Podcast Episode 4: How To Fail Forward To Success

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Failure used to trip me up.

Now I wear it like a loose garment. Rethinking failure got me to my next success faster.

Learn the actionable steps to evaluate and move past failure so you can get to your next success much faster and with less drama. 

The rollercoaster of it all was exhausting. I was often anxious and I began not to trust myself because I didn’t always know the next move.

I eventually learned how to wear failure like a loose garment.

For me, it’s a banner of growth and success.   

Read the Transcript
Failure used to rile me up. 

It didn’t matter if it was something small like a marketing campaign or larger like a lay-off, I would become really stressed, anxious, fall into obsessive thinking which for me I was always arguing with reality.  

Other times I would be frozen and I wanted to put bubble wrap around myself because I was not sure how to move forward. I was scared.  

I come from the media and marketing side of the business and I spent most of my career working in and around digital health, technology, digital media, customer goods, and travel and hospitality. 

High risk. Huge rewards. 

I began to look at my career as either a signing bonus and or a severance package.

The rollercoaster of it all was exhausting. I was often anxious and I began not to trust myself because I didn’t always know the next move. 

I eventually learned how to wear failure like a loose garment. 

For me, it’s a banner of growth and success. 

That’s what this podcast is about. How I flipped my thoughts on failure.  

And how I failed forward to success. And how I managed my jerky brain along the way. 

So many of us have an automatic resistance to failure. 

Think about why you may have an automatic resistance. 

What is the feeling that comes up when you have a thought around failure?

Anxiety, stress, fear, confused, pessimistic. What comes up for you? 

You probably learned pretty quickly through direct and indirect messages that failing is wrong. In school if you didn’t do well on a test or if you didn’t do it “right” you failed. 

The more you failed in school, the less success you achieved. 

This burns bright in our psyche. 

You may have been directly or indirectly trained not to challenge the ‘right’ way of doing things. 

But I will tell you as both a former employee and now 4 years into my entrepreneurial journey, failure gets you to success. 

Failure is just one less way it will work. And the faster you rev on failure, the faster you get to success.

Freeze or quit….and success doesn’t follow as quickly. 

Here’s what I noticed. When you succeed you tend to move on quickly, maybe even celebrate but you don’t often reflect on why it all worked. 

Because you haven’t been trained to look at WHY what you did was successful.   

Failing forward is about 2 steps: 

Step one is evalationing the data and choosing how you want to think about it


Step two is Knowing that you can be in the suckiness (thats a clinical term) of failure and get through the other side. 

Working in tech marketing, we would spend time in what we called the “wallow” we looked at why something work or it didnt. 

Step one is we captured all learnings. 

Sometimes good, sometimes ridiculously uncomfortable, but we’d look at everything. We’d dissect, investigate, and probe deeper. 

We’d get really crisp on highlights, lowlights, and how we’d do it differently next time. 

Our tendency is to immediately get to the lowlights. What went wrong. Who did what. How did this happen? 

Ok fine. But make sure you spend equal time on the highlights and the wins. What went right. Who did what. How did this happen? 

Both highlights and lowlights deserve a wallow. 

And know that all this digging and probing is just data. It’s math. It’s facts. 

And as you know you can spin data to prove lots of points of view.  

When you look at the data you are going to have thoughts. And your thought is going to make you feel either positively or negatively about the data.  But the data itself is totally neutral. 

Don’t blame or celebrate the data. 

It’s your thoughts about the data that you want to look at. 

That’s what is creating your feelings. 

So here is step 2, the…. getting through the suckiness of failure. 

Let’s unpack it. 

Thoughts create feelings. 

And everything you do in life is because of how you want to feel or because of a feeling you want to avoid. 

No exceptions.  

Success comes from continually looking at your thoughts and feelings. Reviewing the actions you take and seeing the results they create. 

If you don’t repeatedly look at what thoughts you are choosing you won’t progress. You stay stagnant.  

You wont move forward after the failed presentation, the furlough, the lay off, or the firing. 

You really do get to choose what you make the data mean. If you choose to look at it wholly from a negative point of view you are going to have negative feelings. 

It’s ok to experience negative feelings. This work isn’t about anestheizings ourselves. 

I still cry at a good commercial. 

The work is about allowing yourself to feel the negative feeling and get through the other side so you can move forward. 

It’s learning how not to let the negative feeling stop you. 

If you allow yourself to embrace feelings of 
disappointment, sadness, upset, doubt, anxious, ashamed… 

You’ll be able to move through failure faster. 

Here’s why. 

Resisting negative feelings is like holding a beach ball underwater. 

At some point it’s going to pop back up and smack you in the face. 

Other ways that resisting your feelings can shows up with the constant numbing out with over consuming substances (food, recreational drugs, alcohol)and social media distraction. 

You can’t think clearly if you are using your energy to resist what you are really feeling. 

If you allow yourself to sit with the negative feelings and know that the feeling is just neurochemicals and
hormones pulsing through your body, you begin to process the discomfort. 

It may come in waves. Your shoulders may tense. You have a nauseous feeling in your stomach. You may have a nervous energy throughout your body. 

But here’s the magic of the human body. 

The feeling will dissipate in seconds or minutes. They may swell again, but allowing the feelings to process through your body –you’ll eventually get through the other side of the feeling. 

This is kinda like the gazelle shuddering and shaking off the energy when it outran the lion. 

Back to humans, processing the emotion can be kinda sucky but not so awful that you cant experience it. 

And the beauty is you’ll be less fearful the next time you experience that negative emotion because you know how to process it. 

We resist processing it because of evolutionary biology.  

Our brains are motivated to seek pleasure (sex food, avoid pain (saber tooth tigers and flaming client emails), and to be efficient or conserve energy. We have to know that this is the default operating system in our brain. It’s evolutionary biology. 

So when you try something new, let’s say, evaluate your recent presentation that you think you wasn’t your best performance.  

Your thoughts may tell you that your not sure why it happened 

Or you may be obsessing over one gaff, or that you don’t know the exact point that you lost your audience but when you looked back up to your zoom window it was obvious everyone was multitasking. 

These is a perfect example of how your brain wants to avoid pain and conserve energy

So your thoughts tell you to take it and don’t think about it, it’s not helpful, to slow down, you just had a big disappointment. 

Your brain tells you to scroll through social media (save energy, seek pleasure instead), 
and lastly your brain tells you to do an evaluation but you should go out and meet up with your friends instead because they’ll help you feel better

  – let’s pretend we are in the BEFORE TIMES when we were able to more freely do these things 

This avoidance of doing the work and seeing your friends is another way to  conserve energy, seek pleasure  

Your thoughts will trigger feelings and those feelings make you want to take action or not. It all starts with your thoughts. 

So here’s a way to NOT let this default programming take over.

Notice it  – what is happening – you are sitting in front of your laptop scrolling social media instead of getting curious about the highlights and lowlights of the marketing effort.

Name it – you are NOT doing something so you are conserving energy and avoiding pain 

Reclaim it  

Set aside your thoughts of

I dont want to do this right now 

Just set them aside for a minute
and think about what you really want – which in this case is to feel better about this presentation and feel successful next time. 

What would it feel like if you separated your feeling of failure from the facts and just looked at the data? 

Relief, calm, curious?

Think about what you want to do next. 

You want to find a thought that will get you in to action

I am willing to learn from mistakes

It’s possible there were successes inside this failure

If I don’t look I will never know 

Now that you have a thought, think about a feeling that will get you into that action

Curious, inquisitive confident, determined, focused,

From these feelings you are then able to take action from a place of let’s say, curiosity, and begin to review the data with a clear mind. 

Then get the facts down on paper. 

What were the highlights and lowlights

Think about your technology, your script, the research and data in the script, your lighting, even include verbal and written feedback from others. That’s data too.

You now have an opportunity to see all the things that did and didn’t work. 

This helps us lean in and focus on the things that did work. 

It’s never all bad. It’s usually 50/50

If you think about the nature of doing something new, you are not going to know how to do it. 

Brene Brown calls it a FFT

That’s an effing first time


It can be new because at this moment, on this day, you’ve never presented this topic, to this audience before.

I don’t care if you think you’ve done a challenge like this before, there’s always something new about it. 

The market shifts. The requirements are different. The consumer attitude has changed. New dependencies. 

Many of my clients tell me how they are reading, watching, studying, and learning to figure out what to do after a failure. 

You may even be hiding. I get it. I’ve hid too. 

You wanted to read everything possible so that you’re well informed.

So that you can mitigate the risk. That can be both helpful and smart. 

But if you are consuming so that you can feel a differently – 

Because you want to feel confident or self assured as you tackle this next challenge–

Reading isn’t going to make you feel confident. 

That’s the cart before the horse. 

An action is never going to fix a thought problem. 

Your thoughts are what make you feel confident.

And then from a place of confidence you then take action. 

You play. You wonder. You experiment. And you may fail.

Staying safe doesn’t grow careers. Safe doesn’t get noticed. It doesn’t feel accomplished. Safe doesn’t grow expertise. 

If you’ve never tried something before, there are going to be things that don’t work.

But that’s just data. And you get to choose how you want to think about the data. 

So how do you move forward? 

You create a goal for next time 

Get ready for your brain to freak out. 

This is when you may be tempted to make the goal really small. 

So if you fail, it’s not that big of a deal. 

Itty bitty micro wins and itt bitty micro failures. 

This is where that evolutionary biology comes back into play. 

Your brain wants you to succeed and stay safe. 

Your brain wants to avoid pain and conserve energy. 

But none of this avoids failure. You are going to fail at times. 

You may be saying, “If I am going to fail, why in the world would I do it?” 

The lyrics from the song Freewill by the great rock band Rush say 
“if you chose not to decide you still have made a choice” 

Not trying is also failing, You just choose to fail ahead of time

You think that if you stay safe you may not fail. 

That’s a total lie. Don’t lie to yourself.

You’ve lost out on learning, growing, knowing…building confidence and esteem.

You don’t know what opportunities are lost because you stayed safe and didn’t really try. 

You just chose to fail before you started. 

And that is still failure. 

Failing is how we get to accomplishment. 

You never know where your failures might lead you. 

Failing may still yield opportunities, relationships, collaborations, and ongoing growth.

So I want to break down 2 different ways to think about failure. 

There’s the dodgy fail. You dodge the opportunity or the responsibility. Or you stayed safe. 

But these types of failures tend to lead to you to repress and deny how you are really feeling. 

Then you find yourself standing in front of the fridgeratar eating cold pasta when you are not even hungry. Your watching netflix on one screen, while scrolling social media on another screen

The other type of failure is what I call an effective failure. You still didnt get the results you wanted but you learned a ton along the way. 

If your goal is to get a promotion by the end of the year and you spend the next few months, 

leveling up your skills, 

networking internally and externally, 

discussing with your leadership what they’d need to see from your in order to gain the promotion, 

collaborating with colleagues to improve the team’s output…

and in the end you don’t get the promotion. All this work would be a worthy failure. 

Because you’ll work to get it next round, or you will use the skills, collaboration, and networking to take yourself elsewhere. 

The worst that can happen is that I don’t get the job and feel humiliated. Ok. But I can eventually get my thinking to SO what, I cant really lose what’s not mine and I learned a ton along the way.

When you understand that the worst that can happen is an emotion and you start to realize that there isn’t an emotion you cant experience your whole world opens up. 

You begin to shift your thoughts on failure and be willing to experience new things, take risks, because refreshing your thoughts on failure isnt so that you dont fail, it’s so that you are able to recognize the wins and the learning along the way. 

So to recap. 

You get to choose how you think about failure

Wallow in the data. Look at highlights, lowlights and what you’d do again. 

Don’t keep yourself small and safe that only leads to a dodgy failure because you just dodged the opportunity. And that is still failure. 

Wallow in the effective failure, get clear on the opportunities, relationships, collaborations, and ongoing growth you experience from the risk. 

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