Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, once said, “Would you like me to give you the formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t all that. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that is where you will find success.”
Many of us see successful people in our profession, but also in other fields such as law, finance, music, medicine, art, computers, technology, and more. You get the idea … there are many people who are outwardly successful and they seem to have gotten there with little effort or no effort at all.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
I bet not. You know who I am talking about. They usually are orthodontists who have a booming practice, no shortage of new patients, all their patients gladly accept all treatment, and best of all: they either pay in full or put $2000 down. Oh and yes, these offices seem to also have no employee problems and minimal money spent on marketing. Can you think of a practice like that?
Well, if this is your practice, congratulations. If it is not your practice (and it certainly is not mine), keep reading, because I am going to share with you some strategies that I have learned to help me when it seems like nothing is going right.
I used to think that some people are just plain lucky. They open a practice or buy a practice in an area without competition, without corporate offices and with a booming economy. In fact, I have been known to say, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all!”
Let’s talk reality for a moment.
Yes, sometimes we attempt to do something to improve our bottom-line at our practice. We spend the time and money and we get ZERO in return. Not one new patient, not one phone call, not one single dollar in our bank account.
Worse than that, we hire a new employee that we “feel” will be the one to encourage patients to get the needed treatment we have proposed. They are doing the follow-up, making the calls, and presenting amazing payment plans — yet patients are still leaving your office without making an appointment to get their treatment.
Frustrating. I know. Even worse, it can make you feel like you are ineffective, unproductive, or just plain stupid for making this hire to begin with!
I’ve been there more often than I would like to admit. Even more humbling, is that even though I do not make the same mistakes again, I seem to find new ways to fail in different areas.
What I have learned about failure, mistakes, and “bad luck” I will share with you — and I will encourage you to look at failures as being one step closer to the success you are looking to achieve.
Here are my strategies for handling failures and setbacks:
- Do not take them personally.
The blame game is one we as professionals excel at. We will often take the responsibility for a bad decision and then fear making any further progress towards our goals. The motivational speaker, Les Brown, is quoted as saying, “The good times we put into our pocket. The bad times we put into our heart.”
Hanging on to failures or regrets puts fear into your heart and prevents you from taking the necessary action to move forward again.
- Take a realistic and objective look at the situation.
We are human beings and emotions can get in the way of being objective when it comes to a situation that we anticipated turning out to be more successful. We may know of the story behind Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb, which took him years of experimentation and thousands and thousands of attempts. He never viewed these attempts as “failures” as each attempt moved him one step closer to achieving his goal.
When results are not what you hoped for, step back and evaluate the situation to see if there is a way to make immediate changes that could produce your desired result. Often we are ready to toss out our project without further study or giving it enough time to actually work.
- Be on the lookout for new opportunities.
Many times when faced with a setback or even multiple setbacks, after I stopped licking my wounds, I would sit down and begin the process of looking at new or different opportunities to achieve the success I was seeking.
Searching for new opportunities may require you to pick up a book, go to a seminar, join a mastermind group, hire a consultant, or just carve out some time to let your brain focus on a solution.
Norman Vincent Peale asserted: “Positive thinking is how you think about a problem. Enthusiasm is how you feel about a problem. The two together determine what you do about a problem.”
By staying positive and enthusiastic despite your setbacks, new opportunities will present themselves to you. It is up to you to take action towards those new goals. This brings me to the last strategy.
- Take Action
The final step is to not let fear of failure stand in your way of moving closer to achieving your goals. Fear is paralyzing when you allow it to control your actions and prevent you from moving forward. After practicing for 31 years now, I have my wounds; some are very deep and have not fully healed. However, I do not let fear stand in the way of moving forward as I continually look for opportunity to grow and improve both professionally and personally.
How am I able to do this?
One tip is to make sure you surround yourself with supportive people who encourage you, listen to you, and help you push past those barriers of fear and anxiety. These key people can be spouses, other colleagues, friends, significant others, other family members, or even your employees.
John Maxwell, one of my very favorite authors, once said: “The quality that distinguishes a successful person from an unsuccessful one is the capacity to manage disappointment and loss.”
In summary, failure, loss and disappointment are a part of all of our lives; use these 4 strategies above to overcome the paralyzing effects of failure to help you achieve the success and achievement you have desired.