Ep 45 // How to Deal with Failure as a High Performer

Ep 45

No one likes to fail, especially high performers or achievers, but it happens to everyone at some point. Dealing with these feelings of failure and disappointment can either be productive or hold you back in business. In this episode, Akua teaches four helpful strategies to help leaders cope with these setbacks. They can be more resilient and confident and get back to working towards their ambitious goals, despite a few bumps in the road.

As Akua discusses, failure is a very personal thing. There isn’t one “right” way to deal with failure (though there may be some wrong ways), and people deal with disappointment and failure in their own time and process it differently. We all have things we are especially sensitive to failing at and other things that don’t feel as important. External and internal pressures can also contribute to our attitudes about failure. Akua stresses that because failure is personal, relying on personal relationships to pull us through these setbacks isn’t always sensible. Sometimes others just aren’t equipped to help because they have their own attitudes around failure. Creating time and space to process is important. 

The four-step process Akua outlines here will help you process your own feelings of disappointment in a healthy way (without toxic positivity) and help you realize that these feelings are temporary and can provide opportunities for learning and self-exploration.  

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What's Covered in this Episode About Failure Processing

  • How in business, creating distance between your service/product and your personal self is important.
  • How Akua personally deals with disappointment and failure as a high achiever. 
  • Understand negative thoughts are normal but can easily spiral if not kept in check.
  • Akua shares the four things she shares with her clients to help deal with disappointment and failure.
  • Getting a new perspective from an outside party (someone who doesn’t know you well) can help you deal with disappointment. 
  • Keep your value and mission top of mind to help you work through temporary failures.
  • Learn to get comfortable sitting with uncomfortable feelings.
  • Reflect on past experiences and recognize the times when you were able to succeed, and the times you failed but were able to move forward afterward. 
  • Focusing on the positive and on your small wins can help bring success to the present. Other ideas: processing and accepting. Create space and time to deal with things. Protect our time and honor time to process and accept. 
  • Look at the data, not the drama. Use data to create attainable goals. 

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "The goal isn't to dwell on what went wrong yesterday, it's to discover what you can do better today." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "We don't have to be happy all the time. And we can take time off, whether that's five minutes, or longer than that, to deal with a failure and deal with disappointment." - Akua Nyame-Mensah
  • "What we focus on grows. And so once again, we do need to take the time, and we need to take space to reflect on something that didn't go well or failure. But it's equally as important to spend even more time focusing on the things that you have done and you're looking to do." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Mentioned in How to Deal with Failure as a High Performer

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

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  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 45 about How to Deal with Failure as a High Performer

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time, and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of the open door conversations podcast. I have a very interesting topic I'm covering today. And for me, this is a topic that I had to deal with this year because earlier this year, I went through something where I just felt like things aren't going my way I felt a bit like a failure actually, in my business were a certain portion of my business. And so I thought it'd be really interesting to take a second to really reflect on how I deal with failure, and do a little bit of research on how we can deal better with failure, especially if you're a high performer. If you're a high achiever, someone who has done incredible things in their life in their career, sometimes it can be even more difficult for people like that. And I would consider myself, you know, a high performer or a high achiever. And sometimes it's incredibly difficult for me to deal with failure. So if that sounds interesting to you keep listening. So when it comes to thinking about failure, and when I was putting together this podcast episode, with my notes, what I really wanted to do was share a four step process that I came up with, and that I think, has really been reinforced based on conversations I've had with my clients. And based on other interviews, I've also had, both for my podcast and also a previous interview series that I did that is on YouTube. But I think for me, when I think about failure, I think about both the internal pressure I have right to the pressure I put on myself to a certain extent. And then also external pressure, right, so thinking about what other people potentially think of me and maybe even say, so maybe they're even explicit about how I should be somewhere or how I should be achieving a certain thing, or how they're surprised that I'm at a certain point in my career, or in my business or even in my life. So I think that a part of it. For me, at least. And as I reflect on sort of what happened to me earlier this year is that I feel that there's something that I need to prove to a certain extent, to myself and then sometimes others. So this four step process that I'm going to share really just keeps in mind that as we deal with failure, it's a very personal thing, I don't think that there's any one right way necessarily to deal with failure. Maybe there are some wrong ways potentially, especially if the ways include sort of using substances or doing something that's harmful to yourself or others. But at the end of the day, when I reflect on how I typically engage with failure to deal with failure, not everyone is equipped, right? Not everyone is open or ready to have a conversation about failure, even with themselves, right, let alone other people. And so I've learned this the hard way, right when I'm thinking about people in my personal life. So in my family, or even with people that I've worked with, or people that I've worked with, you know, that worked directly for me as an employee, not everyone is ready to deal with failure or even talk about it. So just being very sensitive to that fact. And I think a key thing here also is that you can't just always rely on personal relationships to support you, as you work through failure. As you process failure, and a little later on, I'll talk through some of the tools and techniques and some of the things that I keep in mind in relation to this. But you can't always just rely on personal relationships to help you work through this sometimes, because some other people can hardly support themselves with disappointment or failure. So there may be times where you do need to talk to a therapist or talk to a counsellor. And there's nothing wrong with that. So really just recognising that dealing with failure is something that I think everyone has an issue with can be a challenge for everyone. If the thought that pops into your head or the story that you tell yourself in relation to dealing with failure, or things not going your way, or disappointment is that I have to be happy or positive all the time, I'm going to share a resource in the show notes around you know, toxic positivity, because we don't have to be happy all the time. And I think a part of people not necessarily feeling comfortable talking about failure in the right context. And also dealing with it comes from us feeling like we have to constantly look like we have things together and that things are going our way, right? Especially if we are seen or perceived as a high achiever, or someone who's been able to do a lot or even has a lot, right, who are you, potentially, to share this or to feel bad for something not going your way. So just wanted to share that resource, it'll be in the show notes. And I think that it gives you a will give you an interesting perspective on how we don't have to be happy all the time. And that we can take time off, whether that's five minutes, or longer than that, to deal with a failure and deal with disappointment. So this this episode was actually inspired by a tweet that I put together while attempting to, to create a Twitter thread. So one of the things that I do a lot in my business and also in my life is always try to push myself outside my comfort zone, a part of it is recognising that I will fail, right. But for some reason, there's certain things that I don't mind failing at, and not getting engagement, not getting likes, that's I'm fine at failing at that. But there's other things that don't necessarily aren't as easy necessarily for me to get over. And that typically has to do with my products and my services and things that I'm building, it's a bit harder for me to sometimes get over that. So when I was reflecting on putting together this, this Twitter thread, you know, I really, you know, started thinking about when have I failed in my life. And like I said, my personal life, that's also very hard sometimes to get over. I don't know why for me, but for some reason, things in my personal life have definitely been a little bit harder for me to get over, especially as it relates to personal relationships, or romantic relationships. But in terms of my professional life, I have failed a lot. I've also lost a lot. And I think it's so interesting because I used to be paid to fail. When I think back to my first full time opportunity. When I was working for a fast growing startup. That was my job. I failed every single day as a startup leader trying to figure out how to monetize this website trying to figure out how to get more customers. And I was okay with that. I also think that I fail a lot as a service provider as well. But it's a little bit different because it's a little bit more personal, I think when you're a service provider, and your business is pretty much your name. And so learning to create some distance has been really important for me as I deal with failure, because it's something that comes naturally, I think, for any human right, any of us who are living. So how do I deal with with failure as an overachiever with failure as a, you know, a high achiever. And the way I put together this tweet initially was about like, you know, it was about sort of how do you deal with a bad day, right. And for me, this bad day, or the way I was thinking about it was, you know, sort of this feeling of failure, and recognising that there are a lot of negative thoughts that creep in for me, when I start to feel like I'm not doing as well as I should, or I could do better. And allowing those thoughts to creep in can go from being a bad second or a bad minute to an entire bad day. And so when trying to combat having an entirely bad day. And once again, I do think it's really important to create time and space to process emotions and to process failure. But you know, someone who now works for themselves. And even prior to this when I was working for other people, I do need to be able to step up and get some things done, especially if I can't take the entire day off. So these were four things that I tried to keep in mind that I continue to try and keep in mind. And I also share with my clients. So the first thing that I have here, and there are just four steps that I'm going to share, and then I'll get into some additional techniques that we can think a little bit more about. But the first thing I have on here is that I've found that it's best to try to get past these thoughts right in these feelings of being a failure by having a conversation. So it's a lot of times about getting out of my head and talking through them with someone who can provide a new perspective. If I can't find somebody else to have this conversation with. I might just had the conversation with myself right? And just really recognising that that can really be the first step that usually helping to break that that path I don't and they call it sort of a pattern interrupt comes from having a conversation with somebody else. And typically someone who is not close to me as well. The second thing that I try and keep in mind or remind myself is that I'm willing to try new things and discover what really resonates with me. So I try to step into this perspective of recognising that it's really through going through challenges going outside my comfort zone, and sometimes having these these uncomfortable emotions, where I'll find what really works for me, and what makes sense for me as well. The third thing I have on here is that I take some time to think through my past experiences, right, asking myself, when do I feel most authentically myself? What was I doing? What words do I associate with some of these experiences? And what can I create by just being myself? Right? So recognising that there are other situations where I was able to show up, I was able to succeed, that, you know, there are times where, you know, I was down, but I was able to get up and just reminding myself of that can be incredibly helpful. All right, the last thing I try and do is really about trying to help limit these negative thoughts for the long run. And the way I have found that works really well for me is that I talk and typically this is to myself, so it might not be to others. So I'll talk or I'll think about or journal about my wins, no matter how small, right? I will also journal and talk about my expectations and my next steps in present terms, right? Because I think a lot of times, what will happen is that because I'm so focused on being negative, I don't take the time and I don't spend any energy on reflecting on the positive, right. So once again, this is not about positive. You know, this is not about being like, you know, overly positive or positive toxicity, but just really recognising that what we focus on grows. And so once again, we do need to take the time, and we need to take space to reflect on something that didn't go well or failure. But it's equally as important to spend even more time focusing on the things that you have done and you're looking to do, right. So we can have that sense of fulfilment, that sense of success right now, we don't have to wait for it to happen. And when we are thinking about emotions, and states, and I don't want to get too into this, maybe I'll create another podcast episode about this. But really just recognising that if we focus on those positive memories, we can help to disrupt some of those other emotions. But at the same time, it's still important that we work through some of those uncomfortable emotions if we need to. So in summary, what have I shared here, right, what are some of the steps that we can take if we are working through failure if you are working through some disappointments, right. And the first thing right I put on here is making sure that you have a conversation with someone that you trust. The second thing I have on here is reminding yourself of your values and your mission. Right. So you know, for me, a lot of it is recognising that I do want to challenge myself and I do want to work for myself. So I need to work through these failures, especially in my business, if I want to do that. The third thing is reflecting on past experiences and wins, right. So you have, you know, been able to get through this in the past, you have been able to get through challenges and failures in the past, and you'll be able to do it again. And then last but not least, looking forward, right? So recognising that you can journal about your wins now. And you can think about what you want to do next. And that can be incredibly empowering, and also incredible and helping you move forward. Another resource that might be helpful when we are thinking about, you know, working through disappointment working through failure is another podcast episode that I did on self love and self worth, right? We are so hard on ourselves. So if that's something that seems like it resonates, I'll make sure that I also put that in the show notes. And you can take a listen to that episode, because I think I do a really good job of talking through some of the things that you can do to help you work through that. Alright, so what else do we want to keep in mind. And so I have some just additional notes here that I wanted to share outside of those four sort of steps, I think that everyone can work through that could be relevant to everyone who's dealing with disappointment or dealing with failure. So this first thing I have on here, and I mentioned this earlier on is processing and accepting, right? So we do need to create space and time for that. Sometimes we can always deal with things immediately. So making sure that we we protect our time, right, we honour time to process and we honour time to accept and that's gonna look a little bit different for everyone. The second thing I have on here is reframing. And so reframing I think comes along with when we are reminding ourselves of our values and our mission and we're reflecting on past wins and experiences. And being able to overcome reframing can be an excellent and very useful tool because it's not all doom and gloom, but it's also important to recognise that we shouldn't Oh Please refrain if we are dealing with some of those emotions that are a little bit more difficult to sometimes work through such as guilt or shame, right? So toxic positivity is not the way forward. So don't always refrain those emotions, right? But you can definitely reframe the experience, but give yourself the time and space really to process and to accept those emotions. All right, the next two things I have on here, and the SEC, this one actually is is from a coach, right. So this is a coach that I've worked with, I worked with her for about two years in a programme. And this is something that she talks about so much, and I think can be very helpful when we talk about this concept of reframing right. So if you're a business owner, if you're someone that has some level of being able to collect your numbers, and this is something that I did, you know, two months ago when I felt like something I was working on, so a programme I was working on, that was a failure, looking at the data, and not focusing on the drama, right. So in this case, the drama could be more of those emotions and feelings that come up. But just really focusing on the data. And recognising that there are limits, right, but we can look at the data and use that data to make better decisions moving forward and better goals moving forward. So a huge part about talking about failure and disappointment is actually expectations. Right. So once you've cultivated your self awareness to recognise that something isn't going your way, or that you have a certain emotion that you are dealing with that you need to process, you can decide to engage, right, you want to process it, you want to work through it. And then you can set better expectations for yourself moving forward or set better expectations for your team, whoever is involved with supporting you to make sure that you can achieve this goal or achieve whatever you're looking to do. So I'm going to make sure that I also link up my goal setting podcast in the show notes as well. I feel like I'm linking up a lot of other podcast episodes. But what you'll start to see right as I continue to create podcast episodes is that a lot of the things that I'm sharing and talking about really do work with each other. So when we talk about data, not drama, a huge part of that is setting better goals. And so I think that podcast episode will be incredibly helpful for you. If you feel like you're setting goals that are not setting you up for success, right that you're setting goals where you don't really have the resources or the support to get there. So that's that's the third thing in this part where I wanted to talk about some other techniques to help you really move forward when you're thinking about failure and disappointment. All right, the last thing I wanted to share here, and this is just reiterating what I mentioned before, but just making sure that you open yourself up to getting support to shift. And that's probably not going to look like your partner, or a parent, that could really be someone that you potentially invest in, like a coach or a therapist or a counsellor, depending on the area of your life that you feel that you need some support with or a different perspective of. Alright, so I hope sharing those additional sort of tools and techniques or thoughts that take right, those four steps that I shared a bit further were helpful. And end, what I wanted to do is actually just share an Adam Grant, I think this was a tweet, this is something that I think he posted on Instagram. And I thought that it was incredibly relevant to this conversation that I was sharing today. And so Adam grants in this post, it's just I think so. So great, right to really help sort of frame this conversation that I wanted to have with you today. But he writes, it isn't failure that holds you back. It's the emotional baggage you carry afterward, self doubt, regret, disappointment, and embarrassment, our instruction manuals for learning. The goal isn't to dwell on what went wrong yesterday, it's to discover what you can do better today. And I couldn't think of a better way to end this conversation than with this quote. So I hope that you find it somewhat inspiring or motivating. I hope that you've also been able to take away some nuggets of wisdom that you can implement right away. And I'd really encourage you to take a listen to some of the additional podcast episodes in the show notes. If you feel like some of the things I shared those pieces can be incredibly helpful for your leadership journey to end I just wanted to let you know that I'll be taking a break a podcast a break in August. So just keep that in mind. I will be taking a break in August, but I will be back in September. And I'm really excited about it. I know that we are a few months to August, but just wanted to put it out there because I'm making sure that I'm working in different parts of my business so I can take that break and also that the people support me or the people that do support me can also take that break as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen, stay safe and stay sane. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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