What is your relationship status with failure?

Xperience Growthblogposts

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By: Kristen & Carter Williams, Directors of Xperience Growth Coaching & Consulting

What is your relationship status with failure? This was a question recently asked rhetorically by one of my coaches and mentors in a group setting. We dug a little deeper and he asked each of us to define what failure means to us personally. Ultimately, how you define the answer to this question really defines your relationship status with failure.

Failure is defined in the dictionary as “an absence or lack of success.” How you deal with failure though can vary based on the context. For instance, last week when cooking dinner for the family, I made the spaghetti noodles and was pouring the cooked steaming hot noodles into the colander. All of the sudden, the colander tipped and the slick, freshly cooked pasta noodles slid right now the drain. We were left with a pasta sauce, and no pasta noodles. That failure at dinner was laughable, ridiculous and a lesson to make sure the colander is positioned to stay upright forevermore when draining pasta noodles. You, my reader friend are welcome for this lesson too. Another recent failure happened when I saw a former client listed their home for sale with another Realtor. At that failure I did not laugh. I went internal and thought about where I went wrong and where I will go right with all of my other former clients. I cannot change the outcome of this specific clients home sale, yet I can change the outcome of future clients homes for sale if I learn a lesson. That lesson for all of you real estate agents is Lead Follow Up. Statistically speaking, 90% of our business comes from lead follow up and staying in touch. The persistence to to stay in touch and be consistent, year over year.

 I analyzed my reaction and relationship to failure in both of these failure moments. I would rank my reaction to the pasta noodles at a 2. I learned to drain noodles more carefully and I did not beat myself up over the incident. We ended up eating sandwiches’ for dinner instead. In reviewing my reaction over the client listing their home with another agent, I would rank my reaction a 6. I beat myself up for the morning, went into a rationalizing stage. I made up excuses such as “well the house looked like grandma’s home anyways” and “he was kind of an annoying guy to deal with” and “they listed it with the lady who is the neighborhood expert.” I went there first, rationalizing BEFORE I was able to think and raise my awareness and energy level and learn from it.

 As a Master Practitioner of NLP there is a presupposition I often say “There is no failure, only feedback.” Which means to me, as a professional coach that every “failure” is an opportunity to learn and grow. Said another way, failure is a communication loop that lets you know to do something different next time. Gary Keller has said countless times on stage that he failed his way forward at building Keller Williams and the only reason he runs the company and not me or you is because he has failed faster and more often than anyone else in the company. From that perspective, Keller Williams is built on a mountain of failures and yet Gary continued on and continued to grow. I think it’s a safe assumption that he must have a pretty good relationship with failure or our company would not have grown to the scale it is at today.  

 In considering your relationship with failure, it definitely depends on the context. And more importantly, growth from those failure moments begins with awareness and willingness to learn. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset talks about the values of having a “Growth Mindset” over having a “Fixed Mindset.” Someone who is disposition with a growth mindset will look at failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Someone with a fixed mindset will likely look to blame others or become a victim of the failure. Your relationship to failure is very much tied to your mindset, growth or fixed.

 I would ask you to consider 2-3 recent fail moments in your life. Ask yourself, “how did I show up in that moment?” Was I in the mindset of blame or gratitude for the lesson? Or was I somewhere in the middle of that? Wherever you show up on that scale tells you what your relationship with failure is. The goal here would be to raise your energy level around failure so you consistently seek opportunities for growth.

 Three questions you can ask yourself on a routine basis would be:

1. What am I allowing this failure to define for me?

2. What is my opportunity to learn and how will I implement my learnings?

3. What can I find to be grateful for because this feedback?

 When we have a good and healthy relationship with failure, our willingness to take more risks, and therefore fail more often occurs. Remember, there is no failure, only feedback.