The following is a post by Lee Garrett. Lee is an IT Consultant and Productivity Coach in the UK with a passion for training and helping others. You can read more of his work at SoliamSays and follow him on Twitter.
As readers of my personal blog will know, I tend to write from the heart and let you into as much of my life as is both appropriate and possible. This article, my first for Productivityist, is going to be no exception as it is on a subject that I have had great exposure to over the course of the last few years, and I daresay over the coming ones too.
That subject, is failure. More specifically, the fear that failure brings.
Wow, that actually sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it? It’s also rather self-damning at first glance. But let me take the time to explain to you what I mean, because failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate failing at things. It’s an awful feeling and, like you, I do everything I can to make sure that it doesn’t happen. My first thought is always that people around me have been let down, or that I have made myself look foolish in front of others. This is perfectly natural as it is not possible to control those sub-conscious instincts and reactions. Once those effects have started to die away, however, it’s time to adopt a different mindset which, ironically, is the stage where I find myself at right now as I type this article.
Let me explain.
I’ve recently started my own IT Services business where I provide consultancy services for schools, colleges and small businesses in the UK. I am also trying to develop the productivity and publishing side of the business in my free time, as I have found that to be my true passion. We all want to work on our passion, don’t we? If we get to do that, it basically means we don’t actually have to work a day in our lives.
Despite the meticulous planning you can make whilst setting your business up and getting your first clients through the door, there are always circumstances that can sit out of your control when it comes to managing the financials, especially when you are just starting out. When your main client files for bankruptcy and declares that they cannot pay you (despite the fact you have completed a large amount of work) this definitely falls into that bracket. Yet this is what has just happened to me. Income has dropped by over seventy percent.
Just imagine the scene.
Christmas is coming and you have three gorgeous daughters who you cherish so much it’s impossible to put into words. In June, it took all of your courage to quit the day job and start on your own, and now less than 5 months in you’re pulling your savings to ensure that Christmas is ‘the best yet.’ I say that because that’s a little Garrett tradition – every Christmas is going to be the best yet and this year will be no exception. I’m not a big corporation with pots of money in the bank to tide me over. The invoices I send out are to feed my family, keep our home, and save for the future. I’m also looking to set aside money at some stage within the next year to help build up the second arm of the business and begin expansion.
When I found out my main client was no longer viable, I went through emotions that I didn’t want to go through again. I saw a tunnel with no end. My head started to pound as the pressure I was now putting myself under started to take over and I physically started shaking. All I could think of was how I would have to borrow to get my girls the Christmas they wanted and that I would be viewed as a failure by those around me. Both of these thoughts were quite irrational.
That’s the thing about fear and shock. They stimulate the irrational parts of our mind and it’s impossible to make any informed decisions about how to improve the situation you find yourself in.
But failure is important. Failure builds us. Failure opens other doors that would have otherwise been closed. Here’s how I have dealt with this situation and put myself in a positive enough mindset to write this post:
1. I took myself away from the situation
When the pressure in my head built to such an extent that it was physically hurting I left the house, put on my earphones, started streaming some classical music, and went out for a walk. I can safely say that I think this is the most sensible thing I have done in the last few months, given the context of my environment. I live by the sea and despite the wind blowing along the seafront, the music in my ears combined with the view out to sea and the sound of the gulls echoing over the top of my Mozart, I was able to think. I remembered who I was and the philosophy I follow. And that’s what led me to the next step of the process.
2. I looked forward
The problem with failure (or in this case, potential failure) is it is situated in the past. It’s behind you and despite the fact it can mould future events in your life, the actions that led to it are gone. The only actions that you have any influence over are the ones that you take from this moment on. I remembered that, sat down, and started thinking about what I needed to do.
3. I got help
This is possibly the hardest bit for some because it is seen as an admission of failure, however I know that in order to make sure the next few months are as smooth as possible while I find new clients, I may need financial help, also emotional support in order to be able to make it through. By offloading some of the worry and concern to a friend or loved one, we free up the energy to actually concentrate on positive actions
4. I learn from my mistakes
Failing is a part of life and is wholly acceptable, however failing at the same thing more than once…well, that’s not so. Even if it is something that was out of your control and not technically a mistake, think of ways that you can have a contigency plan in case it happens again. I’ve now written out a list of measures I can take to cover myself for this eventuality in the future.
5. I gave myself a break
This world is not full of perfection and success. Next time you are on a bus, train, or in any public place, just look around you. Every single person will have failed at something. It could be on a completely different scale to the situation you find yourself in, but you are not alone. I remembered that I am a human being with flaws and imperfections and that’s what makes my life interesting. I always have improvements to make and things to work on.
*We are not defined by how we fail. We are measured by how we rise. *
I have been able to have conversations today with potential clients that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. True, I’ve now got to be “Mr. Salesman” and get them on board, but I know that I can because I’ve put myself in the right frame of mind to do it. I’ve also been able to re-evaluate my processes to make the acquisition of future contracts easier, something I wouldn’t have thought of doing before.
I did this all in just twenty-four hours. I feel as though I’m no longer going to simply fail. When I fail, I’ll fail forward. And that makes failure a lot easier to swallow.