What Can You Do When You Do Everything Right and Still Experience Failure?

Jun 16
2015

SomethingSage#2Mistakes are inevitable despite doing everything right. The key is that no matter how bad the situation appears in that moment, failure can be a stepping-stone to success.

Steve Jobs, Apple Founder and Former CEO, is considered by many to be one of the greatest innovators of our generation, but what many may not know is that even he experienced a low point in his career: a moment of failure. In 1985, Jobs was ousted from Apple by the Board of Directors for his inability to lead and be collaborative with others. Instead of giving up, he spent the next 12 years building new ventures like NeXT and Pixar. The time away from Apple reignited Job’s creativity and honed his leadership skills. In 1997, with Apple operating at a loss, Apple’s Board decided that Steve Jobs was just what the company needed. Steve Jobs was asked to return as Interim Chief Executive, which led to the development of the Apple technology with which we’re now all familiar. Over time, he became the heart, soul, and face of Apple and one of the company’s most valuable assets. In a commencement speech given at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs stated that being fired from Apple in 1985 was the best thing that could have happened to him: “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

There are two types of failure, the first being to err in judgment. This type of failure is unavoidable and focuses on what you did in a given set of circumstances. The other is when you do everything right, and despite your best efforts and energy and attention to preventing something from going wrong, in the end you still come up short. Although either type of failure can be hard to handle, all failure can be overcome.

Strategies for Resetting the Playing Field

Acknowledge that your natural inclination will be to turn inward. Don’t brush off how you’re feeling. Instead: identify it, acknowledge it, and then refocus on what needs to happen next. Being proactive rather than reactive will shift the energy and enable you to move ahead. Take stock of what went well—in these times we tend to overgeneralize and focus on what went wrong, instead of realistically assessing the situation and identifying the positives you can move forward with.

Step back from the edge and allow yourself to reset your own expectations and those of others, thereby positioning yourself to succeed in the future. Then others know what you’ve learned to do differently moving forward. Avoid the urge to play safe and not take well-considered risks in the future. Commit to and invoke a risk reward mindset. Playing small ball doesn’t give you the opportunity to do something great—it only enhances the fear and reinforces the failure. “I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” Jobs also said during his speech. “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.”