Nobody likes to fail. Yet failure is the secret to
success. If you haven’t been rejected a number of
times, the current mantra goes, you just haven’t
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group,
swears by this premise. At Virgin, they encourage
and even celebrate failure. There’s an underlying
theme there that, without trying something new and
failing, it’s virtually impossible to innovate and
Branson says, “Do not be embarrassed by your
failures. Learn from them and start again. Making
mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the
DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no
Wherever you are on your career path, it’s time to
acknowledge that failing is common, no matter how
hard you try to avoid it.
But here’s the thing. There’s one superhuman
quality — a mindset — every person needs to
master on their journey of failing forward.
Without it, you may as well toss in the towel now
and never try again.
I speak of resilience.
The science of resilience and how to cope well
We all face challenges and unexpected events in
our lives. The key is how well we are able to cope
with life’s surprises. In resilience, we adjust to
changes and challenges as well as develop the
ability to “spring back” emotionally after dealing
with a stressful period.
Research on resilience suggests a number of traits
to help us following difficult and stressful life
events. These characteristics for building
resilience can be divided into three major themes:
Attitude: Providing the outlook, focus, and
psychological support that can lead to personal
Resilience skill development: Learning and
applying techniques for problem solving: changing
your perception, empathic listening, and
communicating effectively with others
Healthy lifestyle: Supporting the physical and
emotional energy needed to recharge
Psychologist Rick Hanson, the New York Times
best-selling author of Resilient, says one of
every human being’s basic needs is satisfaction
(the other two needs are safety and connection).
When this need for satisfaction — whether at
work, starting a business, or pursuing your dream
of choice — is met by drawing from these four
mental resources, we become resilient.
Mindfulness: Staying present in the moment as
it is, rather than daydreaming, ruminating, or
Gratitude: Appreciating and feeling good about
what already exists
Motivation: Pursuing opportunities in the face
Aspiration: Reaching for and achieving results
that are important to us
Practicing resilience in the pursuit of your
If you’re an entrepreneur, setbacks will occur,
you can bet on that. This is why your success is
wholly dependent on your ability to bounce back
and look at each failure as a learning experience,
and a part of your failing forward journey.
Marcos Andres Antil, CEO of XumaK, a provider of
end-to-end services in the digital marketing and
e-commerce space, has an inspiring story of
Migrating as a child from a small town in
Guatemala to the vast metropolis of Los Angeles,
and having to learn English and integrate into a
new education system were some of the first
challenges he had to face and overcome.
But it did pave the way for his success later in
life. “Being resilient to different circumstances
and learning to be persistent and humble in the
face of challenges has been the base for
everything that I do,” said Antil in an email.
“Entering the field of computer science at the
university — without knowledge of programming,
and then applying these acquired skills to create
XumaK required will and persistence,” he said.
XumaK (an ancient Mayan word that means “to
bloom”) survived the brutal 2008 financial crisis
with fewer than 20 employees, and now thrives with
more than 150 employees implementing dozens of
digital marketing solutions around the world.
“We continue evolving [while] following XumaK’s
true values — always going the extra mile, [and] always seeking excellence in all that we do,” said
The opposite of a resilient mind
Having a coping mechanism when facing hurdles or
getting crushed is key to bouncing back. Wrong
ways to cope with failure include “freezing in
place” or “running around chaotically,” says
psychologist Steven Hayes, Nevada Foundation
Professor in the behavior analysis program at the
University of Nevada, Reno.
Other behaviors shown to be counterproductive
include avoiding your emotions, harshly judging
your thoughts, rehashing the past, fearfully
anticipating the future, and acting impulsively.
The right way to cope, says Hayes, is to accept
your thoughts and feelings and view them with
curiosity. At the same time, think consciously
about what you really care about in life, and how
you want to be in the world. Then, says Hayes,
organize your behavior around those values you’ve
identified as near and dear to you.