How to Take Risks and Bounce Back from Failure

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It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”  J.K.Rowling

We love this quote! The now famous, billionaire author J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, had her first Harry Potter book rejected a dozen times before finally securing a publisher. She admits she was at rock bottom at this time but still clung on to the belief that people would enjoy her story if only she could get the book out there. It was this belief that fuelled her persistence, along with the knowledge that she felt she could fall no further with her life circumstances at the time. And finally, publisher number 13 took on her book and the rest, as they say, is history. 

It’s a really common theme we see with the inspiring, innovative women entrepreneurs who appear on our podcast, Don’t Stop Us Now! They all share an ability to bounce back and keep going after feeling defeated.

What have you Flearnt this year? 

Our revealing conversation with women’s media pioneer, Mia Freedman, taught us a great new word: “Flearning”. She and her Mamamia team believe there’s no such thing as a failure because out of every failure comes a lesson - or as Freedman and her team put it, a “Flearning”. It’s such a great way to re-frame when something doesn’t go to plan. 

It’s all very well to hear about others failing and bouncing back or flearning but how do you push yourself to take risks in your business- and get out of your comfort zone? 

As J. K. Rowling says above...if you live so cautiously that you don’t take risks then you have to question whether you are failing by default. Life really is too short to not step out of your comfort zone. 

So here’s a way for you to think taking calculated risks and getting out of that comfort zone in your business, and yes, how to bounce back when things don’t go to plan. 

Taking the risk in the first place

1.   It’s all about context- We all work in different sectors and sizes of business and what you try, and how much you step out of your comfort zone, will depend on where you’re at in your business and what exactly you’re considering doing. Before you take a risk, sound out a trusted mentor, coach or wise friend who knows your business - use them as a sounding board to see if it seems reasonable. 

2.   Listen- If your advisors or friends are repeatedly telling you you can do this and that you can aim higher, then listen. Know that the research shows we all tend to be lousy judges of our own abilities. So listen when you keep hearing that you’re ready for the next big (or little) step in your business. 

3.   Ask yourself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ -  Write down all those ‘worst case scenario outcomes that may be circling round inside your head about the step you’re contemplating. Getting it out on paper helps you to consider the risk more objectively than when it’s simply contemplated whilst ‘running loose’ inside your head. Getting it all out on paper helps you think about it with less emotion (and imagination). 

Bouncing back if things don’t go so well  

OK so you’ve tried your new idea and it really hasn’t gone as well as you hoped. What now?  

Here are our key steps to bouncing back wiser and stronger than before. 

1.   Own it- Admit that the experiment didn’t work. Don’t blame others if they don’t deserve it. Tell yourself that the path to success is littered with failure - it’s all part of the learning and growing journey. Remember this fantastic quote from Michael Jordan:  

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

2.   Keep it in perspective & don’t beat yourself up- Research shows if you repeatedly beat yourself up about something this makes you more likely to fail when you next try something similar. 

3.   Instead, think constructively about what could you do next time to avoid this happening. Ask yourself questions like ‘What could I do differently next time?” Or, “what have I learnt (or ‘flearnt’) from this?”  The research shows that using questions to prompt constructive thinking will make you more likely to succeed next time around.  

4.   Get back on the horse- Regroup and re-plan, channel your inner J. K. Rowling or Michael Jordan and then get out there with your chin held high, this setback does not mean you’re a failure. It simply means one thing you tried didn’t work. 

You’ve got this! 


Alison Morgan