I don’t love using the word “failure” and it has even be argued we should remove it from our vocabulary (“there are no failures, only lessons to be learned” right?); however, for this post, I will use this potentially controversial term for the purposes of common understanding.
And what I want to talk about is actually this idea of a “false failure”...
Stick with me a minute.
Let’s use this blog post as an example. Here's a question. If I get zero likes, reactions or comments on this blog post, is it a “failure”?
Now, based on the subject of this post, I’m assuming you have already come to the conclusion that the reaction from an audience is not the determining factor of failure or success. In fact, what we need to do is go back to the beginning and see what I set out to do.
What was my goal? That should dictate whether I’ve achieved or not achieved something. If my goal was write a blog post and it falls into the black hole that is the internet, that wasn’t a failure. I accomplished what I set out to do: write a blog post.
If my goal was write a blog post and get over 100+ likes, comments and shares, that is a different story (and I’d also be curious to dig into WHY that is my goal, but that’s for another post).
I’d want to evaluate the steps I’m taking towards that goal which can - and should - be different than if my goal was to just write the thing.
If my goal was to get a big reach and reaction, I’d probably approach a few things differently.
I might choose a specific topic over another
I’d take different actions when promoting and sharing
I’d come up with a pretty targeted strategy, sending e-mails to people and asking for reactions and thoughts.
Going back to your purpose and what your actual goal was will help you to be able to evaluate and establish if you’ve achieved or not what you set out to do. Additionally, thinking through this process at the front end will also help you adjust your goal and, as a result, the actions you take to get there.
You might be wondering: But, Kim…doesn’t everyone want every one of their blog posts to get lots of engagement? I dunno. Maybe. But, if they do, then they should change their goals and the actions they are taking beyond just posting the thing. Right?
I know. When I lay it all out like this, it seems really obvious.
But I don't always do this.
In fact, what prompted this post was a very similar scenario. I was taking external response and reaction to something as a feeling of “well, that failed,” but when I took a step back, I realized my goal was to simply do an experiment and see what happened (shout out to Jenny Lachs from Digital Nomad Girls for exciting me to set experiments instead of goals).
If you want to create something organically and through genuine connections, your approach will be different than if your goal was “get a ton of eyeballs on this.” One isn’t right or wrong. It just isn’t the same.
So, if your goal is to try something and you try something: mission accomplished! It’s kind of that simple.
Then, yes, you can go deeper: what happened after that? What lessons did I learn? That’s all just gravy.
We take that and use that info to analyze, consider, reflect and then make tweaks and changes.
What I’m going to do this week is actually audit the experiments I set for myself. What am I saying success will look like? What are the potential external factors that could get in the way or cloud my judgment into thinking something was a failure when it actually wasn’t?
In other words, where am I in danger of a “false failure” and how can I proactively protect myself from falling down that shame spiral? If I actually go back to the beginning and have tried what I set out to achieve, others’ reactions shouldn’t matter.
Caring too much about what other people think? Well, that’s a topic for another blog. And Wednesday’s therapy session.
In the meantime, back to the beginning I go.