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How to fully own your failure

We all fail at some point. But, how can we make the most out of it?

So the situation didn’t pan out how you expected it to do, am I correct? The end result was a failure? Or someone told you that?

Personally, I am super prone to becoming locked in auto-replay repeating a situation. I often begin to overthink, begin the process of self-doubt and ultimately question myself. I can often get in the situation where I second guess decisions I had made, as well as asking myself why I chose that action over another.

It can be very difficult to step back, reflect and retrospectively examine something that is important to you. I have this challenge every time I do not feel like I performed as well as I could have. So what have I learnt about it?

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

– Japanese proverb.

Embrace the situation

Failure, as much as it hurts, is a really important part of life. In fact, failure is truly necessary for true development.

I have failed more times than I’d care to admit. These are not small failures, but quite world-changing ones where I have had to brush myself off, sometimes starting again and just getting on with it. 

And, if you’re anything like me, then you’ve also most likely done this whole ‘failure thing’ a few times. I can’t say that I have particularly enjoyed failing. Nevertheless, experiencing such failure has allowed me to develop in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do without failing.

In my case, I started a creative agency last year. What originally was supposed to be a blog, ballooned into a series of public speaking appointments, events and collaborations. I enjoyed every minute of it, but as it grew I found I lost sight of my motivation. I had failed in solving the problem I sought to solve. As such, I went back to the drawing board, stepped back for a couple of months to refocus. The more I did so, the clearer it became that my passion was really about bringing people together and empowering them. And the Growth & Grace Collective was born.

You are in the place you are in for a reason. The best thing to do is to embrace it for what it is: experience. Trying to reverse engineer your understanding of the circumstance is a super powerful tool. The trick I often utilise is the notion that everything is a gift. In my case, it really was a gift in order to develop myself and my product.

Once you begin to switch up the narrative, beginning to fully embrace it for all it can offer can be the best choice. In this case, you will often find yourself becoming more positive about the situation and any future solutions. However, it can be super difficult when you are in the thick of it.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

– Winston Churchill

Be open, forever curious and welcome uncertainty

Though a difficult thing to do, being open is crucial when it comes to failure. The process of being open can be a painful one.

Being able to see the bigger picture, take full ownership of my role and actions as well as impact takes a bit of time for me. I don’t think anyone can be open from the get-go at all. I know myself enough to understand I need some time to mourn in some way, mourning for what could have been and what won’t come to fruition. After this period of mourning in a sense, it definitely helps me to develop greater clarity and focus on what my motivations and goals where.

Another important part of the process of owning your failure I would say is to be unapologetically curious to change. I find self-talk in the mirror to be a decent way to prop yourself up, or just asking those close to for further validation. I often need sometime someplace quiet and be fully open to the risks of the situation in question, and take full ownership of my role in a situation.

Leading on from then is to look at how you personally can change. This retrospective look at oneself is the key to developing yourself and heading to the next level. Again, this is not an easy one and can be painful.

The other side to failure which scares a lot of people is the notion of uncertainty. As some have said, “uncertainty is the fertile ground of your life – then the grey area in which anything is possible”. This is one of the most real pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received.

You might ask why. Well, uncertainty for me is a certainty. The threat of the unknown is something I have kind of grown up with, since moving abroad to study Korean in Seoul, South Korea. Volunteering, working and living in the West Bank, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in short bursts have allowed me to really ‘live in the moment’. I’ve had to fully embrace uncertainty in all of its entirety at all stages of my career. Ultimately I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without that understanding. 

I believe engaging with uncertainty head-on is the best way to develop. Fully own the fact that there is always more to learn, see and discover. Often the wisest person in the room is actually the one who never believes they are the smartest – as we need to constantly adapt and change.

Ultimately the biggest truth (and a hard one to stomach) is – you’re not supposed to know what the future holds. If you know where the path leads going forward, it’s because unfortunately, you’re on somebody else’s.

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

― Tony Schwartz

Jess Gosling – Founder of the Growth & Grace Collective

Jess a female founder, senior political adviser, digital/creative strategist, and brand expert focused on female empowerment. She has experience working developing and building international partnerships under the lens of government, NGO, and private firms. She is passionate about smashing the glass ceiling and founded the Growth & Grace Collective, which is a women-led global network to support, empower and engage like-minded females in fields of business, tech, policy and law. She works with small organisations pro-bono and is an avid writer.

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