Everyone is Talking About the F-Word. But, Do They Really Know WTF They are Talking About?

Look, I’m just as guilty as the next person to use industry jargon to inspire my team, recruit rockstars (see what I mean?), and share the vision and mission of Adam Hergenrother Companies. I’m playing to my audience and I know it.

Disruption. Empire Builders. Synergy. Unicorns. Talent. Leverage. Grit.
Failure (and all the various versions: Fail. Fail Faster. Fail Forward). 

Buzzwords abound in the business world particularly when you’re talking about entrepreneurship. And while I generally don’t think there is a damn thing wrong with using whatever words you need to to get results, are we really considering the meaning behind these words and using them in the right context? Or are we just tossing words around to sound like we know what we’re talking about?

This week, I want to talk specifically about the F-word: Failure. This one is pervasive. It seems like everyone wants to wear the word like a badge of honor, yet, some people still can’t seem to admit when they’ve failed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in an interview and asked the question, “How long would you be wiling to fail before you succeed?” and gotten a noncommittal, aspirational answer like, “I don’t really believe in failing.” Or, “I don’t think I’ve ever failed, I’ve just learned.” Really? You’re telling me that when you got a divorce or when your third business venture went bankrupt, you didn’t fail? Sure, you learned a ton of lessons along the way and are going to be able to apply those to your next opportunity. But you still failed.

Here are two things I really want you to get here:

  1. Just because you failed does not mean you are a failure.
  2. Failing forward means you actually have to FAIL!

Failing is not fun. It’s going to hurt. You’ll know it when you feel it and it won’t be easy to brush off as a “learning opportunity.”

Failure is defined as a lack of success. When you’re failing it feels like you are in the middle of the woods with a dense fog all around you and you can’t see your way out. But just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Take each minute as it comes, each hour. And before you know it, you will have come out on the other side. As long as you don’t give up, don’t throw in the towel, and don’t say, “to hell with it,” you may have failed, but you are not a failure. Keep trying, keep shifting course. It’s the actions that will determine the outcome. You fail at securing a new client? Good. Pick up the phone and close another. You fail at starting an online coaching business? Fine. Take a business course and start another. You fail at finishing in the top 10 of the Tough Mudder? No problem. Sign up for another race and train smarter.

You failed. So what? Success will come if you keep your eye on the prize. As long as you have a clear vision for your future, no matter how many times you may have failed, you’ll keep plugging away until you’ve achieved the objective. It’s in the absence of life goals and a clear vision where failure can completely derail you from ever trying again. And that is the ultimate failure.

Your turn. Time to practice your vulnerability. Share your biggest failure in the comments. What happened? And what did you do next?


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