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  • Writer's pictureErin Ratliff

Mistakes Happen: The Wisdom & Gifts of "Failure" as an Entrepreneur

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." This encapsulates the essence of failure — an integral chapter in the story of growth and perseverance."

Winston Churchill

Starting a business is an exhilarating journey filled with ups, downs, and unexpected twists. On the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, failure and mistakes often feel like our adversaries. In reality they can be our most invaluable teachers, guiding us closer to connection, innovation and growth.

Most people don't realize that Failure isn't just an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey; it's a necessary component for success. In this post we'll explore how failure and success work together, as Yin and Yang do, as united, complimentary events.

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

Henry Ford

Mistakes vs Failure

We live in an outcome-obsessed, results-focused, achievement-based world. 

Achievement = Success.

If we don't achieve the desired result it's automatically labeled as "Failure." But it's important to remember that more often than not, it was simply a Mistake.

Mistakes are...

  • Speed bumps in our path to reaching our goals

  • Part of the process of growth

  • Inevitable if you're challenging yourself

In contrast, Failures are...

  • Determined by your effort

  • Based on internal standards

  • Judgments only you can make

  • When you're not trying your best to reach your potential

So in other words, YOU decide whether you're "failing" or not - not anyone else. The key is to accept your mistakes, mishaps and missteps. As long as you continuously stay focused on progress and working towards improvement, you're succeeding!

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." -

Elbert Hubbard

Understanding the Roots of Failure-Fear

People fear failure, for good reason. It comes with feelings of

  • pain, disappointment, discomfort and difficulty

  • inadequacy or incompetency

  • identity-loss

This fear of failure can be overwhelming and often holds us back from taking risks and exploring our true potential. Simply remembering past failures can trigger stressful feelings of anxiety, tension, shame or remorse.

But we don't have anything to be ashamed of. Failure is a NATURAL human experience, and we shouldn't run from or deny that.

The fear of failure and the subconscious Ego are closely intertwined. The Ego is in charge of maintaining our identity and preserving our unique self-concept/self-image. It's in charge of protecting us from harm - physically, socially AND psychologically. Here's how they relate:

Thus when failure occurs, the ego interprets it as a direct threat to one's sense of

  • value and self-worth

  • safety and comfort

  • control

  • success

The ego, understandably, wants to avoid the social judgment, embarrassment, criticism, or ridicule that may accompany failure. The ego prefers stability and will always resist change, as failure may disrupt the current established status or zone of comfort.

The ego's pursuit of perfection and flawless outcomes can intensify the fear of failure, leading us to completely avoid risk or new challenges and opportunities . After all, we're creatures of habit. We like when things stay the way we're used to, even if deep down we know it's not the best. It's just a fact that most people will

  • Stick to familiar discomfort rather than risking unfamiliar joys.

  • Opt for predictable pain over uncertain pleasure

  • Choose the known miseries over the unknown potentials.

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery."

James Joyce

Failing might make you (ie Your EGO) feel like a "loser" in everyone's eyes, and it's okay to feel low sometimes. But the key difference between TRUE winners and losers is in their recovery from hard times. How do you recover?

Fear is one of the most debilitating emotional challenges we all deal with but so often it is only in our heads because we are unsure of the unknown and the unseen. The reality is that most of what we fear never comes to pass. So why let a mere shadow dictate your actions? Why let an illusion hold you back from reaching your full potential?

Consider this: every moment you spend in fear is lost in inaction. It's time wasted where you could have been moving forward, making progress, and learning from real, tangible experiences. The truth is that failure is not the enemy. It's a teacher, a guide, and, most importantly, a stepping stone to success.

You have the power to redefine your relationship with fear. See it not as a barrier but as a motivator. Use it to fuel your determination, sharpen your focus, and push you towards actions that align with your goals and values. Don't let fear of failure decide your path. Take the reins, challenge the status quo, and carve your own way to success. Your future self will thank you.

"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

Maya Angelou

Reframing Failure

There's no way around it - Mistakes will inevitably arise when we experiment, explore and venture into uncharted territories.

Failure is often misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized. Contrary to popular belief, failure is not the end of something, nor is it the opposite of success.

Instead it is

  • a pivot-point, the opportunity for a new beginning or fresh start

  • a stepping stone to self-discovery, resilience, and introspection

  • a beacon of growth and hope, guiding us toward introspection and eventual success

  • a catalyst for learning, providing insights that success alone cannot offer

  • a building block that future innovation and progress are stacked upon.

  • an inherent, integral PART of Success

Let's normalize Failure!

"The more you fail, the more you realize there is nothing to fear."

Sara Blakely

The Transformative Power of Our Mistakes

Mistakes, although often avoided and feared, actually serve as catalysts for INNOVATION & CONNECTION

  • groundbreaking discoveries

  • innovative solutions

  • areas for improvement or enhancement

  • building trust and authenticity

Each setback or mistake is a lesson in disguise, holding a hidden wisdom to help you reach your goals.

There is so much to learn from our mistakes and missteps, our struggles and setbacks. Failures, both small and large, help to

  • provide invaluable lessons that success often cannot teach.

  • offer insights into our strengths, weaknesses, and untapped potential.

  • cultivate resilience.

  • refine our character, fostering resilience and fortitude in the face of adversity.

  • unveil our strengths, propelling us toward success with newfound determination.

  • reframe our perspective, teaching us to view setbacks as stepping stones and to greet challenges as opportunities for growth.

  • understand our limitations and capabilities, refine our approaches

And for business founders and entrepreneurs specifically failure is helpful because it

  • encourages us to practice the art of risk-taking and experimentation

  • allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the market, audience and customers

  • teaches us to pivot, adapt, and evolve strategies

  • motivates us, igniting determination and drive to succeed against all odds.

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

Albert Einstein

Strategies to Navigate Failure & Embrace Mistakes

Rather than passively waiting for time to heal the wound of failure, we should actively manage the pain by turning the story into a source of growth and potential happiness. With practice, individuals can transform their failures into opportunities for personal development and positive change.

Fail Fast, Adapt Faster

Recognizing and rectifying mistakes early on accelerates our growth. Rapid adaptation based on lessons learned ensures the business stays agile and responsive to market demands.

Think Big

Most mistakes aren’t as big as you think. A study of the “Spotlight Effect" proved a psychological concept in which people believe they’re being noticed far more than they are.

We may think or feel the world is ending but in reality, the world is unchanged and keeps on spinning. This isn’t to say mistakes don’t matter or don’t have consequences. It’s just to remind us to zoom out in our perspective to see the larger picture. This can take some pressure off and allow us to simply keep moving along.

"If you're avoiding failure, you're avoiding sucess"

Jonathon Mann

Document Your Progress

Keeping a "failure journal" can help you document and record your experiences of failure. The key is to revisit your entries at intervals to note what you've learned or gained from those challenging moments. We should then make sure to celebrate each success, regardless of size, to maintain motivation and momentum.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Adopting a curiosity-driven growth mindset allows solopreneurs to see challenges as opportunities to gather more data towards our continuous improvement. Take the time to calmly, nuetrally (without judgement) reflect on what went wrong, identify areas for improvement, and incorporate these invaluable insights into future endeavors. We must always be willing to adapt and pivot based on the info and feedback we gather. This will help your business to evolve and stay relevant as the market inevitably changes over time.

"You always pass failure on your way to success."

Mickey Rooney

Build Resilience

The ability to recover and persist in the face of failure is a hallmark of successful people. This inner strength, grit and fortitude enables you to navigate obstacles with grace, maintaining the determination to move forward. With practice over time we learn to bounce back with greater enthusiasm and vigor.

Establish a Support Network

Connect with mentors, peers, or networking groups. These relationships provide insights, guidance, and a support system during challenging times.

Release Ego

Overcoming the fear of failure involves detaching and separating the ego from the outcomes. Viewing failure as a learning opportunity, a natural opportunity for growth and development rather than a reflection of personal value or worth. The quality of Humility can help us accept failure as a natural part of life, not opportunities for our self-concept to diminish or suffer.

Be Transparent

Acknowledging and admitting our mistakes openly and honestly fosters authenticity, which builds trust with those around us, including our customers. It is important for us to share when we fail, because that gives our team members permission to be themselves too- potentially taking more risks, asking for help or support. Vulnerability is a sure-fire way to boost connection an be a better leader.

"An exccessive drive for order interrupts the beautiful chaos needed for creativity to thrive."

Simon Sinek

Prioritize Self-Care

Mistakes and failures can take an emotional toll. Ensure a healthy work-life balance, practice self-compassion, and embrace mindfulness techniques and healthy habits to maintain your overall well-being in mind, body and spirit.

"Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail."

Oprah Winfrey

Failing with Grace

What is to fail with grace? I feel in my body a relaxedness towards it.

The constriction loosens.. I can breath softly again.

Failing with grace carries a softness with it, it carries an awakened clarity and tenderness. It’s soothing to an agitated uneased mind.

I lay in it for a while…

Then my mind goes back in time and want me to have had this insight earlier, before other happenings so I could have done previous tasks without what it perceives as failure.

I see it’s trying to catch me again.

I pause. I move it back to grace.

Allowing myself to Fail With Grace.

Body Relaxing and breathing softens.

Quickly my mind reacts again.. getting in there and now want to reach out to all that witnessed my failure and tell them that “now I got it.. “ “I’ve learned so it wasn’t a failure..” “I’m bigger/better than that” again wanting to “prove me right - to not fail”

Once more I need to bring it back to failing with grace. And it’s like I can feel the stream of it. Being in the grace of failing like it’s a stream of water running its own way. Just allowing it to happen. Not opposing to it.

There’s a beauty in it, there’s a melancholy in it, there’s a freshness in it. There’s even an underlying joy and celebration in it.

Failing with grace over and over in a constant river of clear water

And I can see that the only thing ever failing is Ego. Failing to look smart & sound clever. Failing to look successful and to be perceived as composed and non-failed.

Pieces of ego failing to hold on.

Vanity, pride and the righteous one chipping of in pieces

Pieces of identity I wanted to hold on to, but they where never mine, it was never me.

So, once again. I am the rootstock of Life growing many branches. Just making new buds that’s growing out, blossoming, dying and letting go.

And I feel how important it is for Ego to grasp and try to hold on.

To not let go, if every branch think it’s is own identity then life and death is real.

If it fails it dies.

And me, if I can fail with grace I can stand connected to life and just let it happen. And witness the beauty of it all.

Maria Hoffman

Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Failure is a fundamental aspect of the human experience, and perhaps even more of a reality for those willing and brave enough to venture into entrepreneurial.

Failure is perhaps the most important masterclass you'll ever take. Believe it or not, every single one of your mistakes is planting a seed of progress for the future.

In every misstep lies a lesson to learn. In every stumble lies an opportunity to rise stronger.

Remember, the most successful solopreneurs are not those who avoid failure, but those who embrace, learn, grow, and thrive because of it. The biggest mistake is not allowing yourself to make mistakes!

Say it with me: Failure is your Friend.

It is a stepping stone, not a setback.

I know first hand what it's like to fail, and succeed, and I'm here to support you - and your biz- on your winding journey. Ready to "fail forward"? Let's connect!

"I'm teaching myself about the opposite of excellence, the subtle art of stumbling, the radical act of failure, and self-forgiveness. I'm learning that embarrassment only shows its face if I allow it."

Rudy Francisco


Erin is a certified feng shui consultant, holistic business coach and organic growth marketer for earth-loving, heart-centered soul-preneurs.

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