Give Yourself Permission to…Fail?

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I almost gave up one day in the not-so-distant past.

Things hadn’t been going as planned with some recent marketing efforts, and I couldn’t shake this feeling that because these marketing campaigns were failing, that I was a failure.

And while I’m normally a glass-half-full, rose-colored-glasses-wearing, at times overly optimistic person, I let myself fall into self-pity and doubt.

I let myself forget that EVERY business, no matter how successful, experiences failed marketing campaigns and failed product launches, amidst a series of (very natural) peaks and valleys.

(Heck, even professional athletes with million-dollar contracts only get home runs about 30% of the time; why should we think that we have to get home runs in our businesses 100% of the time?)

And then, to top it all off, I felt guilty for experiencing these feelings of worry and self-doubt. I felt guilty for letting them distract me from my daily tasks. I felt guilty for even having them in the first place.

In a nutshell, I was on a roller-coaster ride of emotions that day.

So you know what I did?

I gave up.

More specifically, I gave up the idea that my business has to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Contrary to what others may have you believe, there is no surefire, one-size-fits-all roadmap to success beyond your wildest dreams. We are all on our own unique journeys on this entrepreneurial path, which happens to come with a whole lotta trial and error. Sure, there are shortcuts that can help you along the way, and there are techniques that have been proven to work for most people. But in the end, you have to figure out what works for you, and give yourself permission to not always get it 100% right.

Here are some tips that I found helpful during the “valleys” in my business, that I hope you’ll find helpful too. The next time you find yourself down in the dumps, and questioning whether you’re doing the right thing, try these home remedies:

1) Take a step away. Yes, that’s right, sometimes the best remedy is taking a step back from your business for a few hours or even a full day. The last time I found myself steeped in self-doubt, I scrapped my to-do list (which is NOT easy for me to do!) and took the afternoon off. I read a few chapters of an inspirational book by Mark Victor Hansen and then took my daughter to the park, where some fresh air, sunshine, and good company did a world of good. 🙂 By the time my head cleared, I felt more relaxed, less unsure, and ready to get back into the swing of things first thing the next morning.

2) Let yourself feel the frustration. Most of us are conditioned to try and squash “negative” feelings, so when that frustration and worry creeps up we try to ignore it or push it back down again. But doing so just lets those feelings fester under the surface, until they inevitably blow up in our faces. It goes back to our childhood days, where that whole “Big girls (or boys :)) don’t cry” message abounds. We’re taught to tough it out and not let things bother us so much. I’m just as guilty when it comes to my 4-year-old daughter’s tantrums and in fact, just this week she had a minor meltdown over what to wear to preschool; everything was either too long, too short, too big, too small, you get the picture (ah, my little diva is blossoming early! :)) and, quite frankly, I was becoming just as frustrated as she was. But I realized that my telling her to “just pick something” was only making things worse and, after a few deep breaths to calm myself down, I invited her to sit in my lap and go ahead and cry. I stroked her back and told her that it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to cry, and to go ahead and let it all out. To my surprise, her sobs soon gave way to silence, much quicker than I’d expected, and before I knew it she was asking if she could draw a picture. The frustrations out of her system, she was ready to move on to bigger and better things. I share this because it all comes back to human nature, and how, deep down inside, we all want to feel validated and understood (even by ourselves!). So if you take the time to acknowledge your feelings and admit how sad/frustrated/angry you are, you just may be surprised at how quickly you’ll be able to move on to better things yourself.

3) Give yourself permission to fail. As a perfectionist by nature, every little thing that doesn’t go as planned can feel like a huge blow to my self-esteem and cause me to question what I’m doing. And you know what? It’s okay to question yourself now and then. Because oftentimes life’s little “failures” lead to huge, life-changing a-has. Did you launch a group program that no one registered for? Ouch. But instead of throwing in the towel on the whole idea of group programs, use the experience to learn from your mistakes and make the next go-round a success. Perhaps you didn’t give yourself enough time to market effectively. Maybe the timing was off. There are a million reasons why things didn’t go as planned, so here’s a quick tip to help you pinpoint them: Think of a time that things went right for you, and make a list of why you think they went so well. If you launches another program that was well-received, for example, write down everything you can think of that might have contributed to your success. Did you spend more time one-on-one with potential registrants? Did you send more email promotions? Was the title and/or sales page more clear/compelling? Was it held on a different day or time that was perhaps more preferred by your clientele? When you think of things that you did right, it does 2 things: 1) gives you ideas for what you can replicate the next time around and 2) gives you a quick ego boost, reminding you that YOU are not a failure; your program failed. End of story (NOT the end of the world).

The bottom line is that you are going to face periods of failure, self-doubt and uncertainty in your business; everyone does. And when you do fall into those periods, give yourself permission to “fail.” And then pick yourself back up again and try it again the next day.

Want to hear from 10 entrepreneurs on how they found success in their business?

As mentioned above, there is no surefire, one-size-fits-all path to success, but there are shortcuts out there that allow you to learn from others’ failures and triumphs alike. Next week, I’m hosting a web summit that is gathering 10 successful women entrepreneurs to share their success secrets so biz owners like you can figure out how to shortcut your own path to success in 2013. To register free of charge, please visit

PS: Thanks to FabulouslyFrench and RRGWrites for the images.


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