Learning From Your Business Failures

May 30th, 2009 | Posted in Marketing | Comments Off

In order to be good at martial arts one of the things you need to learn is how to fall. If you’re trying to learn [insert your favorite martial art here] and don’t learn to properly minimize your falls, it’s only a matter of time before you get injured unnecessarily. This wise advice also applies to running an online business. In order to succeed, you must learn how to fail.

Failure is a big part of everything we do. Many of the best plans don’t work out. Disappointments and obstacles crop up in nearly any venture. The thing is to expect obstacles and be prepared to learn from your failures. Failing “the right way” will help avoid the biggest obstacle to success, quitting. Quitting is the one guaranteed way to fail at anything. By learning how to fail “the right way” you are making an effort to learn from your failures.

Here’s three ways to fail “the wrong way.”

1: Take it personally

In any online (or brick & mortar) business, there’s a lot of things out of our control. Servers crash. You don’t get the traffic you were hoping for, the traffic you do get doesn’t convert. Old ways of generating traffic stop working so good. Deliveries get botched, subcontractors flake out. The list is practically endless. The worst things you can do is take it personally, saying things to yourself like “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”, “Maybe I’m too stupid”, “I don’t have the ‘touch’ this needs.” Or “I don’t have the right connections.”. It’s too easy to focus on the “I” in these statements about what went wrong and if you do then you end up OWNING those disappointments and connecting your self image with failure.

It’s better to talk about your failures by taking ownership (and control) of them. “I designed my site wrong.” Or “marketed my niche to the wrong target (like trying to sell industrial equipment in a hobby shop).” The difference is that the “I” is in control. If you decided one thing, you can decide it’s time to do something next time or fine tune what you did the first time like advertising in a manufacturing related venue instead of that hobby shop. This puts the “I” in the position of control. Think of the old saying, “losers ask what happened? and winners MAKE it happen”. Your view of whether or not you’re in control will go a long way in determining your success.

2: Blame someone else

Failure and disappointment is everywhere. That’s the way it’s been and will always be in business.Most successful business people didn’t hit big results on their first try. Many of the most successful businesspeople in the world only achieved success on their second, third, even fortieth attempt. They became successful simply because they realized THEY had control of their success. For example Harlan Sanders tried something like thirty or forty businesses before he finally hit it big with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Lots of people choose failure because they blame somebody else for their failures. Anything from hosting deals gone bad to designs that just didn’t work out. Blaming others for our failures takes US out of the equation. When putting yourself out of the picture that way, you absolve yourself of needing to take corrective action. This only breeds personal complacency, serving only as a handy excuse for failure.

Even if you aren’t responsible for the failure, giving up and pointing fingers at the party responsible does not mean you shouldn’t take corrective action on your part.

3: Habit vs. Innovation

The reason that people laughed at Columbus’ belief that the Earth was round or at Copernicus when he argued the Earth revolved around the Sun is because people have preconceptions of how things in the world should be and how they’re supposed to work. We’ve all got preconceptions about most things that we do. However, by not breaking out of these mental barriers, we are limiting ourselves to things that fit those preconceptions. If situations change (and sooner or later they always do), we’re left with nothing but our assumptions and a large serving of disappointment.

The solution is to break your thinking habits. Ask yourself why you do things the way you do. Question whether you’re settling small results when you can achieve a lot more. Look at people who are generating better results than you are and learn from how they do things.

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