Mindset of the Month: Embracing Failure

embracing failure

Embracing Failure
Most people go out of their way to avoid failure. When they do have a run-in, it’s something to forget about and quickly move past. But not entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs turn around, reach out, and give failure a great big hug. They embrace it, learn from it, and keep working

But how do you move from the unpleasant moment of failure to embracing it and being resilient? It’s a process with steps that anyone can practice:

the timeline of failure

The moment of failure and emotional response

Failure often evokes strong emotions. It’s uncomfortable, frustrating, and at times, crippling. No one feels like embracing failure immediately after it happens. Youth (and yes, adults too!) need explicit instruction and practice on navigating the period of time after a moment of failure, especially when learning entrepreneurship.

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning):

“All education is based on the implicit assumption that students will have the self management skills necessary to calm themselves and focus their attention sufficiently so that they can effectively participate in learning.”

How do you get past these initial emotions that could make you want to give up? Some ideas include (adapted from CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL):

  • Preschool students might calm down by taking a breath, saying how they feel and why, and then decide what to do next
  • An elementary student might apply stop and breathe, then work to label their feelings using words like “angry,” “happy,” “irritated,” or “pleasant.”
  • A middle or high school student might distance themselves briefly from the cause of the failure, and then return to discuss the complexity of their emotions and explore the fact that different people can experience different feelings in a similar situation.

Reflection, growth, and learning

Moving past that first emotional response is step one. After that, entrepreneurs take time to actively reflect with mindfulness and objectivity (using additional SEL skills of self awareness and responsible decision making). This reflection yields valuable information and insight that can lead to achieving and sometimes discovering success.

“If you FAIL, never give up, because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning.”
END is not the end, if fact E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies.”
If you get NO as an answer, remember N.O. means “Next Opportunity.”
-Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

During this time of reflection is when entrepreneurs reach out to embrace failure because they know it’s simply a F.A.I.L: “First Attempt in Learning.” They cultivate the perspective that each “attempt” (the first or the fiftieth) is part of the learning process. It’s a step forward on the path of their entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs view failure with a growth mindset and through a lens of optimism. Not with the blind optimism of “rose colored glasses,” but with the knowledge that they have the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, which is the definition of resilience. They have confidence in themselves and are optimistic that they can overcome their setbacks.

Consider what you learned from your failure. What worked? What didn’t work? What hypothesis did you prove or disprove? How can you learn from what went wrong, and then…

Take action

Now comes the part that takes consistent practice! Entrepreneurs have the persistence and grit to keep going. They embrace failure, learn from it, and use it to their benefit.

Think about you learned from your reflection, then try it! Test a new material or design, tweak your marketing slogan, or practice your pitch in a new way. That’s learning from and embracing failure!

Youth voice

Listen to 17-year-old Victoria reflect on her experiences with failure, persistence and grit. She is a VentureLab’s Spark Mentorship Program Alum and received 4 months of mentoring and materials to launch her business and grow her entrepreneurial thinking.


Learn more about how optimism fueled Victoria to develop her business, Olguin Eyewear, in our previous blog post: Entrepreneurs and the Power of Optimism!

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