So I was walking home from crochet class last week, and out of nowhere the whole sidewalk came up and hit me right in the face! (Or I tripped on the curb and fell. Hard.)
“Ouch” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Falling on my face (in public) was super painful, really scary, and totally embarrassing. But in the week I’ve spent recovering, I’ve been thinking about the lessons that have come from this fall and how they also apply to ANY kind of fall or failure. (Even the big, scary failure you’re so afraid will happen in your business.)
3 things I now know about failure that make it less scary:
1. It’s no one’s fault.
I have to admit, I desperately grasped for someone or something to blame when I fell. First, I went after the sidewalk. “Stupid, uneven sidewalk! Why can’t our city take care of the streets and sidewalks around here?! People walk here!” But then I looked and the sidewalk was totally even. Then I immediately started blaming myself. “Why am I so clumsy? I can’t even walk properly? This is the 5th fall I’ve taken in 3 years–do I need a brain scan?” But the fall wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t distracted by my phone. I was wearing proper shoes. I was watching where I was going. It just happened. I tripped. It was an accident. I couldn’t blame myself or the sidewalk or even my friend Mary who was beating me in our Fitbit step challenge, which is why I was walking in the first place! It wasn’t anyone’s fault.
The #1 reason people tell me they aren’t really going after their dreams is that they’re afraid they’ll fail at it. And I think that one of the reasons this whole idea of failing is so scary is that we know deep down we’ll blame ourselves for the things that don’t work. I know I do this! If I put something out there no one buys it, the negative self-talk that follows is brutal! I spin into a cycle of, “I’m not clever enough, I didn’t write well enough, my sales page wasn’t compelling, my offer sucks, everyone hates me, I’m not cut out to do this, I should probably go get a real job.” So of course the idea that if I take a brave action it could fail and I’ll feel like shit is terrifying! It’s enough to hold me back from taking any action at all.
But the truth is–when things don’t work out, it’s not our fault. It’s also not facebook’s fault or google’s fault or the industry’s fault or our audience’s fault. It’s just that whatever we tried didn’t work this time, and we need to evaluate, adjust, and try something a little different next time. We can look at the reasons something wasn’t successful without assigning blame. And once blame is off the table, our own personal shame is out of the equation and we can take way more daring actions toward our dreams.
2. My village came out to help.
The first thing that happened when I fell was a woman pulled over, got out of her car, and ran over to me. Then another woman came over and said she was a nurse. They called the paramedics, they gave me extra coats to stay warm, they chatted with me and kept me company, and they kept me comfortable until help came. While we waited, a thousand people (ok maybe a dozen) asked if we were ok. The embarrassment of falling in public was way overshadowed by the love and care I felt in this moment. No one laughed, no one stared, people were just genuinely concerned.
One of the reasons failure feels extra scary is because there’s a public element to it. Not only will we experience the loss and shame of failing, but everyone else will see us fail! So we play small, we stay invisible, we keep our dreams private, because that feels safer. If we fail, at least we’ll fail in private. That way, no one will criticize us or laugh at us, or think we aren’t good enough.
But the truth is, most people aren’t out there waiting for us to fail so they can judge us. Most people want us to succeed. And most people–even perfect strangers driving down the street–are willing to swoop in and help when we fall.
The entire reason I created Biz BFF is because I want people to know that they are not alone. That you do not have to do this whole business thing by yourself, [FIRST NAME GOES HERE]! That you have someone in your corner, cheering you on. That you have someone ready to bring you a coat and an ice pack when you fall. Someone to hold your hand and help you get back up. And that’s why I continue to build a whole sisterhood of business owners who nurture and support each other.
Failure is a lot less scary when we know we have people who will help us recover. These people are around you, even if you don’t know it yet! (Just like my strangers from the street.) And if you feel like you don’t have that support system around you, talk to me about it in the comments–I have two awesome ways to connect you to the most supportive people I know. You don’t have to do any of this alone.
3. I got back up
Well, I couldn’t stay down, lying on the sidewalk forever. I mean… I wanted to. I had my crochet bag as a pillow and all those coats from the nice ladies. But it was really really cold on the ground, and once the paramedics checked my head and neck, it was time to stand up.
Another reason the idea of failing is so scary is that we think it’s going to be permanent. If we have a big dream and we go for it, and then it doesn’t work–that’s it. It’s over. We failed. The end.
But that’s not true! Business is not a one-and-done thing. You don’t just get one shot at your dream–you get as many shots as it takes!
It might feel like you have one chance and if it doesn’t work, that’s it. Maybe you’re investing a lot of money in one opportunity. Or maybe you get one chance to pitch your idea to a big investor/publisher/influencer. Or maybe you put so much heart and soul into making your dream happen that if you fail, you’ll be too heartbroken to try again. I am not going to pretend that any of that is little or that you’ll just dust yourself off and get back on the horse immediately. Some failures are big, and hard, and devastating. That’s all real.
But I promise you–no matter how big the fall is–you will get back up eventually.
You will get up, and you will heal, and you will take another shot–this time with a fresh perspective.
Bonus lesson on trying again…
When it was time for my next crochet class, I thought I better drive. Physically, I had healed a lot, but the idea of walking along that same sidewalk was pretty terrifying. But I was running late and I couldn’t find my keys, so… time to face my fears and walk on up there! On the way home, I was surprised how scared I really was. I mean… it’s walking. On a sidewalk I’ve walked a million times. But I felt my heart racing and my skin tingling as I took the exact same steps that lead to last week’s fall. I was extra cautious, watching every single step, ignoring every distraction so I could just focus on my feet touching the sidewalk.
When I got close to my house, I looked up and saw Renee–a friend I hadn’t seen in years! Standing right there on my street! She had been driving by, saw me walking, and pulled over. We stood and chatted for almost an hour. We hugged, we laughed, we caught up on the last 5 years of our lives, we planned to get together soon for games and margaritas. It was really special and fun, and totally would not have happened if I had driven to class that day. That magic little moment was totally worth the risk of walking.
Falling is scary. Failing is scary. It’s totally normal to be afraid of failure. But we can’t let that fear hold us back from our wildest dreams.
We have to say, “Hey fear, I know you’re trying to keep me safe because failing would suck. I could end up face down on the sidewalk with a minor concussion. But you know what? I’m going to go for it anyway. Because if it doesn’t work out, if I fail, I know it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. I know I have people who will comfort me if I fall. And I know that I won’t stay down forever.”