5 Tips for Failing Forward

Shelley Rogers is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Brisbane, Australia and founder and CEO of Maxum, whose mission is to empower entrepreneurs to reach their maximum capability. As a business coach, mentor and strategist, we asked Shelleywho admits she is no stranger to failurefor her tips on turning failures into future successes. Here’s what she shared.

The phrase “Forward ever, backwards never” rolls off of the tongue with the ease of a nursery rhyme but when it comes to business, it never seems quite that easy, does it? Setbacks and failures can’t just roll off of your back, can they?

I’ve learned to use failure as fuel for the growth of my business. Here are five top tips for failing forward.

1. Have no regrets.

Life is too short to live with regret. We will all die one day and wouldn’t it be a great tragedy for all of your best ideas to die with you? Or worse, to leave Earth, regretting never having tried?

Our total time on this planet averages 30,000 days―an alarmingly small number that made me become a bit fixated on counting them. I value each day, and am determined to make every second count. It’s surprising how something as simple as focusing on time or lack of it can reignite your commitment to achieving your goals, big or small.

Go after what you want. Take risks (calculated, of course); be aware that with every risk could come failure, but without great risk there is no reward.

2. Accept reality.

The hardest part of failure can be admitting to yourself that you have failed. When I lost my first business―the moment I made the decision that I couldn’t fix it―and the receiver stepped in to wind the company down, a weight of 1,000 bricks was lifted off my shoulders.

Acceptance made it easier to move forward; it brought completion to the life cycle of that company so that I could be free to discover what would be next.

3. Don’t be a victim, be a strategist.

When you try something and it doesn’t work, it can be easy to wring your hands and adopt a woe-is-me attitude, but that won’t help you move forward. You have to correct your strategy.

Examine where you went wrong and get systems in place to prevent those errors from occurring again. Have an advisory group or board to provide input on your strategy, and spend at least 10 hours a week fine-tuning your strategy. Get your systems in place and make them sexy. Hire the right people and align them to your company’s core values.

4. Be focused.  

After appointing a receiver to wind down our international public company, I began to focus on my health. Not only had I lost my once successful business, my marriage was also ending and I was confronted with a divorce. I was diagnosed with situational depression. I spent the first three months forcing myself to sleep, exercise and diet.

There would be no next or new thing if I didn’t learn how to prioritize my health and my time in order to move on.

Today I’m very, very strict with my calendar, so I go over everything in 20-minute increments. My husband and I have a color-coded shared calendar. Our workouts are in red, and they’re pretty much never moved. Everything is scheduled around what we have planned for the year―our holidays, everything. When it’s in the calendar, it’s not being moved, especially if it’s family events. Another thing that I’ve done that has been really helpful for time management is using an app called Focus Time.

I do a 20- to 35-minute sprint timed with Focus Time in the morning before the kids are even up. When I get back from that, I pick the biggest work task of the day that I want to get accomplished, and get to it.

The most important aspects of life for me are health and family, so I focus on getting those managed well because when that is done, everything else naturally falls into place.

You have to decide what aspects of life and business are most important to you, get them running smoothly and allow your forward movement to fall into place.

5. Approach every day as a school day.

When I coach entrepreneurs, I tell them, “Fail forward and fail fast, and every day will be a school day.” What that means is that there is always a lesson to be had and failure is one of our greatest teachers.

You have to be open to every experience as an opportunity to learn something new. The faster and harder you fail, the less and less afraid you become of it because you have come out on the other side of it and are usually stronger and better equipped for it.