Nearly every leader will fail at some point over a long career, but understanding how to learn from that failure and turn it into success separates the mediocre from the great.
- Around 90% of startups will fail, meaning entrepreneurs must be more accustomed to failure than most.
- Emotional resilience is necessary for any leader to recover from setbacks and failure. It can also help an entrepreneur learn from mistakes, The Hustle reports.
- Constant disappointment can start to wear on anyone’s morale, but these business leaders advise entrepreneurs facing difficulties.
Why it’s important
When recovering from a setback or failure, it is helpful to understand that other successful leaders have also struggled in the past. Those looking to succeed in the future can learn from the experience of their predecessors.
It is important to remember that bouncing back from a failure takes time. Entrepreneur Alexander Hanthorn had to shut down his product-management app in 2022. Taking the time and giving space for recovery is essential to coming back stronger, Hanthorn says.
“You likely just went from 100 to zero in a short period of time and have some amount of whiplash,” he says. “Don’t just move on. Don’t suppress your feelings.”
However, that time spent recovering should not be spent idly. Hawthorn suggests using the time off to reconnect with loved ones and strengthen connections. Talking through the feelings surrounding a failure can be crucial to processing and learning from mistakes.
Hawthorn also suggests catching up on sleep. Founding a company or spearheading a new venture can be time-consuming and take away valuable sleeping hours. Sometimes catching up on some lost sleep can make all the difference.
Just as important as taking care of mental health is separating the failure from the person. Michael Plisco had to cancel the launch of his mental-health app Modus. However, as Plisco mourned the hard work he had put into the app, he reminded himself that while the app had failed, he was not a failure.
“As founders, we often find ourselves so deeply attached to our business and its mission that it becomes difficult to distinguish ourselves from what we are building,” he says. “In failure, you have to take a step back and realize that the failure of the business, regardless of the situation, does not equate to a failure of self.”
Focusing on the positive aspects of an experience can help a founder overcome the despair of a setback or failure. Plisco says to take some time to focus on things that bring joy, like spending time with family or focusing on hobbies that fell to the side.
Failures and setbacks are just part of the business, and Isaia Silva recommends that entrepreneurs learn to withstand the shock. Moving on quickly in a sink-or-swim industry means there is not always time to wallow in self-pity.
Silva’s agtech startup lasted just two years, but he quickly moved on as the CTO and co-founder of a new startup. He compares failures in business to taking a punch in combat sports. Athletes, he says, learn from getting knocked out, and so should business leaders.
Even if a venture ends in failure, it is important to recognize the work that went into a business. Tijani Majoko’s legal startup did not succeed as she hoped, but she emphasized that finding something to celebrate amid hardship is vital.
“Congratulate yourself on the attempt,” she says. “Founding a startup is a challenging and courageous undertaking, and even if the venture ultimately failed, it’s important to acknowledge the effort that was put in.”
Sometimes, reframing the experience is the key to not being weighed down by failure and setbacks.
“Failure is the only way to success,” Matthew Knippen says. His fitness startup failed in 2021, but he says that this is just part of the process of finding an idea that will work. Knippen says that he views failure as a necessary part of the process, giving him more optimism when moving on.
Instead of a devastating setback, failure can just be another thing to accomplish before the big breakthrough.