How the Science of Failure
Makes You More Successful
Iva: Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill.
Iva:The idea of failure paralyzes us. But what if we start to consider failure a natural part of success, and when we must do often and early in every endeavour we start? In this episode, we talk about failure: what it is and what it isn't, how to successfully apply it both at work and at home, and what is a great new paradigm to try when we're looking at failure and what to do instead.
Welcome to a new episode of The Mompreneur’s Guide to Work-Life Harmony. My name is Iva,
Desiree: and I'm Desiree.
Iva: So, Des, we are full on to the topic of failure. And I think that this is one of those topics that really hit home and work at the same time, and it's quite strong, because we really don't like the idea of making mistakes, first of all, and when it comes to our work-life we don't like the idea of having those mistakes out in the public for everyone to see.
Desiree: I know, failure is often associated so negatively isn't it? We're not allowed to fail; we're not allowed to make mistakes, it's a little bit how we're raised by society, as well right? Failure comes in the bad list and we should stay away from it. So, we want to turn that around a little bit today.
Iva: And the idea of this episode came about, precisely, because I was sharing with a very close friend this project of the podcasts that we're doing. And I remember that, as we were in the middle of preparing everything for the big launch, she sent me a message and she said, ‘Oh, I'm so excited to hear that everything is coming together and that soon you will be going live, and putting this out into the world, and I really hope that you fail, and that you fail fast’. And, you know, to anyone else listening they might say that I'm no longer friends with her, but on the contrary, I knew exactly what she meant. Because we tend to have this idea that everything has to go perfectly, and that it's going to be perfectly and correctly done from the get-go on the first try, and sometimes that is not the case. Most often, there's a lot of tweaking and redoing as you go along. And I think that what she meant and how I took it, and this is why I so embrace it so fully- her comment and her wish- was because this idea takes away creativity within us and it takes away that impulse and that desire to go and try something new, because we're always afraid. It's always in the back of our mind, like what will happen if it doesn't work out, then what? And we get that paralyzing feeling.
Desiree: I know we are always so afraid to fail and to have that stamp, either on our on our face on our brand, or on our business right? But it's actually the perfect chance for us to level up. To go achieve that next level, like you said, with creativity, and we need to have to go through this journey of evolving, personally, but also in a business sense. And if everything goes perfectly from the get-go, that's also not going to be possible we're going to be stagnant at one point. And often people, of course there's people who launch things perfectly, who start up their business perfectly, but they probably also prepped that for a very very long time in the background. So, we definitely took another approach. We really took that approach of done is better than perfect. We went that route of, ‘okay, let's ditch the perfectionism, let's do this!’ We were so passionate about getting these conversations out there because we knew they're going to help other moms, other mompreneurs, and we really just didn't want to wait. Did we really know what we were doing entirely? Probably not, but we were learning and with each episode recording we’re learning. I mean if we're like comparing the first time we hit record. to how we're doing it now and in the terms of how we’re prepping for each episode_ it's much different than, I think it's getting better. And, like, having these little setbacks or like little like failures as such, you know between us, yes it's all in the background, things that people may not necessarily see but between us. We do acknowledge, okay maybe that didn't go too well. Okay, this one we could probably improve. And so we will but it's our chance to level up.
Iva: Yes, I completely agree with that. And you know, going back to this podcast that we have as you beautifully said, you know, we are constantly learning from the process itself and that, and we're trying to make the most out of that learning and making it fun while we're doing it. So, it always ends up feeling like we're winning, even if we're failing, if it's, for lack of a better word. But to give anyone inspiration on this topic. One thing is to understand that ideas die because they know the what, but they don't know the how, right? So, when we start, you know already from the starting race, thinking about what what's going to go wrong, or all the things that are possibly against us to put that idea into the world, that is, that fear of failure that is stopping us and it's creating this friction, but it is such an essential prerequisite for success, and this is not me saying it, this has actually been documented.
So, there is a Northwestern University study that was conducted over the span of 30 years, and they were analyzing over 800,000 grant applications, and they were really scientific about it in how they went doing this analysis. And really what they showed was that the difference between the people that were constantly applying for grants and getting rejected until they finally got one approved, and the people that simply gave up, it wasn't necessarily in the amount of times that they applied, or the number of tries that they did. And it was certainly not persistence, but it was actually trying to figure out and understand what needed to be improved, instead, and refining that and tweaking that and dialing it in. Instead of throwing everything out the door, or into the trash and starting from scratch. So, there has to be some sort of methodology on how to approach failure and sometimes we tend to simply raise our hands to our heads and cry defeat and say, ‘Okay, I'm done. You know, I'm done. Go back to square one.’ But sometimes it's not about going back to square one. Sometimes it's just doing this little post-mortem analysis and saying, ‘Okay, not everything went South, some things actually were good, and other things are the ones that now I need to correct, and determine how to improve on them.’
Desiree: Exactly. And the main thing about how we can embrace this and it translates to so many areas in our lives isn’t it? And it always comes back to mindset, doesn't it?
Iva: Yes it does. And to illustrate this even further, we do this exact same approach when it comes to raising our kids, don't we?
Desiree: Yeah, oh my God it’s so true. It’s completely related
Iva: You don’t throw your kid out the window and say, ‘Okay, now I'm gonna give myself a new child because this one didn't work. This one did not respond the way I was expecting to, so now let's get another baby.’ We certainly don't do that because we instinctually know that we just need to go over this trial and error phase, and you have a three-year-old, I also have a three-year-old and I remember, not too long ago, I was still testing out naptimes, bedtime routines and what was working, what wasn't working. And we call this actually in business, nowadays, and a lot of people are familiar with this A/B testing. So you take your you’re A/B testing and you say, ‘Okay, I have two approaches to this situation. And I'm going to test them out and see which one works best.’ And guess what? One of them technically, was a failure- one of them actually did not work at all. And then you're keeping the one that did. And we do that with our children and it comes very naturally. So, this is a great approach to also install in our business when we're trying out new things and ideas is to always have in mind is A/B testing for projects that we want to put out into the world.
Desiree: Absolutely, because every situation calls for a different approach sometimes_ every day, every combination of moods, either whether it’s our moods or those of our children, they call for a slightly different approach. It’s the same in business, usually, entrepreneurship means working with people, right? We are working with people in order to get our businesses off the ground to create this work environment and this passive income, you know, and all of that. So, we do need to work with people. That is exactly where we can’t rely on a certain formula that's black and white, we can’t. And we're so fixated on that and having a specific approach and that doesn't for we stamp it as a failure. But it’s not! And I mean, I used to work in the hotel industry and that’s a complete people business: we work with people, you work with your teams, for people- for the guests. So, every combination calls for a very different strategy and a different sort of fine-tuning approach and every day will yield different results. So if we have that flexible mindset, as well, that entrepreneurial mindset.. And having a child is like being an enterpreneur too, isn't it? Having a child everything is new to you, you have no idea what tomorrow's gonna look like, you have no clue. So you need to be equipped with flexible solutions with different options with different tactics, so it's funny how it's so intertwined.
Iva: Oh it is on so many levels! And what you said just there about the entrepreneurial mindset is definitely something that will make a great difference in how you manage your approach to your business, and also to your home life and family life, because if you're coming from a fixed mindset, it basically means that your intelligence and your skills are fixed from birth, and there's nothing that you can do about it, no matter what. So it's a very limiting belief, and it’s a very restrictive way to go about life, if you ask me.
So, we really need to embrace having this entrepreneurial mindset, this growth mindset of thinking that we can always improve, that there's always room to expand our skills, and that, you know, when failure happens, it is a valuable tool of information that is giving us and it is not a personal label on our abilities or ourselves as a person, or as people, right. So, this is so so important and we always need to keep it very much in the foreground. That we are constantly learning. And as you say, people are unpredictable in that we're humans, we have good days, we have bad days. We have days when we have low energy, high energy, and we act accordingly, and knowing how to navigate that, in a way that is not a reflection directly on ourselves, but just on the environment and cues that we're taking from the environment to better navigate the situation is what it's all about.
So one of the things that I do at home to encourage this entrepreneurial mindset in my kids, because I came from a background where, unfortunately, making mistakes was frowned upon. So, and I think a lot of us adults have to deal with this situation where this fear of failure comes precisely from our childhood, where it wasn't stimulated, it wasn’t encouraged to make mistakes. And I’m trying to change that a little bit, at least for this new generation, and I'm starting obviously with my children. So there are four words that I don't use with my kids at all. And they are: ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
This vocabulary that is very, very restrictive, and it really labels them, unfortunately. So, what I aim to do instead is, whenever they do something, whether they spill something, whether they break something, whether they're biting at each other, or fighting or whatever it is, I go up to them and I tell them, ‘Hey, you know, this idea didn't work.’ So I'm detaching them from the action. And I am putting this sense of, there's a problem and now let's find a better solution, right? Let’s find something that actually gives us the results that we're looking for, so it encourages that seeking and being comfortable with saying, Okay, well, this didn't work. Now let's find something that did work. And what that can be.
Desiree: Beautiful approach, really beautiful because it goes away from this. Okay, this went wrong. And often this punishment approach if something went south, right, or, like, urging them to use their own creative senses to make it better next time, and giving them that kind of responsibility back as well. It's a really amazing approach.
Iva: Oh yes, I believe that, also it helps to empower them to seek solutions within. And sometimes we are the ones that are, as parents, we are like gods to them, in a sense, and we have all the answers but when we give them the baton and say, ‘Okay, how can we find an idea that actually works for what we are striving for? What can that look like?’ and we leave it up to them to come up with that, we're actually making them feel more empowered and they like that- they like that feeling of being in control and it actually helps them develop that sense of, ‘Hey, I can find solutions on my own. I can be resilient and a self-reliant in what I do.
Desiree: Do you think you can give us a concrete example of how you use this with your kids?
Iva: Yes, so what I do is that, as I said you know, the action happened something happened. And let's just say you know, they were trying to carry the plate and a glass to the kitchen and everything spilled on the floor and I said, ‘Okay, so obviously this idea of wanting to hold everything with both hands and trying to wiggle yourself out the chair was an idea that didn't work. Okay, so how can how can we try an idea that actually does work?’ And then I stay quiet, and let them soak in what happened and what is the end goal that we're looking for. And then they naturally, and surprisingly, come up with very very good things, and they're like ‘Oh yeah maybe if I, you know, grab the plate, or if I get down on the floor first, and then I grab the glass.’ And I, you know, it's very simple. I mean we're not trying to solve for it for the world peace equation here with them, but it's just very, very concrete, small steps into the direction that later on in life, they will be targeted with bigger problems, and that they feel that they can handle them as well on their own.
Desiree: Exactly. Because otherwise, let's say we would have, you would have gotten mad at them and said ‘Oh great, now you spilled everything on the floor’ they'll also be afraid to help the next time because they don’t want to fail again, or make a mistake or make mommy upset, right? They're probably upset at themselves too for dropping everything. But if they then come up with that you've given them the opportunity to come up with that new solution, and they're like okay so they learn, and therefore motivated to help you and do well the next time so this is great, this is really, really good.
Iva: Absolutely. Now, I don't want to go into this Pollyanna world of saying that, ‘Oh, let's now all go and, you know, fail together collectively, hold hands, and it's going to be awesome!’ because not all failure is created equal. You know, there are some situations in which failure has very far-reaching consequences, and I bring an example of doctors, and the work that they do with patients in an operating table. They make a mistake, and it's the difference between life and death for the patient.
But for most of us who are not in that line of work. It's good to allow ourselves to experiment with failure, with a very specific type of formula, which is something that is fast and cheap failure. So what does that means? It means that as, I said, if a life is not on the line, if it's not something that really has a very expensive consequences if done wrong, then by all means, feel free to make sure that you fail fast, so that you can learn from it faster and that you can make those corrections along the way. And this is one reason why a lot of entrepreneurs go and ask for beta groups to work with whenever they're launching something for the first time. Because it's sort of into that fast and cheap type of failure where they're like, ‘Okay, I'm going to put this out there, and I'm going to get feedback on it and some feedback is going to be actually failure and I'm going to learn from it and then I'm going to correct it make it better or improve from it.
Desiree: Exactly, Exactly, that's perfect and you have exactly the feedback that you need to make it better, and then to launch it in its entirety of having had that those little pieces of failure in between that led to improvement, and to leveling up.
And that's also the reason why we invest in business courses for example for ourselves because we're seeking out people that have come before us. Maybe they're only a few steps ahead of us, but they've come before us. They have made their round of mistakes, they've had their share of failures, but then they summarize everything that did go well for them, put it in a course, and then teach others so why not? Really hiring a coach to get your business started and the same, it can be a parenting coach, it can be a business coach, anything, it's a little bit like a shortcut- learning from other people's mistakes and implementing things faster in the right way. And they're find this is a really great part of investment and another proof of how someone else's failure can really benefit you.
Iva: When we stop fixating on failure, and thinking it's going to end- be the end of us, or after that, there's no other chance, it's good to really take one step back and really realize that for most of us, the end goal is personal growth and self-growth. We just want to be a better version of ourselves, at the end of the day, in everything that we do. And that's why as parents we keep showing up every day, because, the day before, we didn't get this right, and the day before that, we didn't get that right, but we're always trying to improve, and we're always trying to be better and a better version of ourselves. And that should also be the outlook when you go into the workplace, when you go into starting your own business is, how am I contributing to my own self-growth by doing this? And every time that something does not go according to plan, or that idea doesn’t work (as I like to say it to my kids), it's another learning step and stepping stone that is taking us closer to our end goal.
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