132: Using Failure as Fuel | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
July 24, 2019   |   Episode #:

132: Using Failure as Fuel

In This Episode:

Today I’m going to be talking about reframing failure and facing our fear of failing. I share a few stories about some of the most successful people in the world and how they failed but got back up again and pushed past their failures to success. I also share a story about how I almost let a $45,000 mistake cause me to give up and how this failure led me to successfully grow a seven-figure business.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Fear stands in the way of your greatness.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I recover after I’ve failed?
  • How do I stop feeling like an imposter?
  • What can I do to gain back my confidence?
  • How do I decide if the risk is worth it

Key Topics in the Show

  • Getting back up again after a failure

  • Coming to grips with the fact that experiencing failure doesn’t mean you’re a failure

  • Embracing failure as it occurs

  • Becoming fearless and overcoming obstacles in your life

  • Examples of people (including me!)  who turned their failure into fuel for the life they wanted

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to Season 11 of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a A podcast 

focused on finding true fulfillment and happiness through the power of productivity. Join Tanya this season as she explores the theme of small changes for big impact. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes to Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast. 

Now here’s your host, Tanya Dalton. 

Hello, hello everyone, welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 132. We’re continuing on our theme of season 11 with that topic of small changes for big impact, and today we’re talking about using failure as fuel. So, in this episode, we’re going to talk about the F word. That’s right: failure, which is sometimes seen as a worse word to say than the other F Word out there. 

But today we’re going to work on reframing failure and facing our fear of failure. Instead of letting it defeat us, I want us to use failure as an opportunity to springboard us forward. I’m going to share with you how some really successful people that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of have had to overcome failures in order to become successful. And we’re going to talk about how we can change our perspective, how we can shift how we feel about failure, and instead of seeing it as something that’s holding us back or dragging us down, seeing it as something that is actually propelling us forward. 

So, let’s begin with that F word: failure. What is it about that word that makes everyone cringe? Something about it makes us immediately feel ashamed and makes us want to hang our heads down. We tend to beat ourselves up well past the point of remorse when we have something that fails, as if the failure itself wasn’t bad enough. 

For some reason, as we grow in age, most of us have acquired this learned response about failure. And it’s not a positive response, because we do everything we possibly can to avoid failure at all costs. But the truth is, we didn’t really start out this way, did we? Our parents didn’t tell us to quit trying when we took our first baby steps and wobbled and swayed back and forth and then fell down. No, they taught us to pick ourselves back up, try to take more steps, even if it was the umpteenth time that we had fallen. They didn’t say, “Oh well. She’s not able to walk on the first try, so we’ll just throw in the towel. She’ll never be able to walk.” No, they taught us resilience. They taught us to brush ourselves off and get back up. 

And they taught us that same concept as we continued to try new things throughout our youth. Like when we tried to learn how to ride a bike and we fell and we skinned our knee, we weren’t told to put the bike away and never do it again. We were given Band-Aids and kisses and encouraged to get back on that bike and we did it. We fell down, we got back up, we fell down again, We got back up on that bike and then eventually we learned how to ride it. And I’m sure you can think of dozens of 

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other examples where your parents urged you and supported you to move forward towards something, despite the adversity you were facing, despite any failed attempts. They encouraged you to push past your hesitations or reservations and to try again. 

So why is it that somewhere along the way we lose that determination and that persistence? Why do we go from a mentality of bouncing right back to sometimes not even wanting to try something at all because of the risks involved? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s another F word. Fear. Fear is the obstacle standing in the way of so many promising opportunities. 

Now remember, we’ve talked about fear in the past, and fear is okay. We don’t want to eliminate fear. Fear can be a really good thing. It’s a natural feeling that’s meant to save us from dangerous situations. But the key is not letting fear overcome 

you in situations that aren’t really detrimental or life-threatening. 

Fear of walking into a dark cave where you hear a growling sound. That’s okay, right? No need to enter a bear’s den. But we tend to let this fear st us in these places where we can’t move forward even when it’s not a deep dark cave. Even when it’s just trying out a new opportunity. It’s okay to let fear guide you for 

zy rash decisions. Sometimes, in fact, sometimes a little fear might be good to help you pause and think before just diving into the deep end. Sometimes maybe a little reflection will help you rethink things and realize that it might be better to hit the pool in the shallow end and then make your way to the deep end. Or maybe you’ll reflect and think, hey, there’s nothing to lose if I just jump in the deep end, so let’s go for it and let’s see what happens, 

A little fear can help you think things through before taking action and that’s a good thing because if the true realistic outcome of the situation isn’t going to cause major loss, then maybe you’ll determine it’s worth facing that fear. It’s good to think 

things through. 

Now when it comes to fear of failure, facing that fear is no different than facing any other fear. Your brain sees it exactly the same way. You just need to talk it out. Decide if the failure you perceive is really what’s going to happen and is that outcome really going to be the end of the world like you think it is, or maybe you’ve just blown it out of proportion. That happens too sometimes. You see, whenever we have fear, we just need to have a little bit of scrutiny and a little bit of risk analysis. And we nee to come to grips with this truth: experiencing failure doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It means you stuck your neck out there, you took a chance and it didn’t work. That doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. 

Not only that, it makes you a person who is willing to try new things, to stretch outside your comfort zone and to push against the norm. Failure doesn’t define you. Failure is simply a part of the learning process. It’s part of our path. Our failures become a part of our story. They are woven into us because they make us who we are today. We wouldn’t be where we are right now at this very moment without our failures. We wouldn’t have the same knowledge or experiences that make us, well, us. 

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We have to reframe how we feel about failure and I want to talk about how we can reframe this and how we can shift our perspective to really seeing failure as fuel. I want to talk about that in just a minute, but first I want to give a quick word from 

today’s sponsor. 

This episode has been sponsored by the University of California, Irvine or UCI. UCI has a Division of Continuing Education that features a wide assortment of courses 

taught by industry practitioners with real world experience. They have tons of specialized studies, including business and education, human resources, healthcare, project management, digital marketing, paralegal, and dozens of others. Their 100% online courses are convenient and flexible, especially for those of you who are juggling work, family, maybe even chasing after your dreams. UCI can be a great resource for anyone looking to gain credits towards a master’s degree or for those wanting to reenter the workforce after taking some time off or maybe even just to gain some new skills and knowledge to help you with that startup business. You’ve been thinking about. 

Fall registration is now open and they have a great deal for my listeners. Go to ce.uci.edu/productivityparadox and enter the promo code PARADOX to get 15% off of one of their continuing education courses. Again, that’s ce.uci.edu/productivityparadox. Don’t forget to use that code PARADOX to get 15% off of one course. This offer is valid until December 31st of 2019. I’ll also be sure to have a link in my show notes. 

I want to get back to this idea of failure, because failure isn’t something for us to fear. It’s something for us to embrace and I know you don’t believe me here. After all, who wants to fail, right? 

You see, we often think of success and failure as two very different, very separate things. You’re either a success or you’re a failure, right? Once a failure, always a failure. Well, that’s not exactly right. 

I tell you what, let’s play a little game. I’m going to share a few quick stories 1 you about people who faced failure or other setbacks and you can decide for yourself if you think that these people ended up as a success or a complete failure. I want you to see if you can first figure out who I’m describing. 

First up is a guy who had poor grades in high school. He was rejected by the niversity of Southern California, not once, but two times. He then attended California State University, Long Beach, but he dropped out and didn’t actually finish his degree until some 30 some odd years later. It sounds like someone destined for failure, right? 

Well, because he was rejected so many times, because he failed but continued to get up, he built up some serious tenacity. This guy went on to direct over 50 films and has been awarded three Oscars. You might’ve seen one or two of his films. Jaws, ET, Indiana Jones? Yeah, I would say that Steven Spielberg, who’s grossed more than $9 billion has so far done pretty good pushing past rejection and failure in an industr

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with a lot of people telling you no, that tenacity he built up? That paid off in huge dividends, wouldn’t you agree? 

Okay. Let me give you another example. Next up, we have a guy who dropped out of school at a young age. He unsuccessfully tried to join the army but was rejected. Then, one of his early business ventures went bankrupt, due to his inability to run a business and he was fired from a Missouri newspaper for not being creative 

scathing review from his editor was all the fuel that Walt Disney needed 


He went on to create a global empire based on that imagination. According to Walt, “I think it’s important to have a good heart failure when you’re young, because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it, I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when I’ve been near collapse and all that. I’ve never been afraid.” Perhaps we could all use a little more Walt Disney in us. 

All right, next one. A woman who is faced with challenges just a few years after college graduation. In her words, she described this time as, “I had failed on an epic scale,. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as possible without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me and that I’d had for myself had both come to pass. And by every usual standard I was the biggest failure I knew.” 

But despite being divorced, broke, depressed, this woman ahead and she worked on a dream that pushed her out of the dumps and into well, another world, so to speak. You might know this mother as the one who brought Harry Potter to the world. That’s right, JK Rowling and her outlook on failure is quite astounding. According to Rowling, she says, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously, you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you failed by default.” 

Her words ring so true. And here’s the thing, we could keep playing this game. We could play this for hours because there are plenty more stories like this. Albert Einstein, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Dr. Seuss, Vincent Van Gogh, Michael Jordan. Do you want me to keep going? What we’re seeing though, again and 

again and again is anyone who’s truly made it in this world, anyone who you look to, who you think has done it all or theyve achieved the pinnacle of success, I can guarantee you they have had failure somewhere because we all experience it. 

We all have times in our lives where things do not run so smoothly, where we’re not doing so well. It’s so easy to look at other people’s success and say, oh, well, they had it easy because they had X, Y, or Z, but we all overcome something. Every one of us have roadblocks and stumbling blocks. You just have to overcome them. 

So, what did all of these people do to get past their stumbling blocks? Well, they kind of used that F word again, except they kind of said Fit to failure. They didn’t let rejection or failure stop them. They chose to learn from their mistakes. They grew smarter so that when adversity came again, which it did for many people, they knew how to pivot. These failures become the breadcrumbs. That when you’re 

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walking down a path, the breadcrumbs behind you show where you’ve been. These breadcrumbs are the proof that we are resilient and that we are capable and that’s what it was for these people. They could look back and see, I’ve overcome obstacles before and I can do it again, and this is what makes them fearless. After all, they’d already failed. There’s nowhere to go but up, so they kept looking up. They kept trying, they kept going forward, sticking their necks out there. 

Rock bottom simply means there’s something good around the corner. We can’t get any lower. We just need to go get it. We have to stop looking at failure as failure and see them instead as fuel to drive us to the life we want. I know this myself because I of course, just like all of you, just like all those people we just talked about, I too have failed. 

What if I told you that I failed miserably at the very start of my business, that I had a $45,000 mistake, an epic fail, but it’s because of my failure that I was able to grow a seven-figure business? Of course, I didn’t know that was around the corner back then, but in the fall of 2014, I had just closed my thriving business to start a new company, centered around my passion for productivity. Of course, you know this as inkWELL press, and I had taken the time to plan out what I needed to do to successfully navigate months with no income for my family, but sometimes the best laid plans don’t really pan out. 

And during this time, my family had financially tightened our belts. We scraped together all of our pennies to get this business off the ground, so there were no afterschool activities and social outings. There was no extra money for anything at all. Everything we were doing was to survive and start the business. So, 1 poured my all into getting that business off the ground. But unfortunately, I had partnered with a vendor who didn’t seem to have the same goals that I had, and when it came time to receive my product, delay after delay after delay happened, pushing these deadlines back to a breaking point. 

I remember pacing the floor so much that I was shocked I hadn’t worn a trench into the hardwoods. I felt that my business was at this precipice where it could possibly fall off the cliff to complete and utter failure. So, I reached out to my vendor and I insisted I needed to get my product immediately. So, he said, okay, i’ll air freight it to you. He would cost me $4,000 to $5,000. Well, that was money I didn’t have, but I knew I needed to take a risk and I needed to find a way to cover that investment. So, I did. So, the product arrived along with a shipping bill, not for $4,000 to $5,000 but for $45,000. 

Quite frankly, I didn’t know whether to be angry or upset or to cry or to just curl myself into a ball because it was so upsetting. Talk about an utter fail. Here, I’m trying my best to keep my family together to make sure my kids get fed. And I have a $45,000 bill for air freight. And as a person who prides myself on never having any debt, I didn’t know what to do. I was at a crossroads. I could either refuse to pay and essentially close up my business before it even had a chance to start or I could swallow the bitter pill and put it on my AMEX. So, before I called the credit card 

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company, I made a conscious choice. I would use this mistake as an opportunity. This was going to be my pivot. It was going to light a fire under me to make that money back and create the biggest, best launch possible. 

And so, here’s what I learned from those mistakes. First of all, make your plans flexible. Even those best-laid plans, they need to have an escape hatch, because you know what? Life happens. Sometimes we lay out these really rigid plans and hope of avoiding anything disastrous. But by doing so, we set ourselves up for these unachievable standards. We have to allow some grace and flexibility into our planning so when we hit that bump in the road, it doesn’t steer us and drive us off course. We can use mistakes as opportunities. Mistakes are the greatest chance, the greatest opportunity we’ve got, to pivot and assess where we really want to go. I often tell people, when you have customers who are unhappy, that’s your best opportunity to wow them and convert them into loyal fans. Always remember failure is an opportunity for success. 

It’s also a chance for you to check in with your systems. We’ve all heard the saying that we can learn from our mistakes and while, yeah, this seems very trite, it’s also very true. There’s a reason why people say that. For me, you can bet that I learned how to vet my vendors a lot better. I set systems in place to avoid circumstances like this in the future with padded timelines and written expectations. 

You can also accept responsibility. When mistakes are made. Don’t hide from them. Don’t pretend they didn’t happen. Acknowledge your role in the error. Instead of wondering, how did this happen to me? Ask yourself, what could I have done better? Did I lay out my expectations clearly enough? How can I avoid this in the future? 

We’re all human and we’re all going to make mistakes from time to time. We have a choice, though. We can allow our mistakes to crush us and make us feel like failures or we can allow them to push us forwards towards the life that we really want. 

I like to tell people that my $45,000 mistake was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. It pushed me to create a series of Facebook ads that ended up being named one of the top 10 Facebook campaigns of 2014 and I did it on a shoestring budget. I had no money, right? But I pushed myself to think creatively and be outside of the box. I might not have done that if I hadn’t had my mistake. 

And because I pushed myself, I created this dynamic campaign that built my email list and allowed my launch to be an incredible success. Within a few months, I had covered my debt. Because I had made that mistake, I was pushing to cover that debt. That amazing launch was just a springboard because within 18 months, I was officially a seven-figure business. Within 24 months, my products were in national retail chains. With that momentum I had built, I was able to support more outreach efforts, like launching this podcast. More things I was able to give away for free, more planners I was able to donate. It allowed me to lead a life where I am today, with this book coming out and all these opportunities that have happened because of a 

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$45,000 mistake: a failure. Something that could have held me down but instead propelled me forward. I had to reframe how I looked at failure and you can too. 

To make this easier for you, I have a reframing failure download to help you. You can download it at TanyaDalton.com/podcast and look under 132. Seeing failure as a success is a liberating shift, but it takes some work. So, with this download we dive into some questions to help you change your perspective a bit on failures. 

What did you learn from them? How can we grow from them? How can we understand the steps we need to take in moving forward? Because that’s what’s important. Not getting stuck by the failure but using it as fuel. We can allow it to burn a fire in our bellies that pushes us to learn from those failures and become the person we really want to be. 

Those stories I shared with you earlier? They experienced failures, but they are not failures. I think many of us would say they’re monumental successes. They didn’t allow failure to be the weight that mired them down but allowed failure to be the fuel that drove them to success and you can too. Allow failure to be the fuel that drives you, that pushes you, that increases your life happiness, because it really can be. 

So, I want to encourage you to grab that download over at TanyaDalton.com/podcast and look under 132 if you haven’t gone over to look at the new website, the new Tanya Dalton site with the podcast on it, I really encourage you to do that because we’ve completely revamped it. We made it so much easier to find the downloads and find the episode, so I’d love for you to go over there and check it out. 

Now, if you’re on my newsletter list, no need for you to even head to the website, because it should be in your inbox waiting for you already. Any time that we have a free download for the podcast, we email it to you automatically that week, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter@Tanyadalton.com/email. 

All right, next week we’re going to continue our season of small changes for big impact because I have a special guest coming on the show and I cannot wait for you to meet her. 

All right, until next time, have a beautiful and productive week. 

Thanks for listening to productivity Paradox. Now we’d love to have you join the conversation. To Join Tanya’s free group simply go to Tanyadalton.com/group. 

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