Facing A Failure For The First Time

dealing with failure | show up strong

Maybe you’re used to getting a trophy, just for showing up. Not because everyone got one, but because you were used to always winning, always succeeding, always outperforming. You were used to landing on your feet, no matter what challenge was in front of you.

Maybe success came easy, maybe you put forth more effort than others, maybe you were smarter, more educated, knew the right people… Maybe you were lucky (or strategically) happened to be in the right place at the right time. Whatever the reason, winning and succeeding was your “normal”.

Something changed and your normal turned into unfamiliar territory.  I’m not talking about small mishaps, mistakes, and blunders. You’ve most likely experienced those before, but they didn’t really register, as you danced on by to your victory. What I’m talking about is a series of roadblocks, defeats, and failures at every turn.

When you’ve gone from, always figuring out how to succeed, to feeling like you must have left your brain somewhere and can’t seem to find it, you are most likely at a loss for what to do next.

It happens to the best of the best, we just rarely hear about it. How you approach this novel situation can be an enormous learning experience in adaptability or it can become a domino tipping moment. You can keep fighting against this new era, trying to use the same strategies you always have, with the same mindset and hope it was just a fluke and success will magically appear again. I don’t recommend that approach.

What happens when we’re used to succeeding is, we get comfortable in our groove. We can over credit ourselves with just being genius or superior in some way and can get a little cocky in our abilities. People see you as the invincible super-hero and so do you. Just like the unsinkable Titanic.

We can zone in on what we’re doing and tune out what’s happening in the rest of the world; we get tunnel vision. We don’t notice the shifts in society, the economy, and the marketplace or our relationships. We miss the red flags. Worse yet, we are so confident in our ability to get the trophy, we stop looking for the red flags, ways to improve our KSA’s to stay in top form.

We often don’t notice things in our lives that may be hindering our abilities, until it drops on us like a ton of bricks or a blind side by a 2×4.

Learn to make peace with failure, know many great successes have come from failure and let your strategic growth begin. You will come out of this a stronger, wiser and more aware person.

Take a step back from it all and toggle between being inside your head and looking at you and the situation from an outside perspective, objectively. 

  • Look at all the big successes and wins you’ve had, to find some common themes. Think meticulously about what went through your mind before, during, and after those successes and when you hit minor snags (if any). What were your approach and strategy? What’s different now? What are some of the tools you used, that you can bring with you on this journey and what are obsolete?
  • If events or an event, outside your control, has caused your mind and success strategy to go off track, be firm, but gentle with yourself. If this is your first encounter with big failure, it’s okay to feel a little sorry for yourself, but don’t expect anyone else to. You’ve never really had to lick your wounds like this before, give yourself a brief moment now and then to feel that sting and mourn the loss of your superpowers. Keep in mind, those who befriended you through attraction to your success will most likely bail on you when you need some help. Those people, more than likely, resented your success and will revel in your struggle. Watching you crash and burn may be a long time fantasy of theirs, where they now have the higher position. You’ll find out who your real friends are.
  • Think about the mindset you used when approaching a new challenge? When we’re confident and secure in our abilities, we typically approach a challenge with a positive mindset, we’re focused on what we will do right, not what we’ll do wrong. Behaviors follow where we’re focused.If you’re hitting a wall, each hit puts a ding in your confidence, making changes to your focus and causing a less positive approach. Get yourself back into that confident mindset as often and as quickly as possible, no matter how defeated and insecure you may feel.
  • How did you handle speed bumps during your winning streak? Look for the ways in which you navigated around problems. Did you have a small network of people to call upon to help you or did you have an army? Did you take to the books or internet to find solutions and upgrade your skills? Think about how you got yourself out of rough spots before.
  • If the linear successes have been a product of right place-right time, having money to see you through or having the right connections, perhaps you’ve got some training or learning to do. You may need to develop new skills and create some new strategies and/or put in more effort now than you’re used to. Never rule out the reality that you may not really be as good as you think you are or your skills and knowledge have become obsolete or ubiquitous.
  • Occasionally, Superhero’s forget they’re human and need support. It’s easy to feel invincible when you always have been. With a lot of success and “invincibleness” we can get a bit lazy about taking care of ourselves. We can forget that age does take a toll on our capabilities, physically and mentally, if we do not nurture the hell out of our body and brain. Run through a checklist of your diet, your mental and physical exercise routine, your social and home life stress or bliss. Stress, diet, lack of exercise, lack of socialization, lack of novel experiences and age wreak havoc on our cognitive abilities. The hippocampus, the main learning areas of the brain, as well as the executive functioning and production of new neurons are impaired, if not damaged, under those conditions. That makes your ability to creatively maneuver your way around and through problems more difficult. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, to take care of your situation.
  • Consult an outside source, not close to or attached to your situation. Your ecosystem of colleagues, family, friends, and groups can be apprehensive to offer honest feedback and may be short on unbiased strategies and suggestions. We typically surround ourselves with like-minded and same-knowledge types, this can be a more comforting situation, but it won’t get you a new strategic approach to your problems. It’s best to go outside your ecosystem to discover a novel approach to your dilemma. It can be even more demoralizing to admit to our ecosystem, that you really need help. You may feel as though confiding in those close to you, will forever damage their opinion of you. That’s where an outside source comes in.

To Show Up Strong in this situation takes a willingness to do something different, look at yourself objectively, taking care of yourself, making changes in your approach and seeking guidance or consult with someone who is skilled in the art of crisis navigation.

As tough as this first time struggle may be, it doesn’t have to last. You know how to succeed, you’ve done it many times before, you just might need to modify your approach.



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