How to Gracefully Deal with Failure

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Introducing Natalie Runyon, a leadership strategist for aspiring female executives who want to change the world.  Natalie serves leaders with a wonderful blend of heart. intellect and pragmatism.  I am honored to be one of the featured speakers in her upcoming Free Telesummit Be the CEO of Your Career.  Here Natalie shares a story from her own journey.  While her message is focused on women, her story and the lessons learned apply to any aspiring leader!

Here’s Natalie’s story…

I heard Reshma Saujani speak earlier this year.  She had quit her private sector job as a lawyer in 2010 to follow her passion for public service and ran for US Congress in 2010.  She admitted she had no idea what she was doing, but she was confident she was going to win.

She was thrilled to be following her dream.

However, life had a different plan. She lost that race only receiving 20 percent of the vote. She could have been very discouraged.  Instead she did not let her loss get her down or stop her from trying again.

Her story inspired me as I have experienced similar failures in my career as well, just not in such a public way.

My life purpose is to pursue equality through leadership development, and I took my first step in following my passion when I completed my certification as a leadership coach in 2008. I was certain that clients would be lining up to work with me after seeing my energy and enthusiasm.

Well, life had a different plan. I have “failed” at being an entrepreneur twice.

My second failure came in 2011 after I re-branded my services. Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes the first time around, I took a different path the second time. I hired a consultant and web designer. I blogged, engaged in social media, and booked speaking engagements to get my message out on a larger public stage. I spent thousands of dollars, and after doing everything on my own, I was burnt out. I had failed again.

Well, after a taking a year off, I am back at it again—round 3—passionate as ever. Why? Because it is my passion. I love it and not doing it is like cutting off my air supply.

I choose to invest in myself and continue growing as the CEO of my career

I view the thousands of dollars that I have spent along the way as an investment in myself and personal growth. As for the failures, I am grateful for them. If I did not have them, I would not know what I do now.

Here are three tips for handling failure gracefully:

1.  Remove Your Ego and Reframe Your Perception of Failure

It is perfectly normal to feel shame and embarrassment after failing and going through the cycle of emotions is understandable. Go through it but don’t wallow in it. Allow yourself to have these feelings. After you have experienced them, reframe your perception of failure by asking yourself, “what is life trying to teach me?” “How can I learn from this situation?” Shame and embarrassment are emotions with ego at the center. By asking yourself these questions, you can view the situation from a different vantage point.

My position was eliminated in 2011 after being at a company for almost 9 years. I was angry and ashamed for the first day or two. I allowed myself to experience these feelings, but did not allow myself to wallow too long. I chose to look forward with the certainty that this setback would lead to greater success, which it has!

2.  Share Lessons Learned from Failure

Discussing your failures and sharing what you have learned can be very therapeutic and courageous at the same time. Now, I use my experience of the job loss as an opportunity to connect with and help those that are going through the same situation. I also share freely what I have learned, and by doing so, I have been able to help others. It has made my loss more meaningful and to have a purpose because it has benefited others.

3.  Hold Failure Parties

This is a concept I learned from Reshma. Holding failure parties facilitates an individual’s grieving process and enables others to learn from your experience. This is especially important for women because of our natural need to be relational. Knowing that others are or have gone through similar experiences helps us to feel better about our loss and to deepen our connection with others at the same time.

We are not generally comfortable with sharing our failures, but you sharing yours helps another gain the courage to share theirs.  It is a multiplier effect!

Reshma Saujani, author of the book, Girls Who Don’t Wait in Line:  Break the Mold, Lead the Way, to be released in October 2013, is also one of four amazing featured speakers at the Be the CEO of Your Career telesummit, a virtual event, September 16-20. You are invited to sign up for this free event.


Image credit: feedough / 123RF Stock Photo


Enter A Comment

Sharon Gilmour-Glover   |   11 September 2013   |   Reply

Hello Susan and Natalie,

Susan, thanks so much for bringing Natalie’s story to your blog. I wouldn’t have found her otherwise.

And Natalie, thanks for sharing your story. You know we all talk about embracing our failures, reframing them, fail forward fast etc. A key differentiator of entrepreneurs is the ability to do just that.

I appreciate your honesty in talking about this subject. We still feel all of the emotions that come with failures. We still struggle with self-doubt and beating ourselves up. At least I do and certainly clients do.

I really appreciate 2 aspects of your post most. First of all, you’re back at it again because it is your passion. it’s your purpose. Living without is like living without oxygen. That really resonates with me (year 3 on working to get an online product to market and still going at it).

Secondly, I really appreciate your advice – feel the feelings that come with emotion. Acknowledge them, experience them but don’t dwell in them. Such sound advice. Thank you. And continued success!


Natalie   |   12 September 2013   |   Reply

Hi Sharon. Thank you for your post and feedback. I am glad it helps you because it helps to validate my “failure” or “life lesson.” I used to dwell on the failure a lot and did not always bounce back so quickly. Realizing the pain of the present via wallowing being greater than returning to action enabled me to alter how I dealt with failure. Best of luck to you in following your passion.

To hear from other women’s perspectives, pls join us next week for the free training telesummit event. We will discuss failure quite a bit. http://Www.betheceoofyourcareertelesummit.com

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