid bad reviews. That’s how I was at the beginning of my business. Many people do that in the beginning. You try what others are doing and then you’re kind of ensured failure or at least mediocre success. Why is that? Because to be successful you need to stand out. People crave originality. That’s your job as a speaker, as a leader, as a coach, as an expert…to think outside the box…and find new paths, new ideas, new strategies. The people who are a light unto themselves, who follow their own inner guidance always do better than those who follow the pack, but not at first. As the famous Mahatma Gandhi quotes goes… First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
So, how do you retrain your brain to be ok, maybe even, look forward to failure? Turn it into a game. Pick an area of life where you hate to fail and give yourself points for each time you do fail. For example, I used to have a success partner. Each Monday morning we’d get on the phone and each set a goal to achieve that week in terms of reaching out to prospects. I’m going to reach out to 30 people, I’d tell her. To win the game was just to have done that. It didn’t matter if any of it turned into business. Because of that shift in perspective, I was unattached to the response. Whether they were reachable or not, whether they said yes or not. And of course sales is a numbers game. Eventually, if you reach out enough, someone will say yes. Over time I realized that on average for every 22 people I reached out to, one would turn into business. Each call or email meant I was one step closer. So, how can you turn your fear of failure situation into a game? It works not only in regards to dealings with others, but also in changing life habits, like exercising or eating less, or prioritizing your goals.
So, just remember you can literally decide to shrug your shoulders and say, “I failed. So what? I get to grow, become wiser and more experienced.” When you think about it that way, it usually doesn’t make you want to avoid failure. It makes you want to fail because it becomes an adventure, a way to get better. It’s a ticket out of mediocrity.
The 3rd step is to Support Yourself No Matter What. When I first started my business it took forever to launch because I kept thinking I wasn’t good enough yet, my offerings weren’t good enough. But I later found out that perfectionism like that usually masks fear. It gives you an excuse to not take the action and risk failure. But as I said before, not trying is the biggest failure. So, let’s look more deeply at why the survival brain is so programmed to avoid failing. What’s really at the core?
It always comes down to avoiding wanting to feel something negative. You want to avoid the pain of thinking certain thoughts that are going to create negative emotions. Often, the real reason why you avoid any kind of failure is because you don’t want to feel judged or embarrassed or rejected or disappointed. At the core of it all, you don’t want to feel those feelings about yourself.
There’s a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” If someone says, “I don’t like your nose,” you might get offended if you also don’t like your nose. But if you like your nose, then it won’t bother you. That’s why failure is almost NEVER about what other people say or think; it’s about your thoughts and interpretations about yourself.
The good news is that you can choose to change your interpretation, which would change your feelings. You get to decide what you’re going to think about any person, situation, event, or experience. You get to decide what you’re going to make an experience mean to you.
Now that doesn’t mean you need to pretend that it’s pleasant to fail or simply ignore the frustration that arises when a goal falls out of reach. But, accepting the feelings that come with failure, being curious about what caused the situation to occur, and re-interpreting the situation in a more empowering way – are tools for a lifetime.
That said, when you set out to achieve a particular goal and you fall short and fail…what’s the worst thing that could happen?
The worst thing that can happen is you may feel disappointed for a while. That’s it. Then you can decide to change your interpretation, or change your expectation and you won’t even feel disappointed anymore. You can literally change your whole experience of failure in an instant by changing your mind about how you see it. It’s crazy we don’t do this more often. People behave as if they are a victim to their thoughts and feelings. If that were so, how come you’ve been able to change your mind about things thousands of times before in your life?
You’re always the one who determine what any experience means—a failure, a success, a learning experience, an adventure, whatever YOU want. It’s about stepping back and taking a more objective, neutral and compassionate position on the situation, which then allows you to exercise your right to choose your interpretation about it. If you have a philosophy that you will always have your own back no matter what happens, it helps you drop down into that neutral compassionate objective point of view. There I am, this imperfect human fumbling along on my journey, how delightful. It’s like if you’ve watching a toddler trying to learn how to walk. You wouldn’t get angry at the child for not being able to walk the very first time, you would patiently and compassionately let her stand up, fall, try again, fall until she finally got it. Taking that stance with yourself even if you’ve already failed 100 times, is always more productive than beating yourself up about it. So one thing that helps a lot is to just make a vow, make a new agreement with yourself.
Maybe it goes something like this: There’s going to be a chance that along the way of achieving my goals, I’m going to fail, and probably many, many times. And that’s ok. I’ll still be supportive of myself and believe in myself. I’m going to treat myself with respect. I’m going to honor myself and my journey. I’m only human. I’m going to use those failures as an opportunity to learn and to be kind and compassionate with myself. I’m going to use them as an opportunity to love myself more instead of putting myself down.
Write out an agreement like this and put it somewhere you can read it every day for 21 days. If you want to get the exact wording go to MindStoryAcademy.com/podcast to episode 52 and you’ll find the transcript there in italics under “the 3rd step”.
The 4th step is to “Zoom Out” and see the big picture. If you look back on your life, maybe you’ve noticed a pattern around achieving success. Think of an area of life where you did that; you triumphed in the face of challenges. Maybe you wrote a book, maybe you built a successful business as a speaker, coach, business owner, leader. You got a job, you met the right life partner, you lost weight, you ran a marathon. We’ve all had success in some area of life. Was there a pattern of failures, learnings, trying again, more failures, feeling defeated, gathering courage again, more learnings; and, then, at a certain point in the game, in the alchemical process, it’s just natural that you achieved some level of success. Again, it helps you see the game at play. Instead of being lost in the details of the game, you zoom out and just see the whole thing. Oh, I see I’m just at this place in the game where I fall down a lot and that’s because there’s something important to learn here. Then you eventually get to this place where the process of growth is done, it’s complete, and so success is inevitable. You don’t see a sapling grow into an Oak tree overnight. It’s a struggle to get from seed, up through the soil, out into the sunlight, surviving all kinds of weather and pestilence. The continual failures and obstacles, help you build the fortitude, the strength, wisdom and experience to handle the success when you get there, so each failure is actually a gift. Yet people so often want to skip steps. But what’s the fun in that? You start playing Monopoly and a few minutes later you’ve won the game, you have all the properties. The whole process of going after our goals is the whole point, and we often have to be reminded of that over and over again especially when the going gets tough.
The 5th step is to Revisit Your Mission, Values and Vision. One of the best ways to fail successfully is to reconnect to all of these. When the going gets tough, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel can give you the persistence to keep going. Your Mission is the path you take to get there and the specific means by which you accomplish your vision. It is comprised of who you are going to be and what you are going to do to reach your mountaintop. For example, My Mission is to help people become a master of their mind so they can get their message out in the world, make a bigger difference while making a great living.
Core Values keep you true to your path and true to yourself. You steer your course based on what you believe in, your ethics, and what is most important in your life. Knowing your values is essential, because happiness comes from living and acting in accordance with your highest values every single day. Then you’re happier, you’re in flow. And when you’re in flow, you do everything better. Research on people at the end of their lives has shown that their greatest regret was not living their life to the fullest, not loving enough and not following their heart. So how do you know your core values? Think of someone you deeply respect. Describe 3 qualities in this person that you most admire. E.g. They’re loving, compassionate, wise, creative, courageous, forgiving, fun, warm, inventive, honest, authentic, loyal, adventurous, happy, carefree, persistent, E.g. Committed, peaceful, graceful, open-minded, curious, free-spirited, community-oriented, self-sufficient, self-mastery, spiritual growth, etc.
Another way to discover your 3 core values is this. Fast forward to the end of your life. What will make you feel like you lived a good life? What are the values you lived by? What are people saying at your memorial service? What 3 qualities would you like to be best known for? See if you get the same ones or something different.
YOUR VISION. Close your eyes, unless you’re driving, and see yourself living your mission and core values. It helps to pick a specific moment in time that encapsulates you living your mission and values. For example, it’s a year from now and your speaking at an event in front of your ideal listeners inspiring your three core values in them. See where you are, what are you wearing, what do you hear yourself saying, who’s in the room, what’s the energy like, how do you feel emotionally, what’s the full experience of being there. Now, replay this specific vision in your mind. Make sure you do it in glorious detail, as if you woke up in the future and everything you wanted had already happened. Feel your excitement, gratitude and sense of personal power at having achieved this. This is the actual mechanics of how to manifest something, it’s called a mental rehearsal. Your subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between past present and future. So if your present reality doesn’t look like that now, if you replay this mental rehearsal often enough, you will train your brain to act in ways that bring that into reality. Weird but true. If you look back on any goal you have created in your life, chances are that’s exactly how you got there. Once a week repeat this exercise and you will find yourself becoming more resilient and able to embrace failure because there’s a deeper meaning and greater sense of purpose to everything you do.
This podcast episode, by the way, is based on Chapter 9, of our new book, MindStory Inner Coach. If you’d like more tools like this, for a limited time we’re offering this book for free on our website: MindStoryAcademy.com. You’ll also see the free book link in the show notes. Along with the book, you also get two short guided audios that are called neuro-blueprints. They are form of mental rehearsal that opens up communication between your conscious and subconscious mind to deepen this relationship with Life. One is called how to end self sabotage, it’s one you would use at night. The other is called your hero’s journey, which is about reframing the challenges of your life in terms of a mythic adventure and how those challenges have forged you in the fire of wisdom to now help others. Sometimes that’s hard to see until you do a process like this. And this is a version you would do in the morning. These take chapters 2 and 10 of the book to a much deeper level. All together, the audios and the book come to $94 but you can get them free right now.
Also, we’re looking for more speakers and coaches who want to learn to use the MindStory Method. We teach you these kinds of tools to use in your business or job or to help you get a job. If you’re interested check out our certification tab at MindstoryAcademy.com. It’s where we train you how to make extra income or even your next million working online, from the comfort of your own home, living from anywhere making a huge difference while making a great living speaking, teaching and coaching others to become masters of their own mind…one of the most important things you could ever be doing at this time in history.
So that’s it for today…Do post a review of this podcast if you like it – on iTunes or youTube or wherever you listen. It makes a big difference to helping others find out about it.
I hope that was helpful. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger, thanks for listening.