Transcript: Learning To Love The F-Word… Failure

May 16, 2023

AMY PORTERFIELD: “I took all these risks because I wasn't afraid to fail, genuinely. Like, I didn't want to. And failure is a really weird word to put into this conversation. But like, if I didn't make the New York Times’ bestseller list, that doesn't mean I failed with my book sales. Like, I feel like my book is changing lives every single day now, and I'm a winner in just the fact that that is true.”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: I need to tell you about a podcast that I love. It's called Imperfect Action, it's hosted by Steph Taylor, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. And it's a bite-sized online-marketing podcast for business owners. So Steph is going to answer all of your business-marketing questions and deep dives into all things online marketing, content marketing, social-media marketing, and marketing strategy for business owners. So if you love Online Marketing Made Easy, I think you're going to love Imperfect Action as well. I loved her recent episode about how to turn your audience into paying clients. Uh, yes, please. And she talks about how to use better call to actions, streamline your sales funnel, and so much more. You can listen to Imperfect Action wherever you get your podcasts. 

Well, hey, there, friend. Welcome back to Online Marketing Made Easy. 

I wanted to check in first and see how you're doing. Did quarter one fly by as quickly for you as it did for me? I mean, how is it spring already? Not that I'm complaining, because now it's getting warm, and you know how I feel about really cold weather. This California girl will never get used to Nashville weather. But I love that as it gets warmer, Scouty and I could go on walks outside, which I kind of live for.  

And on one of our walks recently, I started to reexamine my relationship with failure. I know, thinking about failure, what a way to start the day, right? So fun. But I've been pushing myself to do this because I believe having a healthy relationship with failure can help entrepreneurs build a tolerance for risk taking. And while taking risks does not come naturally to me, I'm working on it because I know it's an essential skill that will take my business to the next level.  

So I've been doing the work and asking myself the tough questions like, what would my life and business look like if I failed fearlessly every single day? That's a hard question to answer, or just to think about failing fearlessly every single day. And another question, is it humanly possible to take all emotion out of the experience of failure? That's a big one, right? And I've been pushing myself to get vulnerable and honest with my answers to these questions, a lot of journaling around this.  

So today, I thought we could dive into what's been coming up for me. And I hope that by doing so, it helps you practice new ways of thinking to develop a healthier relationship with failure. So are you ready?  

The word that comes up for me when asking, what would my life and business look like if I failed fearlessly every single day? the word that came up for me is freedom. If you read my book, Two Weeks Notice, you know that the word freedom initially propelled me to leave my nine-to-five job and become an entrepreneur. And I love that this word continues to guide me fourteen years later. As it relates to failure, I want the freedom to test new ideas, to be okay with an idea of flopping, which will never be easy for me—but again, I want to be okay with it. I want to allow it to happen even if it doesn't come easy for me—and to know that no matter what, I have my own back. That's a big one. Because here's the thing that I'm learning about my relationship with failure: I don't believe it's the act of failing that I'm afraid of. Rather, it's how I beat myself up after I fail that sparks fear and keeps me playing small. We've all been there, right? We are our worst critics.  

And this makes total sense if you think back to how you were first socialized around failure, right? If you failed at school, you had to take the F home on your report card, and you had to tell your parents that you did not do a good job. And if you're anything like me, this was unacceptable, shameful, and something to be feared, so I avoided that at all costs.  

And here’s the thing: the thought that failure is something to fear or be ashamed of, it is actually completely optional. If you're multitasking, come back here. I want you to hear this. The thought that failure is something to fear or something to be ashamed of is completely optional. And to illustrate this, I want to tell you a story about someone whose mindset around failure I admire, and that's the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely.  

So when Sara was growing up, every night around the dinner table, her father would ask, “What did you fail at today?” And if she couldn't answer, he'd encourage her to play a bigger game and seek out failure the next day so that she'd have something to report on. Looking for ways to fail every day was the mindset that propelled Sara to become the youngest female self-made billionaire. I wish that's how I was raised. I was so afraid of looking like a fool, not doing well. I had a lot of shame, a lot of guilt when things don't work out. But here she is at the dinner table, and her dad's like, “So what did you fail at today?” Can you even imagine? I can't think of a better story to illustrate how celebrating failure is not only possible but necessary to reach new heights as an entrepreneur.  

So I want to share an example that has absolutely allowed me to grow, but at the same time, I had to do a lot of mental work every step of the way. So as you all know, I launched my book, Two Weeks Notice, this year, and I genuinely wanted to get on the New York Times’ bestseller list. As an author, there's really nowhere higher you can go in terms of accolades for your book. And what I've learned now but I didn't know when I started this journey of writing a book is that it's almost a crapshoot. Like, people don't know exactly how you get on the New York Times’ list. It's not just a numbers game. And so we've seen people that have sold seven thousand units get on the New York Times’ list, but we've seen people with a hundred thousand units sold in pre-launch and week one, I'm talking about, that have not made the list. And we're not really sure if it's these people are looking at, like, how the book is marketed, if you did bulk buys or not. Like, if I speak on someone's stage and they buy five hundred books from me and we process those, do those count or not? There's just so many questions. And no matter how much research you do, you will never ultimately know how people make the New York Times’ list.  

And so I didn't write my book to make the list. I'm very clear about that in my heart and in my mind. But at the same time, I genuinely wanted it bad. And I just felt like I deserved it. And I don't know if that's right or wrong, if feeling that is right or wrong, but it was true to me. I felt like I deserved it. We did a beautiful book launch. We had so many buyers from across the U.S. and in different countries. We marketed for a very long period of time, so the sales were steady coming in. And I just felt like the way we marketed it with integrity and followed all the rules and did all the things we thought we were supposed to do, I just felt like I deserved it. And that's kind of a dicey place to be, right? when I don't feel entitled to it; I just feel like I did the hard work to get it. But that still doesn’t mean I would.  

I have a really good friend that she kept saying, “No matter if you make that list or not, you know your numbers and how you marketed it prove that you deserved it. So whether they give it to you or not, in your heart you have to know you did deserve to be on that list.” But still, you know, if I didn't get it, I'd be like, “Well, at the end of the day, I didn't make the list.” 

But I took a lot of risk. The reason I'm telling you this is I took a lot of risks during the five months that I marketed that book. I did things that I had no idea if it would work. I got on stages and did podcast interviews and news interviews that made me really uncomfortable because of different situations that would come up. I put together new launching strategies that I'd never done before. I asked for favors from people that I kind of had no business asking favors from because I didn't have necessarily solid relationships with them, which made me cringe. Like, I just did an episode about cringeworthy things. Asking for all those favors is the most cringe thing I've ever had to do.  

And so I took all these risks because I wasn't afraid to fail, genuinely. Like, I didn't want to. And failure is a really weird word to put into this conversation. But like, if I didn't make the New York Times’ bestseller list, that doesn't mean I failed with my book sales. Like, I feel like my book is changing lives every single day now, and I'm a winner in just the fact that that is true. But I made the list or I didn’t make the list. One or the other was going to happen, and I was willing to do all I could and still not make the list. I knew I wouldn’t die. I knew I’d be able to brush it off. I knew that I was strong enough to get back up. And ultimately, what I'm trying to say is I made the decision that I've got my own back. No matter what happens, whether they recognize my book as a New York Times’ best seller or not, I've got my own back.  

And so, you know, the punchline is I did make the list, even for more than one week, I was on that list, and it was a really big deal for me. But I know that even if I didn't make it—and here's what I wanted to share with you—I'd be okay. And I know that I put my heart and soul, I left everything on the field for that book launch. I did everything within my power to get it out in front of the people who needed it the most. And I kept reminding myself that I'm here to change lives. I'm not here to get accolades for this book. The ultimate end game is to change lives, and it's a really nice cherry on top if I got that bestseller list, but I didn't have to in order to know that I'm worthy, that I wrote a good book, and that I always have my own back.  

So I guess I just share this with you to say I had doubts every step of the way. I was very, very nervous and uncertain. But I'm proud of myself that I showed up with no guarantee that the bestseller list would even recognize me. And so I want to ask you, where have you shown up with no guarantee that you'd be acknowledged for it or that you would hit that goal that you were going for or that you would get what you want, but you still were willing to show up, knowing that I might not get what I want, but I'm going to do all I can so that whether I get it or not, I know I deserved it? That's essentially kind of how I looked at it. Whether I got it or not, I know I did everything in my power to hit the numbers which I needed to hit and do the kind of marketing I needed to do, full of integrity, and whether that was recognized or not, I knew I was in the game.  

And so where have you done that? And I think we need to kind of call it out because it's essential that you recognize you've probably already have done that in your personal life or business life, and you can absolutely do it again when needed.  

And, you know, telling you the story about New York Times’ best seller and all of that, I think the mindset that I've been working on or the mindset I want to cultivate around celebrating failure, I think some of the most challenging work that comes up for me is separating my inherent self-worth from my achievements. Are there any other Enneagram Threes out there nodding their head? If you resonate with this, I want you to borrow the following mantra: no matter what happens, regardless of the outcome, I am enough, I am worthy, and I love myself. I want to say it one more time because some of you need this, and I know I need it kind of daily. No matter what happens, regardless of the outcome, I am enough, I am worthy, and I love myself.  

And I had to tell myself some version of that for the last five months as I worked my buns off to get this book out into the world. I think saying this mantra has provided me with so much freedom. It allows me to work on big projects and set big goals, like my book, because in the end, I will have my own back, and I am not afraid of feelings. My coach, Corinne Crabtree, always says, “Feelings will not kill you, Amy.” You can have feelings. You can be disappointed. You can be embarrassed. You can feel shame. You can feel disappointment. Did I already say that one? You can have all of these feelings, and they won't kill you. But at the end of the day, I have my own back, which means I know I can get back up, dust myself off, and push myself back out there.  

Okay. So I wanted to kind of share all that, but I want to move on to the second question I mentioned in the intro, and that question was, is it humanly possible to take all emotion out of the experience of failure? Because I just said, “Amy, emotions won't kill you.” It’s something I remind myself all the time. Emotions aren't going to kill you. However, is it possible to take all the emotion out of the experience of failure? That would be great. Then, I don't even have to worry about emotions hurting me, right? The answer I've landed on is no. But stick with me here because there is more of a “no, and” kind of answer.  

So I've experienced a lot of failures while building my business, one that I want—well, actually, do you want me to list a few for you? So there's small ones, like dropping my phone in the middle of a live stream that was really important. Or the webinar fully losing the audio the minute I went into my pitch. Like, the very precise minute. I have no idea what the universe was doing to me that day. But losing audio right when I went to pitch, with thousands of people on a webinar. That was, like, really bad. And then there are bigger failures, like pressing Send on an email that went out to hundreds of thousands of the wrong people. And saying something in an email that actually turned out to be really inappropriate, and I didn't know it. I just wanted to die. Like, I just was so embarrassed. So I've done a lot of things like that.  

But regardless of the size of the failure, my emotions always seem to be front and center, waiting to take the wheel. But here's what I figured out: when emotions creep in after a perceived failure, I'm strong enough to feel them. So when emotions creep in after a perceived failure, I am strong enough to feel them and not let them take me down. And by doing so, I honor the failure and immediately do the work to neutralize my emotions before they stop me in my tracks.  

So I want to take an example for my business to illustrate how this works. When I first started posting on TikTok, I felt like the biggest failure. I had heard so many of my peers talk about the incredible reach that they're getting with their videos. So I dove in head first, started creating content, and let's just say viral videos were not my experience. I saw low views and low growth, and I really did feel like a failure. I've talked about it on the podcast a few times.  

And so along with the failure came all the emotions. I was embarrassed and frustrated and disappointed in myself. There goes Scout. I don't know what he's barking at. But I had all the emotions. And then these emotions led me to think I am terrible on TikTok. No one likes me. This is a huge failure. And again, I have success in so many other areas of my business. But this dang TikTok thing, I just really was linking my results on TikTok to my worthiness as a human being and as an entrepreneur. Do you know how ridiculous that sounds when I say it? I'm well aware. I'm linking my results on TikTok to my worthiness as a human being or as an entrepreneur.  

But instead of believing that thought, I replaced it with just the facts. And that sounded something like, “I'm human. We posted a video. It got a hundred views. Moving on.” That's how you neutralize something. You take all the emotion out of it. And I've learned this over the years, and this helps me immensely. I'm human, who posted a video, and it got a hundred views. Even if it got a few thousand views, it doesn't matter. TikTok was not working for me.  

So from this neutral perspective, I celebrated failure because I knew what didn't work for my videos. “Okay, so that didn't work. Let's try something else.” So that's where the freedom comes in. This allowed me the freedom to practice and learn and ultimately use the information to test new strategies. And while it may not be possible to experience failure without any emotion, practicing neutralizing them allows you to use failure to your advantage. So the next time something doesn't work, and you tell yourself an idiot, you tell yourself you're a failure, you tell yourself you’re not cut out to do x, y, z, think about neutralizing the situation and taking all of the emotion out of it. You will see it in a different way, I promise you.  

So as we wrap up today, I want you to plan how to celebrate your next failure. Or if the word celebrate is hard for you, I challenge you to change your perspective around it. Remind yourself nothing good comes from beating yourself up. But there is a world of possibility and freedom waiting on the other side of reexamining how you view your failure.  

All right. I hope you love this Shorty episode. I often share on Tuesdays stuff that I'm kind of ruminating in my own mind, things I might be struggling with or overcoming, and I like to share them with you. So, hopefully, you like these Shorty episodes on Tuesdays. And then again I'll be back on Thursday with longer episodes, either interviews or step-by-step strategies that I use in my own business. So you get the best of both worlds. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I hope you'll continue to meet me here.  

All right, my sweet friend. I'll see you on Thursday. Take care. 

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