Is it Failure or Feedback? by @artistsedge

Failure Rubber Stampby Debra Russell | Featured Contributor

So often, we make decisions based on the fear of failure. We avoid taking risks in our business, because we might fail. We don’t ask for what we want, because we interpret “No” to mean failure. We don’t ask for the sale, ask the scary questions, or ask for help, because all of these things carry the risk of failure attached to them.

Or do they? Are those imagined negative consequences actually failure?

Or are they just feedback?

Definition of Failure and Feedback

Failure* –

  1. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short
  2. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends

feedback or testimonials blue icon or button. Publical commentsFeedback* –

  1. A reaction or response to a particular process or activity.
  2. Evaluative information derived from such a reaction or response.

* Definitions from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

So, let’s take a real world (albeit hypothetical) example, apply these two definitions and see what happens.

Let’s say you’ve put your name in for a job or opportunity and that felt like a real stretch – this is an area you want to work in, but haven’t yet. Or this is the kind of client you want in your business, but they’re perhaps bigger than you’ve tried for up to this point.

And let’s say you didn’t get it. Or perhaps worse, you were called in for an interview, called back to be interviewed by the next level of decision makers, perhaps you even got into the top 2 or 3 choices. And you didn’t get it.

What Happens if You Define this Event as Failure?

If we apply our definition of failure to this experience:

Well, if not getting this particular gig means you’re insufficient or falling short – then you will probably never try for this kind of job again, will you? That’s it, might as well through the towel in. You’re done!

And you feel diminished and demoralized, don’t you? You’ve fallen short; you’re just not good enough.

But even if you use the second definition of failure – that not getting this gig means you haven’t achieved the desired result – well, then it’s still over, isn’t it.

And you could even decide that not getting this one job, this one opportunity means you’re doomed to fail and this is just evidence that you’re never going to achieve your desired results, i.e. success.

So, again – you’re done, finished, finito. (If this sounds at all familiar – please keep reading!)

What Happens if You Define this Event as Feedback?

So here’s where it gets interesting. If we apply the definition of feedback to this experience:

What if this negative outcome (previously defined as a failure) could be viewed as a reaction or response to a particular process or activity and you could actually derive evaluative information from this outcome?

Well, then, you’re not finished at all are you? You’ve just begun!

You can learn, improve, even grow from this experience – if its FEEDBACK!

So how do you do this?

Allow for the Mourning and Sadness to Pass Through You

I know, you’re thinking, “But this is so painful! I didn’t get this job/gig/opportunity/client and I was so excited about it. I had already spent the money in my head!””

I get it, I do. And you will need to allow that emotion to pass through. It is a loss. I’m not trying to diminish that real emotional pain. And – I want you to be a bit suspicious of yourself. Ask yourself, “How much of this real, emotional pain is a result of defining this experience as failure?”

I’m betting that if you shift your interpretation of the experience, it will clear a lot of the emotion. And once you’ve done that, the real learning can begin:
Time To Learn Concept

Approach the Event with Courageous Curiosity

What if you looked at that experience and said instead – “This is interesting feedback. Wonder how I can utilize this? What can I learn? How can I improve? What do I try next? Am I done testing this method – or should I test it some more?”

  • How would you feel from that perspective?
  • What steps would you take from that place?
  • How is that different from what you’re doing presently?

Get the Feedback and the Learning

Really debrief the totality of the experience. The temptation, if you’re thinking of the experience as a failure, is to think, nothing worked, nothing can be gained. But if you think that, you’ve short-changed yourself and severely limited your growth and potential for success in the future. So fully debrief the experience:

  • What did you do?
  • What strategies did you employ?
  • What tactics did you use?
  • And which of those strategies and tactics worked? How did they work? (You can ALWAYS find something that worked, no matter how bad the experience.)
  • And which of those strategies and tactics didn’t work? Why didn’t they work? What did you do/not do that got this result?
  • And how much of this result had nothing to do with you?

People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, and most, if not all, have very little to do with you. And also remember, not all opportunities are your opportunities. Sometimes those opportunities were really someone else’s.

And sometimes not getting a job or gig could be the best thing. It could be that getting that gig, while it looked awesome from the outside, it could have been your worst nightmare.

Or, it could be that there is a better, brighter opportunity just around the corner. A corner you would never have turned had you gotten this gig. And you may not see this until a year from now or two.

That if you had gotten that gig, this other more amazing thing would never have happened. You just can’t see it from where you’re standing.

So, share with me in the comments – what experience are you re-evaluating?


Debra RussellDebra Russell, Certified Business Coach, founder of Artist’s EDGE, Certified Master Results Coach and Master NLP and Hypnosis Practitioner, uses her business knowledge and ability to facilitate change and growth to help small business owners create a prosperous and sustainable living doing what you love.

Debra specializes in small business and the Arts and Entertainment Industry and has delivered several innovative programs for entertainment industry trade conferences, Universities and Colleges and private organizations across the United States and in Europe and Australia.

As a fan and follower of, Debra is thrilled to offer women business owners her expertise in the day to day management of your small business and support in overcoming the challenges to success we all face as independent entrepreneurs.

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One Reply to “Is it Failure or Feedback? by @artistsedge”

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