Failing well . . .

In Harvard’s 2008 commencement speech, J K Rowling almost gave us permission to fail.  And elsewhere, Imperial College’s Dr John Tregoning’s thoughts on failure in academia remind me that failure is something so many of us can identify with.  So borrowing with pride from Dr Tregoning’s suggested coping strategies for building mental resilience when failure hits, I’ve generalised his tips here to fit a broader context:

  1.  Mindset – consider blows to your self-esteem as learning opportunities; if you fail, think how can you do it better next time in order to succeed.
  2. Look for opportunities – if at first you don’t succeed etc.  Didn’t J K Rowling recently share 2 rejection letters she received for The Cuckoo’s Calling?
  3. Remember – it’s not personal – don’t take it to heart; try to look at your failure from another perspective.  Why do you think you were rejected?
  4. You’re not unique – knowing that others have failed isn’t about gloating that they’re as miserable as you, but it might help you to understand that more people fail than succeed, and take comfort in not being alone.
  5. What would Alan Sugar say?  Get your sales pitch correct; make someone want to buy what you’re offering.
  6. Learn from the positive – failure is bad, yes, but success can sometimes be tricky; the minute you succeed, you’ve suddenly got to get on and do the work you said you would.  Once you achieve your success, you’ve got to come up with bigger and better and new ideas.

And finally, in thinking specifically about failure at work, I like what Dr Tregoning reminds us – that, it’s just a job.  He advises us to take a step back and do something unrelated – perhaps gardening, running, swimming, painting or singing; then apologise to anyone you might have upset in your reaction to your failure, dust yourself down, and start all over again.

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