How to Recover When You Blow It Big Time

3 Lessons Brené Brown Can Teach Us About Getting Past a Major Fail

We all have bad days in business, right? And sometimes they’re beyond just bad. We drop a ball, miss a sale, or hurt a colleague. Suddenly, we’re doubting ourselves, doubting our worth, doubting everything.

My goal-setting course, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever, is very successful and helps a ton of people every year. During the last launch we decided to do a special edition of the course for leaders.

We were confident and built our budget assuming it would win big. We invested tens of thousands of dollars into the product and had significant revenue projections. The content was high value, the presentation compelling. And we sold exactly one. Yes, one.

How could we have missed that big? We scurried to fix the messaging, fix the offer, fix whatever we could. Fingers crossed! And still nothing. It was one of the biggest duds ever. There wasn’t a hole deep enough for me to crawl into.

What can we do when we find ourselves in places like this?

I’ve loved Brené Brown’s work ever since I read The Gifts of Imperfection. I’ve listened to her talks, watched her videos, and read her books. I always find useful insight and revelations in her work about how we as people process the disappointments and difficulties of life.

Her new book, Rising Strong, is no different. And it can teach us three big lessons about getting past big failures.

  1. Recognize it. One of our first responses in the midst of failure is usually denial or some kind of evasion. That’s especially true when we’re hit with a bunch of shame and disappointment. Instead of dealing with those emotions, we compartmentalize.

    But people who overcome, says Brené, “are willing and able to reckon with their emotions.” We have to recognize what the experience of blowing it really means to us. But that’s just the entry point.

  2. Reframe it. Once we recognize what’s happened and what we’re feeling, we can formulate a more helpful response than the knee-jerk reaction we started with.

    Brené tells the story of an advertising executive who bungled a major project. “I am a screwup,” the man first thought. But then he reframed it. It was a simple but major change: “I screwed up.” “There’s a huge difference” between the two, says Brené. One “is basically an indictment of our very existence,” while the other “is an acceptance of our imperfect humanity.”

    I am a failure is different than I failed. By reframing the feeling we can do something more productive with our circumstances. The first story is a dead-end, but the second allows us to ask followup questions like: How did I fail? And: How can I avoid that mistake again? By reframing, we can learn, improve, and grow.

  3. Rewrite it. Failure comes with its own trajectories. When I experience a few failures, especially if a few come in a wave, I can suddenly see a foreclosure notice in the mailbox and me sleeping under an overpass. It’s like the fear writes the ending of the story for me.

    But Brené’s process lets us rewrite that ending. “Having the courage to reckon with our emotions and to rumble with our stories is the path to writing our brave new ending and the path that leads to wholeheartedness,” she says.

Since pulling the plug on the BYE leaders edition, my team has spent hours—entire days—working through what we could learn about the missteps and how to avoid them again. The payoff of that process has already been big, leading us to some major, beneficial changes in how we do things.

And instead of dreading the future, I’m pumped about the possibilities ahead.

Have you had any big fails in the last month or two? How do you think Brené Brown’s message could have helped you?

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