Design

How to bounce back from failure

4 min read
Dennis Field  •  Apr 27, 2018
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Over the last few years, I’ve found myself stretched all over the place. Individual projects at Greenline Creative, strategic sessions with clients, launching my own startups, writing a book, launching workshops—there have been lots of ups and downs.

Overall though, it’s been a blast. I’ve had some successes, and I’ve had some failures. Through all those experiences I’ve learned that the only thing I can control is how I bounce back from the bad experiences.

“Failure hurts, but you have to bounce back.”
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I’m never worried about the good experiences. That’s fuel to keep moving.

Anyone with the entrepreneurial and creative bug always wants to push themselves. It’s the ability to imagine success that keeps us on this crazy journey. At almost any given time, we can imagine what a successful concept, web studio, and startup might look like. We strive for what we can see.

Related: How I beat creative burnout

But sometimes that imagination can get us in trouble—it can distort our reality. The reality is that things always get in the way of what we envision, and how we approach and work through those obstacles makes the difference in where we end up and how fast we might get there.

As creators, we have to be optimistic that our decisions will work for either us or our clients. We have to believe. When it does work, it’s great! When it fails, it hurts—but we have to bounce back.

I tend to bounce back fairly quickly. Here’s what I do to ensure that I move past obstacles:

1. Step back

This one is easy. The first thing I do when something doesn’t go as I envisioned is to step away from it for a day or two, then regroup with a clear mind.

2. Accept failure

Next, I try to accept the failure as soon as possible. There’s a number of reasons why something may not go as planned. The truth is, it’s really hard to make money on your own. Rather than sulk in the feeling of failure, it’s much healthier for me to accept that I may have been slightly off on hitting the mark and that I can’t control every scenario of a buyer or client. The quicker I accept that, the faster I can move forward.

“The faster you accept failure, the faster you can move forward.”
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3. Talk it out with those you trust

Just like life, business can throw blows. It’s important that I have people I trust in the wings for moments like this.

I love to talk through my failures with trusted sources. I’ll ask them what they would have done differently and try to get their perspective on the whole situation. I generally leave these meetings feeling confident about my new plan.

4. Learn from it

When I miss a goal or something doesn’t go as I had planned, I try to learn from it. I’ll ask myself questions to gather as much data as I can from the situation.

Along with what may not have worked, I’ll also determine what did work. With all that information, I set myself up to learn something from the experience that I can utilize later on.

5. Get back to what you’re good at

Lastly, and most importantly, when something fails or doesn’t go as planned, I simply get back to doing what I know works. When I focus back on my strengths or my successful projects, I quickly regain confidence in myself. That shot of adrenaline propels me to dust myself off and to try something crazy again.

A final note

Maybe you didn’t win that proposal or RFP you put weeks into preparing. Maybe you’re having a down day about your freelance business. Maybe you’ve missed the mark on a concept, and your client doesn’t like it. Whatever your scenario is, don’t take it too personally.

If being a designer were easy, everyone would be doing it.Twitter Logo You have to be able to bounce back fast so that you can keep moving forward. The easiest way to do that is to realize you may have let your imagination trick you into thinking it would be easier than it was. Then you get back to doing what you know you’re good at so you can regain some momentum and confidence.

Keep reading

Want more? This is an excerpt from The Designer’s Handbook, a career guide for designers who want to learn how to navigate the industry. Get the whole book here.

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