Is it an epic fail or just a mistake?


There's always something to learn.There are just two groups of people in the world: those who have experienced the fateful moment when you realize your great idea turned out to be not so great after all, and those who will experience the fateful moment when you realize your great idea turned out to be not so great after all.

Once you’ve joined Group #1, you have the opportunity to make a very powerful choice: Will you regard your experience as an epic fail or just as a mistake?

How you choose to answer will have a huge impact on your future success.

If you choose to catastrophize your results, you’ll be choosing a very effective form of self-sabotage. Viewing a disappointment as an epic fail rather than as just a mistake:

On the other hand, making the more self-serving choice to view the event as simply a mistake empowers you and increases your skill set in many ways:

What a deal!

Success and effectiveness are a matter of choice.

Now the question becomes this: If you realize you’ve been prone to take an “epic fail” view in the past, how do you switch over to the more productive “it’s just a damn mistake” view? Fortunately, there are several ways to go about this that are simple to implement:

Spend a little bit of time wallowing.

I offer this from personal experience. When faced with a totally disconcerting or painful situation, I choose to really get into the emotional shock and pain. I let myself fully feel it, without trying to shift myself to a more positive emotional state. After I’ve done this for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, I realize I’ve gotten much of the negativity out of my system, and I find it easier to move on.

“Yabbut” it.

This is one of very few situations when “Yeah, but….” can help rather than hurt.

Whenever you hear yourself starting to obsess over some negative aspect of the event or activity, counter with some sort of positive. For example, if you think to yourself, “In the Q and A session after my presentation, I didn’t handle Question 1 very well”, you can follow up with, “Yeah, but I totally nailed the answer to Question 2!” This will very forcefully remind you that there were good parts mixed in with the bad; in other words, you don’t get to claim the experience as an epic fail.

Evaluate, don’t simply criticize.

All too often, entrepreneurs fall into “Monday morning quarterback” mode. In other words, they re-hash what they did and rehearse every little thing that went wrong. In a situation like this, you’re just getting sucked into a downward spiral of criticism and self-flagellation.

You’ll do much better to evaluate your performance from a position of neutrality and curiosity rather than to criticize it from a place of blame and judgment.  This enables you to do better the next time you’re in a similar situation, and it encourages you to continue trying new things. This, in turn, builds your courage muscles and keeps your comfort zone expanding, which is the only way you’ll step into the bigger game you really deserve to play.

Of course, a potential down side of such non-judgmental evaluation is that you may come up with so many ways to improve your performance that you end up paralyzed with indecision about which to tackle first.

If that’s the case, maybe it would be a good idea to put “explore possibilities with Kath” at the top of your To Do list. My specialty is helping entrepreneurs sort through all the possible courses of action facing them and pick the right one to do right now. Then we create action plans for making those things happen, and I hold you accountable for implementing those plans.

Is that something that would benefit both of us? Maybe. Maybe not. But one way to find out is to set up a 30- to 40-minute call where we could ask each other some questions to figure out the answer. Whether our decision is “go” or “no go”, we’ll both feel good about it.

Sound like a reasonable first step? Then just call me at 319-270-1214 to arrange our get-acquainted call, or email me with “I’m tired of epic fails!” in the subject line. We’ll have some fun exploring possibilities.


What sort of results have you had in acknowledging mistakes instead of beating yourself up over epic fails? Let the rest of us know what’s worked well to help you bounce back from disappointments!

(BTW, thanks to Peter Shelk for posting his “epic dishwasher fail” image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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