Failure Can't Stop You

Successful sales professionals aren’t afraid of failure. Why? Is it because they don’t fail? Is it because they’re so good, experienced and connected that they just succeed at everything they do? Of course not!

Nobody succeeds at everything they do – nobody. Hall of Fame baseball hitters “fail” about two out of every three times at bat, while pitchers are considered legendary if the only allow up to three earned runs per game. Or if baseball isn’t your thing, then pick any other sport. The best basketball teams merely fail to stop the other team from scoring, say, more than 80 or 90 points a game. The best football teams win 70% of their games (sometimes less). The best golfers often squeak out a victory simply by failing less than the next-best golfer that day.

My point? Failure and success are intertwined and to imagine that one exists without the other is unreal and usually destructive. So know this: failure – or lack of success, if that term is more appealing to you – is a part of the whole. Denying it, rejecting it, hating it, or fearing it is counterproductive.

Everyone who has achieved lasting and significant professional success has, does, and will experience setbacks and failure. Yet instead of running away from this feature of reality, they put their efforts into knowing how to deal with failure when it inevitably occurs. They understand that everything must be put into perspective, and that the “every cloud has a silver lining” thing isn’t just an optimistic mantra that is, well, kind of annoying. It’s a basic, ordinary fact of successful living.

Every failure contains a lesson: what to do, what to change, how to act, how to respond. Every setback contains insights that, if focused upon with the idea of improving and not dwelling, will be revealed to those who are paying careful attention. Every roadblock is an invitation to reflect, absorb, and then move forward after a defeat. This is, indeed, the key of it all: bouncing back.

Athletes don’t simply out-perform their competition; they out- perform the limitations that would otherwise prevent them from bouncing back. There are, doubtless, many would-be professional athletes – perhaps even a few potential superstars – who had the skills and even the ambition, but simply couldn’t handle failure. They, sadly, must have believed that the best of the best find ways to always succeed. This, as you now know, is a blatant error. Superstars fail all of the time; and you simply have to watch the events to see this. Sure, they fail. But, how they handle failure and how they bounce back is a part of their success; a part of their greatness. And it can become a part of yours, too. Keep these in mind at all times:

  • Sales requires a “thick skin” and the ability to move forward after a defeat. If you’re oversensitive, then drop that habit and channel your sensitivity into intuitiveness, instead. The difference between the two is that oversensitive people are hyper-vigilant in search of reasons to be hurt, whereas intuitive people are simply alert, watchful, and aware of what is really happening in the here and now.

  • Don’t “spin” yourself into stupidity. If you’ve failed in whole or part, don’t reframe it so completely so that you learn nothing. Maybe you screwed up. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t avoid seeing what you need to change. It may be painful. It will probably be humiliating. So what? Do it anyway. Don’t change what happened so that you come out on top and everyone else “let you down.” See reality for what it is. Then adapt as necessary.

  • Be aware of, and appreciate, your successes. Over-achievers and perfectionists (you’re probably both, right?) have a scary habit of expecting such total success at all times, that when success does happen, it’s not seen as something...successful. It’s seen as something ordinary. And so you can succeed 100 times, and instead of celebrating 100 successes, you hardly notice...and instead focus on the one or two failures. This is unhealthy, unwise, and very unprofitable, really. Appreciate your successes. If you need to be reminded of what they are, talk to a trusted colleague and get the perspective you need. Be reminded of what you’re doing right.

Success, and failure, often arrive in waves. In sports, it’s called momentum. When things are going downhill, what you want is a break. You want a stop. You want a time out. You want a rest-day between games. Call it what you want, but what you need to do is take a break. It may be for half a day. It may be for a week. Be nice to yourself (if you won’t, who will be?). Don’t pile your failures on top of failures, because your ever-increasing anxiety is simply going to diminish your decision making, thereby making the next failure that much more likely. Carve out some time and space and regain your perspective. Use this time to remind yourself that success is not about rejecting failure; it’s often about responding to failure when – not if – it occurs.

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