I couldn’t take it anymore.
I had been tossing and turning in my bed all night, trying to fall aleep. But my mind couldn’t rest. The evening before I had sent an email to my subscribers with my first ever coaching offer.
It was something I knew they wanted. They’d been asking me to create something like this for months. Now launch date was here, I panicked I had bitten off more than I could chew. Where would I find the time to handle all my new clients?
I opened Gmail, expecting to see a stream of sales orders pouring into my account.
In the past 10 hours, no one had bought my coaching programme. Not a single person. The launch had been a massive failure.
Failure Isn’t Personal, So Why Does It Feel Like It?
As I stared at the blank screen, taking in the lack of orders for my coaching services, my inner critic reared her ugly head:
“I told you this was a bad idea. Who did you think you are, Marie Forleo? You’re not good enough to be a coach. You messed everything up and made a fool of yourself.”
The outcome of the failure had nothing to do with me. I likely hadn’t done enough promotion or given my audience enough time to save money for it. Yet, my inner critic ignored all the practical issues with logistics and timing and made the failure about my worth as a person. Why?
Failure hits you where it hurts you the most: your ego. It’s the part of you that strives for self-importance. Your ego doesn’t like to be wrong, experience failure, or be judged. They’re threats to its own survival. If other people realise you’re not perfect, will they still like you?
When your ego takes a hit, it bullies you back into your comfort zone. “I’m a failure” or “I don’t have what it takes to make it happen” are the weapons it uses to make you quit – and ensure you’ll keep playing small from now on.
If you’re tired of playing this game and waiting for your dreams to magically happen on their own, you need to keep your ego in check and get comfortable with failure.
The Truth About Failure
What’s failure? The dictionary defines it as a “lack of success”. It may be correct, but it’s incomplete. It doesn’t tell you why it happened.
Why did you fail? That’s where the ego jumps in. It screams, loud and clear, that it’s all your fault. You’re not good enough. You know now that’s just a trick it plays to keep you in your comfort zone. So, the question remains, “why did you fail this time?”
Failure gives you the answer. The truth is, failure is just feedback. It tells you what didn’t work, so you can course correct and go the right way next time.
How To Reframe Failure Into Feedback
If you’re brave enough to go for your dreams and make a difference in the world, you’ll experience failure.
Here’s how to reframe these “failures” into feedback, so you can use it to reach your goals faster – without feeling bad about yourself. I’ll use my story as a case study, so you can understand what went wrong for me and how I used this feedback to turn things around:
Step 1: Create An Objective Relationship With Results
Successful entrepreneurs declare goals and do whatever it takes to reach them. Does that mean they always reach them? Of course not. It just means they have a clear vision of what they want to create, so they can take the steps to create it.
Back to my first coaching launch. I didn’t set any goal for that launch. I had an email list full of people who said they’d buy my programme, so I thought that once they’d knew it was out, they’d buy it in droves. Big mistake.
What I should have done was set a clear goal for the number of people I wanted in the programme during that launch. With a clear number in mind, I would have been able to make a list of hot leads and contact them personally, understand how many emails I should have sent to my subscribers to hit my target, and figure out a plan for where the rest of the people would come from.
So why didn’t I? Declaring a number made me uncomfortable. I had a history of declaring goals that never come true. Why would this time be different? Do you ever feel the same?
When you set goals you don’t reach, you start to lose trust in yourself. You make up a story in your mind about not being good enough or uncommitted or whatever. Before you know it, you stop declaring goals all the together.
And if you do declare them, they’re so vague. Like, “I’m going to have a successful launch” or “I’ll build this thing and people will buy it.” Vague goals get you off the hook. At some point, they’re going to come true. And if not, the goal was just too vague. Not your fault, right?
This is what most people do. When they don’t reach a goal, they make it mean something bad about themselves. Successful entrepreneurs have an objective relationship with results. When they set a goal and don’t reach it, they don’t take it personally. They don’t make it mean anything bad about themselves.
Your results are your feedback. They show you what worked and what didn’t. They showed you what (comfortable) actions you were willing to take and which (uncomfortable) actions you weren’t willing to take.
The sooner you start seeing results as neutral, the sooner you can use the feedback to reach your goals.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Grab pen and paper and journal on these questions:
- What story are you making up about not reaching your goals?
- What do you need to let go of so you can start seeing results as neutral?
Step 2: Gather Feedback
Now you know that results are neutral, you can investigate what went wrong. I’m using this language on purpose.
Leaders don’t say “Where did I fail? Or what did I do wrong?” When you use this language, you’re still making yourself wrong. You still don’t have an objective relationship with results, so go back to step 1.
Leaders say “What didn’t work?” They know they simply used the wrong strategy or didn’t implement a strategy correctly or didn’t give it enough time to work.
When I looked at why no one bought my first coaching programme, I realised I hadn’t taken the time to do a proper launch. Instead of teasing about my future coaching programme and getting them excited to buy, I had just emailed them with the finished offer out of the blue. I later learned that many wanted to buy, they just hadn’t had the time to budget for it!
When you look at results objectively and ask yourself, “What didn’t work?,” you get clear on what part of your strategy didn’t work and can course correct – without feeling bad about yourself.
FYI, feedback works the other way around, too. You can also ask yourself, “What did work?”, so you can do more of that and get results faster.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Think of a goal you didn’t reach and answer these questions:
- What worked?
- Why did it work?
- What didn’t work?
- Why didn’t it work?
- What can I change/improve next time?
- Is there anything that I didn’t do out of fear of failure, rejection, criticism that would have made a difference?
BONUS: If you don’t know what went wrong, ask someone else for feedback. Pick someone you can trust to tell you the truth, especially when it’s not something you’re happy to hear.
Step 3. Tweak Your Approach And Try Again
Now that you have a good idea of what went wrong as well as what you did right, you can make a new game plan. Keep doing more of what worked (obviously!) and tweak the rest.
I knew my coaching programme was good. It was my launch blueprint that needed tweaking. I went back to the drawing board and created an email sequence to send to my subscribers. I gave away some useful tips they could implement straight away to reassure them the programme worked, shared the personal struggles that led me to create this offering, and answered all the questions they had about it.
This time, people bought.
For you, it may be different. Maybe you need to change strategy completely. You may be spending all your social media time on Instagram only to discover your audience is on LinkedIn. Or it may be a small change like tweaking a couple of words on the sales page.
Whatever the change is, don’t be afraid to make it. Successful entrepreneurs don’t get attached to how they get the results they want. They’re willing to change their approach as many times as it takes to get the results they want.
It’s not about being right or being uncomfortable. It’s about being committed to doing whatever it takes to reach your goals.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Based on the feedback you collected in the previous exercise, ask yourself:
- What changes are you going to implement?
- What new actions are you going to take to reach your goal?
- Who do you need to be and how do you need to show up to reach your goal? (Think ways of being, like bold, brave, confident…)
Make your plan and execute it.
Wrapping It Up
Failure isn’t personal. It’s just feedback that helps you tweak your approach so you can finally reach your goals. Listen to what it’s teaching you, pivot accordingly, and you’ll achieve everything you desire in business and life.