Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making MERRY from Failures

Written by Karen D. Swim

Are you familiar with the sound effects that accompany total failure? It sounds a little like this...did you hear it? Exactly, it is so silent you can hear dust move across the floor.

Public failure can be especially difficult. There is no covering it up when you blow it while others are watching. Yet, it's not often humiliation that stings the most, it is our own heartbreak when our results don't live up to our expectations. The reel of negative self talk plays in a never ending loop. My MERRY tips have helped me to hit the pause button on the torture tape and move on.

  1. Mourn the Loss. Yes, it is a loss! To deny what you feel only prolongs it. I give myself a specific time period to mourn the loss. I find that 6 1/2 minutes works magic. I can cry, brood and feel sucky and then it's time to move on.
  2. Examine your Expectations. Were your expectations realistic? There's a fine balance between aiming high and setting yourself up for utter disappointment. The balance lies in managing your expectations. Aim for the moon, but if you land in the stars, celebrate your accomplishment rather than mourn your failure.
  3. Re-evaluate your motive. If you launched a product to make a zillion dollars, land on Oprah and party like Diddy with no thought of the end user and their benefit, well your profits may fall short of expectations. Yes you rock, but you must rock with purpose.
  4. Roll up your sleeves and learn. Failure teaches us tremendous lessons if you're willing to learn them. Perhaps the results fell short of expectations but there is much to be gained from the experience. Be willing to honestly examine your process, preparation and attitude. Take notes and use what you've learned to continue to move forward.
  5. You're not done yet! So you bombed, it's not the end of the world. I can prove it, you're here reading this post aren't you?

So there you have it my MERRY tips for recovering from failure. How do you move on when something has not gone quite as expected? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Alina Popescu said...

What I do is first allow myself some time to simply feel bad and sad about it, then analyze what went wrong, see what I can change, identify what was not up to me and I can't change and stop blaming myself for it. I then move to learning what I need to improve myself and finally just try again :) Sounds close to your MERRY tips :)

I should also say this is what I try to do, not what I actually manage to do every time :)

Anonymous said...

Very practical! I like it! And if you end up feeling Merry then all the better!

Great tips, Karen!

Anonymous said...

Oh, no.


Karen, say it ain't so! :-)

- Friar

Bob said...

Your first point reminds me of something a character in a book once said: "I've got to get over this sometime. Why not now?"

I like the 6.5 minute time limit, Karen. Time to move on!

Ellen Wilosn said...

Hi Karen,

Oh my, I have had some VERY public failures. The last one led me to what I'm doing now. I really don't think we have as much power as we think we do. Someone else is in charge and it usually isn't me! Sometimes it is our time, and sometimes it isn't. Yeah, all we can do is make merry from our failures. Maybe in retrospect they weren't failures, but led to something else. You know the cliche, once one door closes another opens.

Janice C. Cartier said...

When that Dyson commercial comes on and he says they made 5,000 prototypes that DID NOT work, I am awed. I think that's where he also talks about the value of those "failures". That is determination and quite a creative lab.
Here's the thing. Being creative one has to accept the possibility of being wrong. At the same time, you accept that you can get a do over. We do it as kids all the time.
I think the acceptance of mistakes goes hand in hand with heightened creative juices, not every what if has to succeed. But what if we didn't give it a go?
Extremely dull, dull and very dull. :)

I like your Merry List, Karen. Not this time? Ahh well, go get 'em next time, champ. Yeah, missing stinks, but that do over possibility...it' s kind of sweet.

Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map said...

I sure do enjoy your Merry List! Evaluating my expectations is the lesson for me. It was often the case that I set out with a huge goal and at various stages, failed to see how much I have arrived from the starting point. Instead, I chose to focus on what I've failed to achieve. I have to constantly remind myself not to give up just yet but keep on trying!

Virtual Woman's Day said...

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In fact, I listed your blog in my summer review of Women bloggers to Watch for 2008 at http://virtualwomansday.blogspot.com/. Please stop by and leave a comment.

Many thanks…keep up the great work!

Heidi Richards Mooney, Founder & CEO
Women’s eCommerce Association - http://www.wecai.org

Words For Hire said...

It's been a wild and awesome day so forgive my tardiness in responding!

@Alina, lol, yes "try to do" is the operative phrase. None of is perfect but having a formula helps, and when we screw it up, well we can learn from that too. :)

@Wendi, thanks! All this merrymaking really is fun isn't it? LOL!

@Friar, ROFL! I know, I know. Even I was surprised! I called my brother and told him I had fallen down the rabbit hole. I'll try to be semi-snarky tomorrow to make up for it. :)

@Bob, my Dad (biological) watched me have a timed meltdown once, of 2.5 minutes and the look on his face still doubles me over with laughter today. I looked at the clock and burst into tears and a rant. When he looked concerned, okay befuddled, I said I was fine (through tears) it would be over in 2.5 minutes and it was...he had this look of part awe, part shock, mouth half open. I smiled and said "see told ya."

@Ellen, hon you spelled your last name wrong! LOL! Since I am guilty of spelling my first name wrong so often it has become a nickname, I am glad to have company. :) I agree we don't have power over all that happens but we have power over how we respond to it. Perspective is a powerful thing, we can choose to see doors slamming or we can choose to see new ones opening. I have found that the bad things are never, ever in vain.

@Janice, that Dyson commercial is awe-inspiring! I'd forgotten about that! I love the perspective of an artist on this topic. I imagine that when you're painting "failure" can actually become something quite beautiful. The paintings that I love are not perfect but beautiful in their imperfections. You have such a great attitude and I am totally rocking out to your 2 minute tips. :-)

@Evelyn, welcome, welcome, welcome! I like your attitude! We will absolutely blow it, right? But you're right, it's the getting up again that makes all the difference. I'm so glad you found the blog and it's lovely to meet you. Please feel free to stop in anytime. :-)

@Heidi, wow, thank you! I really appreciate the kind words, just felt myself grow an inch or two! LOL! I know your site well and love all that you do around the net. I will absolutely stop in and comment. I am so excited to be included, thank you!

Thanks again everyone for visiting, and sharing. You all made my day!

Lillie Ammann said...

Great tips, Karen. I especially the 6.5 minutes of grief.

Words For Hire said...

Lillie, I'm glad you liked them! The short time period of mourning does work. I find that without a time limit it's too easy to wallow in self pity.

Steph VanderMeulen said...

Fantastic post, Karen! I needed it today...and yesterday...

sexy said...







Carie said...

Great tips, Karen. I've failed publicly--my students just sit staring at me--so I could relate. Your blog verbalized some of what I thought and some of what I should do.


Nikki May | Web Content Writer said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for this inspiring post!

A while back, I started several pojects that were complete failures, and I lost a lot money.

It is easy sometimes to give up when we encounter challenges or failures.

When one fails, the best approach is to pick yourself up and soldier on.

Thanks again for this reminder - much appreciated!