A couple of weekends ago, I experienced what felt like an epic failure. I was horrified at how much I was able to let myself and my business down, completely overwhelmed with disappointment following what could have been–should have been–an opportunistic networking event.
To summarize, I donated a bunch of my jewelry and hair accessories to a local fashion show event in exchange for the opportunity to attend. Excited (and nervous) about meeting several local shop owners, fashion models, photographers, and others in the industry, I pinned the hope on this event as my “chance” to get a leg up on getting my work into local shops and salons.
What I forgot to consider was how introverted I am and how poorly I handle interacting with a room full of strangers. I left 1/3 of the way into the event, in tears, completely overwhelmed and disappointed in myself, unable to exchange a single business card or conversation.
But this brings me to thinking about how we consider business failures, and made me revisit an old article from my original WordPress.com blog archives.
Here is that article again, in case you need a refresher just as much as I do:
How to Embrace Your Failures
First thing’s first: you need to accept the fact that you’re gonna eff up. Hell, you need to accept that you’re probably gonna EFF UP BIG TIME. Accept it now, and you’ll be better prepared to handle the situation when it arrives.
Have you accepted this? Okay then, let’s move on.
Next, you need to realize that everyone makes mistake. It’s a lame cliche, I know. But it’s actually TRUE. Even that little miss perfect seller you are always comparing yourself to has made mistakes. The reason you can’t tell is because she’s remedied the situation, learned from it, and BECAME BETTER FOR IT.
You can’t learn if you don’t eff up. Failures are a major part of the character building process. The best way to handle a failure is not to run from it, or try to hide it, but embrace it head on. Tell yourself, “I messed up by doing a, which can be prevented in the future by doing b instead.” See how that works?
If we acknowledge the mistake, and find out what should have been the solution, future mistakes can be prevented. To just hope that the mistake won’t happen again, while continuing to go on as we were before, offers no benefit. By ignoring a failure and simply hoping that the effects will go away, we are dooming ourselves to committing that failure again.
Do all of these generic statements drive you as crazy as they do me? Lets talk about some specific examples so you can see what I mean.
Let’s pretend there are two online sellers who each sell homemade chocolates. Both sellers start to receive complaints from customers that their chocolates are arriving melted in their mailbox. Seller #1 urges her customers to check their mailbox as soon as possible so that the heat won’t get to them, and continues to sell as usual. Seller #2 discontinues selling the chocolates during the hottest summer months, and packs more coolants and priority ships when she does sell the chocolates again.
Now let’s pretend there are 2 craft fair vendors, each selling knitted scarves at a summer fair. Neither are getting a lot of business. Seller #1 continues to sell at the fair each summer, hoping that some new scarf designs will eventually get her some sales. Seller #2 tries the fair again, but the second time making other knitted items that aren’t wearable like mug cozies and yoga sacks. When sales are still lagging, as people really just don’t want to carry around knitted items in 90 degree weather, Seller #2 stops attending the outdoor summer show and saves her booth money for holiday and other indoor, winter season shows.
In both of these examples, Seller #1 isn’t really doing much to fix her mistakes. She is just hoping that even though she will keep trying the same thing, different results will follow. The second seller, however, is taking the results from the previous mistake and re-directing her decisions. She might make more mistakes still, but even after those she will continue to change and adapt for what works best for her business.
Conclusion: You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to not package something enough so it will break in the mail. You’re going to sell at a lousy craft fair and not make your booth money back. You’re going to sign a lame consignment contract and end up getting you ass handed to you. You’re going to undercharge for shipping and lose out. You’re going to get kicked off an online forum for starting a new thread when you weren’t supposed to. You’re going to have plenty of typos in your Facebook statuses and you’re going to have a blog comment that gets dinged down into hiding. Recognize the mistake, learn from it, and grow because of it. As you start to recognize your failures as opportunities to become a better person and run a better business, you will even begin to embrace them.
How can I take my own advice and learn from my recent failure at networking? Well, there are a couple of things I can take from this experience.
For starters: the next time I aim to join a big crowd of strangers, I know I would feel a lot less overwhelmed and lonely if I brought a friend or dragged my husband along with me. Otherwise, I need to be more sensitive of my introverted personality type and not push myself into situations that my brain simply cannot handle the stress of. Rather than trying to work the crowd, it would make a lot more sense to send out individual, personalized e-mails or phone calls to shop and salon owners, inquiring to set up one-on-one meetings where I could show them my work to see if they’re interested in selling it within their space.
What about you? Have you expedience a recent “failure” that you can turn into a valuable learning experience?