Of course! We have all experienced failure! The important question to then ask is “How do you react to it?” Successful people learn from their mistakes or failures and think of a different way of approaching the particular situation. Whereas others get frustrated, upset and do not want to think of different possibilities, and could potentially lose out on an opportunity! Which category are you in?
My parents experienced ‘failure’ in their business when I was 12 years old, and from the time I can remember, they have always owned their own business, which at that time was mass production bakeries in Kenya. We lived in a town called Mombasa and they decided to expand the business into the capital city – Nairobi. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, including consistent robberies, the business in Nairobi did not do well and we started swimming in debt. I remember how we could not afford to eat meat and would opt for lentil soup, rice and vegetables. Before long, they decided to shut down the businesses in Nairobi and Mombasa so we could pay off all our family debt.
At this point my parents had come to a crossroads. My mother had a strong desire to start a bakery again in Mombasa with the little equipment she had, but my father was adamant that he did not want to get into the bakery business because he could not afford to fail again. I remember asking my mother why she wanted to open up a bakery again and her reply was: “We will do things differently this time and I know it will work.” At that age I did not think much about it, but she did start the bakery on her own and it flourished even better than the first one.
When we focus on our failures, we dwell on the past and the problems we experienced, which in turn drive the fear of failure even deeper. Successful people think of failure as feedback. Why? It has three purposes – first it stops the fear of failure in its tracks. Second, feedback allows you to analyze the lessons learned from your past experience and third, putting the learning to positive use leads to the creation of new possibilities and outcome.
Recently, I asked my mother about this particular experience and to explain the statement she made to me when I was younger. How did she know that she would do things differently this time and the business would work? She stated that she had thought of a couple of strategies to decrease expenses and increase cash flow. The first was to remove the use of trucks to deliver bread into various areas and replace those with carrier bicycles that could carry a safe load of bread. This would not only eliminate gas and repair expenses, but bicycles are cheaper and they can be replaced easily with low cost or bicycle parts. The second was to offer a commission to the bicycle vendor for every bread he sold because this would motivate him to sell more bread and take the bread into different communities around the area. The third was to open a bakery outside city limits and make bread readily available to the smaller communities so they do not have to travel into the city for basic necessities.
Notice, she did not think of the business that she had to shut down, as a failure, but she thought of it as ‘feedback’ because she took the learning from that experience and asked herself, “How can I make it work this time around?” She focused on the solutions rather than the problems! My parents did so well that their competitors took on their business model!
If you think you are faced with failure, find an opportunity of growth by asking:
1. What do I want?
2. What do I have?
3. What have I learned from this experience?
4. What can I do differently?
5. What will be the evidence of my success?
Motivational Speaker, Author and Success Coach
Zaheen helps individuals and businesses breakthrough to success with her training and coaching programs found on her website.
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