How to Deal with Failure in Four StepsBy Laura Petrolino

I’m writing this post in-between the day show and finals of a bodybuilding competition in Lexington, Kentucky.

While I wish I could write about something titled, “Laura’s 10 Step Process to Being a Champion” or “The PetroPower Formula: Win Every Time,” I can’t.

And the truth is, no matter who you are in life—no matter how talented, determined, passionate, or PetroPowered you are—you’ll fail.

It stinks. Failure stinks. But if you learn how to deal with failure you can turn that stinky mess into a bouquet of roses (ok, that was a really bad metaphor, I’m even shaking my head at myself here).

I’ve failed a lot in life. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT.

Not just small failures, but big, blackhole type failures. This means I’m an expert when it comes to how to deal with failure—in fact I’m a pro.

I’m professional failure.

And darn proud of it.

So now I’m going to teach you lovely people of Spin Sucks Land my ways.

Why Failing Rocks

My parents taught me when I was very young if I wasn’t failing frequently it meant I wasn’t pushing my limits far enough.

Pushing myself to be better, achieve more, and reach my potential—and THAT was the only really bad failure.

I’ve lived my life with that principal at a forefront. This means whenever I start feeling too comfortable or secure—as if I have everything under control, I look to see what opportunities I’m missing.

I once heard the quote from Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough,” and it resonated particularly well with me. I have it placed several places in my house as a reminder—and a comfort—when I am pushing that next limit.

It also means I don’t fear failure. In fact I welcome it…like a freaking boss.

Now this doesn’t mean I like it or it’s not painful. It is. But I go in fully aware I might be about to fall flat on my face, but when I’m able to get up I’ll be facing something awesome.

How to Deal with Failure Tip #1: Go in with an aware, but focused perspective. When you have a long-term outlook on it and your end goals, the shorter term pain is easier to work through and put in perspective.

How to Deal With Failure After it Happens

The most painful part of failure of any type is in the present moment. If you aren’t upset when you fail it means you didn’t care much about what you were going after.

How to Deal with Failure Tip #2: If you aren’t angry, upset, embarrassed, (insert your adjective here) about your failure, you need to push yourself farther, or refocus your ultimate goal. No matter how good you are at dealing with failure, it will hurt. If it doesn’t then that should be a sign to you that something is off.

Which brings me to…

How to Deal With Failure Tip #3: Let yourself be upset. I’m Italian, so we are very good at getting our emotions out right away. I feel it, I express it, I move on. This might not comes so easy for many of you, but I encourage you to try very hard to face the way you feel straight away, get it out, and let it go. Without this important step you won’t be able to take a step back and put the failure in context, because you’ll still be hanging on to the unresolved sting.

Debrief….Like a Failure

You’ve gone in with eyes wide open. You’ve dealt with your emotions. Now it’s time to debrief.

How to Deal With Failure Tip #4: You must step back and debrief. You may not want to deal with it or think about it, but you need to (and that’s also why tip #3 is so crucial).

  • What have you learned?
  • Why was this failure important?
  • Why did you fail?
  • What are your next steps?
  • How do you feel about the situation?

And other questions that go along with a classical debrief.

Those are my four.  What tips would you add that help you deal with failure?

Photo credit: Me (a very blonde me) on the look out for failure and the opportunity which comes with it (I think pirates as well, in this particular case).

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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