Frustrated With Failure

Today I’m feeling frustrated. I’m frustrated at the limitations we sometimes experience with our bodies. I’m frustrated that sometimes at the worst times possible things that seem so reliable (planes, phones, buildings) fail us. I’m frustrated that even with all the testing and trial we do some products still don’t work as they’re supposed to. I’m frustrated that all these things fail. I’m frustrated that we’re left holding the (empty) bag when all is said and done. I’m frustrated that some people seem like they just keep getting kicked and never get a break.

Failure is part of our growing experience.  Ask anyone who has experience growing plants and food, they will tell you that there are many factors that can affect the success of their crops and that even when they’ve learned the best practices and are following through with them, sometimes it still doesn’t work out because of something outside of their control.  The failure is almost more frustrating then because you’ve done everything right and it still didn’t work out.

But at the same time, when you’ve done everything right and something outside of your control gets in the way and you fail, it’s almost easier to pick yourself back up again and try again because you know how well it was going before and assuming there won’t be another exterior factor that interferes, you know what to do to be successful.

Failure is a hard lesson to be taught though, and it’s frustrating too when some people don’t seem to fail at all, they just seem to get lucky or get it right all the time.  But if you were to sit down with those people, chances are good they would have stories of failure they could share, even if they seem relatively inconsequential like a recipe turning out terrible for dinner the other night or accidentally putting a wrong item in the wash and everything turning a color.   These are more mistakes than failures, and a mistake is a level of failure, just not on the level of failing to grow a company or not having a successful growing season or the relationship not lasting.

Failure will typically beat you down. The question is what comes next.  Do you stay in the frustrated stage or do you work to pick yourself up and find some way to move on, even if it’s in a completely new direction?  There’s nothing that says you have to get it right the first time, just don’t give up when you experience a failure.

Failures and Regrets

Regrets: we all have them in life. Maybe they’re from something we did, or maybe they’re from something we didn’t do. Regret can be defined as “to feel sorrow or remorse for, to think of with a sense of loss, dissatisfaction, disappointment.” I do plenty of rethinking a situation or conversation and about what I could/should have done and mentally rework situations, so I tend towards the dissatisfaction aspect of regrets rather than the sorrow or loss aspects. But maybe you’re someone who thinks more along the lines of what could have been or feels frustration with what was. Maybe you’re not someone who deals in regret as much but rather gets stuck in failure.

Failure and regret are cousins in a sense, because both can create a sense of loss. Both also come with the lesson of the importance of what you do or choose next. If we’re so stuck in failure and/or regret we’ll miss out on the opportunity to do better or start to fix our mistakes in the next situation. No, you can’t turn the clock back to bring someone, including yourself, back to life, but you can choose going forward to be better about saying what you mean and meaning what you say and investing in the lives of the people who mean the most to you, or doing something differently so you don’t end up with the same result.

Lately I’ve been hearing quite a few people reference Thomas Edison and how he said “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” Stopping at failure means that you’re not going to try again, that you don’t have hope that you can do better or solve the problem. Occasionally this is a good choice, because you recognize that you’ve reached the end of your capabilities at this time and aren’t going to keep pushing senselessly. You recognize that it’s time to pass the responsibility or opportunity on to someone else.

You can’t pass regrets off on someone else, but others can learn from your regrets. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people comment about deathbed statements and how there’s some regret included there about what they didn’t do or who they were. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the regret because a terminal illness has taken the choice away from them, but in many cases it’s people who lived their long life a certain way and now looking back are wishing they had done something different.

So if you’re dealing with a regret today I would encourage you to take time to consider it. Feel the emotions wrapped up in it and decide if the experience will change how you do things or who you are going forward. If you’re dealing with a failure, don’t spend too long looking at the failure as a failure, instead let it help guide you to making decisions about how or if you’re moving forward, or what you can learn from what didn’t work or go right.

Failure and Loss in Business

Just about every day in the news there’s a story about how a company is struggling or losing or failing. Over the past few years we’ve seen the struggles that some of the biggest brands have been going through, some able to do something of a turnaround, others not able to pull themselves out of a hole.

It’s frustrating from the perspective of outsiders like myself who advise businesses and see some glaring issues they aren’t addressing or trying or have simply dismissed. I also don’t always believe we need businesses the size that some are and their size is definitely a factor in how much they’re struggling. But I do believe every business has something to contribute, and when they fail they are letting people down. Yes, every business has a life cycle and many have a definitive end (such as when the owner retires), but I’d much rather see a business go out on a high note than crash and burn.

It’s also frustrating from a customer perspective when they’re seeing a company they love struggle and may even have some anxiety or fear around the loss of the company from a service or product perspective. If you rely on a product or service for your health or care of your family, there’s a much higher cost to switch than if we’re talking about something like a lawn care company.

It’s never a good idea to avoid the bad news or data about how well you’re doing or how you may be struggling. The sooner we face the truth, the easier it is to fix or address it. We also need to find a balance between continually increasing the number of customers we reach with not getting too big to manage and sustain. And the final truth we need to accept is that sometimes businesses fail and that’s just the way it goes. The good news is there are other businesses out there that can fill in the gap, but of course it’s likely not the same.

As I said from the beginning, I don’t think businesses need to fail in spectacular ways. As business owners we need to be more prepared for the natural ups and downs that a business goes through, we need to be more willing to reach out and get help and accept criticism, and we need to be open to change and growth so that we can change and grow as our customers do.  What steps does your business need you to take today?

Dealing with Failures and Outages

The big business news this week so far is about Facebook’s outage on Wednesday and into Thursday for some. Facebook is used by people and businesses alike around the world, so when something like this happens it’s not something they can really brush under the rug. This issue hits on many topics that we’ve talked about recently as well as we talk about frequently like doing business together, communication, customer service and quality, and it also holds a great warning for all of us, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on it today.

Let’s start with the dark side of this whole thing. It can happen to anyone. It can get you bad publicity. It can make you lose customers. It’s something every business should talk about: what to do if there’s a catastrophic failure, what to do if data is lost, what to do if the product fails, what to do if leadership gets caught doing something bad. Being aware of that it could go wrong and having a plan for if it does go wrong is half the battle, the other half has to do with your reaction, communication and actions after the event. You may be able to take the right actions quickly, but if you poorly communicate about the whole thing you may lose any traction you could have made with the speedy repair.

Let’s talk about what Facebook did, that we know at this point. Yes, they obviously got to work on fixing it as soon as possible so more people weren’t affected and those that were would be able to get back on as soon as possible. Then they had a decision to make: how do we communicate this and do we communicate this. They made a really interesting decision, one that I doubt many people would have guessed, and that’s posted on Twitter to let people know what was up. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision (they could have used email), but it is kind of funny and is a good reminder that as much as you want to build a strong business, stronger than your competition, it’s always good to have an open line of communication for situations like these.

The situation will continue to unfold over the next days and weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they follow up on this. What would I like to see? At the very least I’d like to see messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing about what happened and letting people know it’s fully resolved and if any actions/precautions are being taken in brief with a link to a blog post on their blog with more depth and details. If there were any accounts hacked or breached, those people should be notified by internal message on the network and by email. I’d also like to see them to contact businesses that were actively running paid ads at the time and affected by the outage and fill them in on how the downed network will affect that ad run.

Of course, they may just choose to sweep this under the rug, and for many they’ll just continue on with Facebook as usual. But for the smart business owners, I would hope this serves as a warning that if your only means of supporting your business is through Facebook you should be looking into additional and supplemental ways to market and grow your business. It’s as is often said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What are your thoughts on the situation?

From Failure to Success

When you talk about success there are several ways you can go about it and many definitions of success. There are big successes and there are small successes. Someone that many people have followed over the years in terms of a success journey is Martha Stewart. Starting really with cookbooks in 1982 ever since then Martha has been building an empire that now includes TV shows, websites, cookbooks, magazines, and food and home products.

But if you’ve followed her story you know that she spent several months in jail in 2004-2005 followed by several years of probation for being convicted of conspiracy and other non-violent offenses. This is a huge blow to anyone who is trying to build a company, and a reminder that anyone can be so caught up in their success that they can make bad decisions. And she paid the price for her bad decisions.

Like anyone else Martha Stewart then had to make a decision about what would happen next. She probably could have retired from public life and quietly run one or more smaller private companies and done OK. But instead she chose to stand tall and let her talent and passion shine. I see her on many channels around the TV listings these days, from cooking shows to shopping shows to news shows, around the internet and making all kinds of partnerships with businesses and celebrities. From all appearances she’s happy and doing well, and just as passionate and dedicated as she has always been.

Most of us will make a couple of mistakes or have some failures in our success journey, few of us are able to do it without screwing up. Often success is a question of how we recover after our failures, not just how well we do the success journey. If you’re struggling with your success journey today know that you can push through or turn things around, it’s a question of how passionate and dedicated you are to making it happen.

Learning our Lesson

You’re probably familiar with the concept of “rubbing it in.” This is when we poke, prod, remind and joke over something someone else did and we either witnessed it or were told about it.  If you think back to the last time someone rubbed your mistake, miscalculation, failure, poor guess or their success in your face you’ll probably remember that it didn’t feel so great.   And when it happens again and again, it feels even worse.

It’s important to celebrate our success with each other. It’s also important to gently (or not so gently if the situation calls for it) correct someone.  We learn from our successes and our failures.  But we don’t learn anything except that we don’t like certain people when they start rubbing things in our face, especially repeatedly.

When someone screws up or makes a funny yes, it’s great to laugh along and see the humor in the situation.  It’s not OK to bring it up 3, 6, 9, 12 months later and be like “remember that time you really screwed up?!” even if they’ve come a long way since then.

It’s good to have a little humor at life’s mistakes.  Have a laugh, learn your lesson and move on to applying it.  Don’t drag anyone through the mud, they’re probably already kicking themselves anyway.

“…it is nice to let someone who admits an error feel better after doing so…not feel worse.” Neale Donald Walsch

Navigating Mistakes

Today I’m thinking about a “favorite” topic: mistakes. Sometimes we make true mistakes where we really had no idea we were about to screw up. Sometimes we make those mistakes that we kinda had an idea that it wouldn’t work out right, but we went for it anyway. Some mistakes are easier to come back from than others. But all mistakes can teach us a valuable lesson if we’re willing to learn it. Mistakes are different from failures because mistakes are something you were wrong about, but a failure is a lack of success. Sometimes mistakes do lead to failures, and sometimes failures can drive us to make mistakes and bad decisions.

In some ways mistakes are like luck that you’ve only got so much influence over what happens. There are certainly some things you can do to have better luck or make fewer mistakes, but there’s also a lot you can’t do. For example one of the simplest topics in regards with luck are lottery tickets, if you want to be lucky with lottery tickets it helps to actually buy one. The same is true with mistakes, if you want to make fewer mistakes one thing you can do is think and really consider your options before you act.

Mistakes, like failures, work best if you admit they happened and own what went wrong. Yes, it’s absolutely allowable to say you had no idea it was about to go wrong, but then you’ve got to move on to fixing the mistake or moving on. For example if you got in a car accident and you honestly didn’t see the other car there and you were paying attention, it was a mistake that you truly didn’t see coming, but you did cause the accident and now you have to fix it.

I think it makes it a little easier to move on when we do accept them and deal with them. If we don’t accept and deal with them, there’s an increased likelihood that you’re going to keep going over and over it, and you’re going to let it keep bothering you and holding you back from living a fulfilling life. So what do you need to accept this week that you’ve been holding on to for no good reason?

Failure, Defeat and Success Plans

Once again today I’m thinking about what happens when things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes it doesn’t work as expected because you didn’t factor in some important detail. Sometimes it doesn’t work because something outside your control got screwed up. Sometimes the plan that someone else is working on runs yours off the road or makes it not feasible to continue for the time being. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you don’t give it enough effort or get the right people involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’ve been trying too hard or are too tired. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’re so busy looking to get revenge that you aren’t looking at success. Sometimes it’s a communication issue. And sometimes it’s a bad idea from the start and never would have worked.

The plan, your success and failures are all things that we need to be aware of and considering as business owners. Sometimes I’m thankful when the plan fails. Maybe it gives me a little flexibility I really needed. Maybe it gives me the encouragement to pursue an opportunity I’ve been putting off. Maybe it gives me the chance to spend time with my partner. Maybe it gives me time to catch up on paperwork (or the digital version of it). Or maybe it forces me to think up a better idea and come up with a better or different plan. Most of the time when our plans don’t work out we’re more frustrated than thankful, and it can be especially frustrating when you run out of time like we are as we rapidly approach the end of another year.

So what do you do when things aren’t going according to plan? Sometimes pushing through is the right answer. Sometimes it’s taking a nap or giving up for the day/night. Sometimes it’s working on something else for a short period of time. Sometimes it’s unloading the whole story on a friend, business associate or your partner. Sometimes it’s trying a different marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s trying something different. Sometimes it’s calling the year a wrap and making better plans for the next year.

I find that plans work best when you do a few things: first, think things through. This involves thinking with your brain, doing some online research and talking with your target market or other relevant people. When you do that you’re always better set up for success. Second, take care of the most important aspects first whenever possible. Yes, take time to work on the fun stuff that excites you about your plans, but also make sure that you’re giving equal or more attention to the biggest priorities that need to happen for your plan to be in motion. Third, have the right support. The people and resources around you who support you are some of the biggest keys to whether or not you’ll be successful.

If you’re dealing with a plan failure (or even a business failure) this week, I encourage you not to give up, but instead to take a step back and try some of the things you should have done in the first place or things you thought about but put to the side. You never know what the answer will be that you’ve been looking for or where you’ll find it.

Are You Satisfied?

Today I got to thinking about what it means to be satisfied. We live in a world where good seems to never be good enough, where many people are unsatisfied in their relationships and their jobs, not to mention financial situations. Before we can talk about taking action, we have to talk about what it means to be satisfied.

First, you can’t be satisfied in a bad situation. The word “satisfaction” means that you have to be ok with the situation, you can’t be unhappy or displeased. Satisfied doesn’t mean perfect though. If you have satisfaction in a situation or about a project, it means you know you’ve done your very best and that while more work could be done, it wouldn’t ultimately greatly improve the outcome or performance.

I believe that it’s best to be satisfied with a situation before you move onto a new one, or at the very least come to terms with it. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re in a bad relationship or hate your job or your business is failing, don’t just give up and switch gears. This will only cause problems for you and others years from now.

Satisfaction requires an understanding of what has happened and why. I don’t suggest that you pick apart every failure or bad moment to find the turning points and things you should have done differently, I think that we all need to spend a little time in reflection of the past and present before we move onto the future.

But, just because I’m satisfied with the outcome of something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and not make any new goals or dream bigger for the future and next part of my life journey. Yes I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am, but I still want more! This is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your life. How are you feeling right now? Are you OK with where you are and what you’re doing? Now take a moment and make plans for the rest of this week, the rest of this month and the rest of this year. What are you going to do now, what do you need to be doing in the next few weeks and months to really be satisfied with your life in 2017 when January rolls around in a few months?

Open and Honest

One of the greatest challenges to being in business is keeping your secrets while still managing to be open enough, as open as your people need you to be. I don’t share samples of documents that are included in some of my offers because it’s my template, my idea. Just about every restaurants and foodie has a secret sauce or secret spice blend. Technology companies keep lots hidden under the hood of proprietary software and hardware. And then there’s the other side of secrets where people and companies don’t like to share when they’ve failed or something has gone wrong.

But the fact is if you’re not willing to reveal anything about your business you really can’t be successful in traditional marketing methods, you’re extremely limited to how you can gain clients/customers and who will be willing to work with you. If I know you’re a Mexican restaurant and that’s it, I’m probably going to skip eating there, unless I’m absolutely desperate for Mexican, can’t go to the grocery store and cook my own and aren’t near any other restaurants I’m more familiar with that would be OK. If I know you’re in marketing but that’s it, I’m going to look for someone else. If I know you’re a life coach and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. If I know you’re a cleaner and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. There have to be enough details that people can understand who you are, what you offer, what your difference is from people who offer similar things, where you work if appropriate and how you can help them.

But going back to the other side of the story, the scary side. What about the side that most people ignore or bypass or hope they’ll never have to think about? I’m talking about things like ingredients, privacy policies, terms of service, contracts, orders, or even accidents? One of the things that we have to stop hiding are these things that can get people disqualified, kicked out, killed, hurt or even just frustrated. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going to require your customers to do work, don’t hide the fact that there are things that will get people disqualified based on what they do or don’t do, don’t hide the fact that you only give a very limited warranty, don’t be shy about letting your customers know that you use ingredients that some people may be allergic to, and don’t make it impossible for people to get in touch with you. Some of the biggest corporations in the world make these issues, of course so do some of the smallest.

So what can we do to keep our secrets but better communicate with our customers? As a restaurant post on the menu a simple statement that you use some ingredients that people may be allergic to, and they should ask their server if that ingredient is used, or to not include that ingredient in their order. If there are things the customer has to provide or have in place in order to move forward with something, make that very clear, and also make clear if/why their order could be cancelled. Go ahead and protect your company with terms and a contract, but create them in a form that will allow people to get a quick overview and read sections, if they so desire, in more details (use an outline then longhand). Let people know that you’re understanding about things that happen beyond their control (like a hurricane) and that you’ll work with them on new payment terms if need be, and that you’ll communicate with them about things that happen beyond your control (like data breaches) within a reasonable amount of time and with as much information as you can provide, along with solutions or next steps. None of these mean that you’re giving away your company secrets, but they are giving your customers a much clearer picture of things they might need to know about, or would have concerns with.

Yes, this can be a lot of information to provide to them, which is one of the reasons I always recommend that a business has a website. On that website you can have all of this information. It doesn’t have to be front and center, it just has to be find-able. What does your company (or you) do to be open with your customers, but without giving away the bank?