How to Deal With Failure, From Two People Who Have Made it to the Other Side

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When it comes to failure, there are plenty of things you expect. A bruised and deflated ego, for one, plus plenty of wallowing, pity parties, a hefty dose of uncertainty, and maybe one too many pints of Ben and Jerry’s.

There’s no doubt about it—failure can be brutal. But, once you’re over the initial shock and dust yourself off, there’s another adjective that can fit the experience: enlightening.

In fact, if you’re willing to swallow your pride and learn from your blunders, failure can be the thing that propels you right to the other side of the spectrum—success.

Sound impossible? Rest assured. Here’s how to turn your own losses into wins, with stories from people who did it themselves.

1. Keep Your Expectations High

You’ve missed the mark, and now you’re tempted to lower your expectations to better match your perceived lack of talent. It’s human nature—by reining in your goal, you think you’ll increase your chances of actually hitting said goal, and you won’t have to experience failure again quite so soon.

But not so fast. Remember, failure is a learning experience—not an opportunity to downgrade your standards. If you truly want this disappointment to be the thing that propels you toward success, it’s smarter to keep your eye on the prize.

“Set the bar high,” explains Kathy Jack-Romero, Regional President of USA Today Network, “If we lower the bar in terms of expectations for ourselves, we’re human and we will step back and just get to the bar.”

When you fail, resist the urge to adjust the objective. Instead, adjust your approach.

2. Lean on Others

A solid venting session always feels good after you’ve had a major misstep. But, the people in your network can serve a purpose beyond just being a shoulder to cry on—they can often be the boost you need to pick yourself up and get to the next level.

Kathy witnessed the importance of support after her and her team experienced a setback in their department. On the same day, they unexpectedly lost their largest advertiser and their two top-level clients changed their investments.

“It was a blow, and mentally my team and I were not prepared for it,” she says.

But, Kathy and her crew pulled together to put in the necessary legwork and bounced back from failure even better than before.

It can also be helpful to solicit advice from others in your network. You’re not the first to fail (and you won’t be the last!). So, if there’s someone who has been in a similar situation that you could learn from, don’t hesitate to share your own experience and start a productive conversation.

I know, it’s tempting to shut yourself off from the world after you’ve failed. But, relying on others—whether it’s friends, family, co-workers, managers, or mentors—is a smarter, and ultimately more constructive, strategy. Nobody gets through anything alone.

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