If you say that every risk you’ve taken has been a wild success, that would be an exaggeration. In fact, some people would argue that you need failure in order to succeed.
We asked 10 thought leaders, “What have you done to move forward when taking a risk backfired?”
Their answers will inspire you.
Staying calm and focused will allow you to recognize the steps you’ve taken and will help you improve future decision making. You can’t always avoid risk, but being able to calmly evaluate the paths to both success and failure will lead to better outcomes in the long run.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Taking a risk that backfires shouldn’t be seen as a defeat, but an opportunity to learn from mistakes. Becoming risk-averse due to ‘failure’ is a risk within itself. Evaluating cause and taking necessary actions to ensure you’re more prepared for the next big risk will keep you from making the same mistakes.
Find the Best Possible Version
What great story doesn’t have a fumble? My favorite leaders are the ones who have scars and are willing to share them. It allows us to learn from each other’s mistakes and continuously iterate on finding the best possible version of whatever we’re working toward. I once left a Fortune 500 company to work for a startup of 4 people including me. I knew immediately that it wasn’t the right choice, but I worked hard to leave it better than how I found it and continued on my journey having gained a lot of insight that still influences my decisions today.
Sydney Stern Miller, Growth Marketing Lead
Remember Life Isn’t Perfect
Especially today more than ever, being flexible and adaptable is key. Some past things have worked very well, and some have not. Life is certainly not perfect. They are only a failure if you fail to learn from the past. Be flexible and able to adapt quickly to today’s rapidly changing world.
Joe Harlan, International Consultant
Let it Motivate You
Let the resulting failure burn inside a bit, but then learn from that misstep and use it to motivate me to never experience that “burn” again. It’s only through failure we truly grow as individuals, but failing fast is key.
Rennie Leon, Director of Marketing and Communications
The key is to bounce back quickly. Otherwise, you’re stuck in a rut for too long. Figure out where you went wrong, who you hurt, and look to correct it as quickly as possible. By owning up to a mistake and acting on it quickly, you reduce the risk that there will be buildup beyond repair.
Perhaps the best piece of advice that someone once told me, that has always stuck with me is the phrase, “rejection is just redirection”. In the quarantine case, although I was not rejected from a job, I was laid-off.. As hard as the first “no work” day was, and days continue to occasionally still be, had I not taken the risk of moving to a new city and starting a new job under a title I had no previous background for, I may have never learned that business was my niche. I’m currently getting my MBA, a direct result of my lay-off, and it is showing me where my current passions lay and where I want to grow personally and professionally.
Meghan Chayka, Assistant Brand Development Buyer
I love to brainstorm when an initiative doesn’t pay off or even reach fruition. Our approach didn’t work, but how can we put our heads together and find a new way to reach our goal? What were the key insights we took away from the first approach?
Jaclynne Mulligan, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist
Don’t Take it Personally
I really try not to personalize failure. Whether I am attempting to connect with a new prospect, close a new program, or simply put new ideas forth, I take it one step at a time. I take the “no” as a change of direction rather than a wall. I firmly believe in the saying “Fail forward”.
Push Away Pride
When a risk backfires, I try to remain humble, practice self-compassion, and look for opportunities to learn from the experience. Our pride can easily block important life lessons if we focus on protecting our egos, so be honest with yourself and others when a risk backfires. I’ve found that being open about mistakes creates an invitation for others to share what they’ve learned from their own risk-taking experiences.
Alex Lahmeyer, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader