On this week’s episode of Let’s Talk About…, Elise sits down with co-host Sarah Joseph to talk about getting better at failing.
Sarah is a certified emotional intelligence coach whose mission is to help you get comfortable with your emotions and master them to live a more purposeful life. She understands how our lack of emotional management can impact the longevity of our relationships and can inspire our emotional healing by plugging into our most powerful tool, the Mind. Her philosophy is that our emotions show up in every aspect of our lives and it’s your right to learn how to manage them effectively to your advantage.
On this week’s episode, Elise and Sarah talk about failing, fear of failure, the benefits of failing, and how to get better at failing.
“Failure is something that you actually don’t wanna avoid. It’s something that you wanna pursue and it helps you with goal setting and it helps you make changes along that way. .” Sarah tells Elise on Let’s Talk About.
Check out our show’s full transcript below.
[00:00:00] Elise: Hi everyone, and welcome to this week. Let’s talk about. This week we’re talking all about how to get better at failing with emotional intelligence coach Sarah Joseph. Hi, Sarah.
[00:00:14] Sarah: Hello. How are you? I’m good, thanks. How are you? I’m good and again, super excited
[00:00:20] Elise: for this one. Well, and I, I think it would be great if you could like preface, um, a little bit about why you wanted to talk about that and I’m really, or this topic.
Sorry. I’m really happy that you picked this topic because two years before, Pre Covid, we were set to do this whole three-part series with WeWork about taboo topics that women didn’t talk about. And failure was one of them. And actually the series was called Let’s Talk About, um, and then Covid happened and we changed the series into this podcast.
So Wow. It’s kind of like a full circle. Um, I guess, I don’t know full circle, but like a little bit of a moment or connection there that this was one of the original topics. That we wanted to talk about as, let’s talk about before it was even a podcast, because I do think we always talk about like, you know, how to achieve success, um, but failure is inevitable on the way to success, right?
So 100%. Yeah. Why did you
[00:01:21] Sarah: wanna talk about it? I wanted to talk about it because I feel like it was something that I definitely experienced even to this day, right? Mm-hmm. And I think failure is definitely a part of life. And learning how to manage it will definitely help aid in your success in the future, in anything, in any part of your life.
Mm-hmm. Whether that’s relationship, whether that’s finances, whether that’s a career, whether that’s money, whatever it is that you. Try to succeed in life Failure is a part of that. And something I started doing more recently was extending, um, like just learning more about what I wanted to do as a coach and what came up with success coaching.
Uh, I started this series on my Instagram. I. Uh, called the Secrets to Success, and I give a tidbit every Thursday at 12, um, on a little carousel, on 10 slides of what it is, like, what my secret is, and the the little tips in there that can help to get you closer to achieving that. And what’s great is that I found a way to incorporate emotions into success because success is highly emotional, right?
There are so many emotions swirling around when it comes to fear of failure, perfectionism, and just so many other things. That impact our success on a daily basis. And I think getting clear on how to manage those emotions, but bring it into our success and the lives we wanna live is so important. So I’ll now be extending emotional intelligence coaching alongside success coaching and bridging the two in my career moving forward.
So I’m really excited about that. But that’s what kind of initiated this conversation today. And how to get better at failing is probably the first and most biggest secret that I have. Um, and I’m excited to share that today. Yeah, I’m,
[00:03:05] Elise: I’m excited to hear it too, because I’m not great at failing. I think sometimes.
I think probably no one, it’s gr well, there might be some people that are getting great at it, but hopefully we get a little better at it. Um, I, I definitely though have had situations where like, Even maybe failing is out of control, out of my control, if that makes sense. Like getting let go from a job and then feeling like you were doing a good job and, but you still failed at that.
So that’s an interesting feeling because you do feel like you gave effort, um, and maybe that shouldn’t have been the outcome. Mm-hmm. But it still was, and so there’s, so there’s the failure where I think you have. Control over it in a way, right? Like, and I’ll use another example, like when we do like a pop-up shop or something, it could fail, but I have control over that in a way.
Like it’s me who’s picking the location, the brands, putting the team together, like all of that. Like I could kind of control a little bit of those variables. So I guess that kind of failure almost maybe feels more personal. Mm-hmm. And then there’s the failure where it is outta control, where like I have.
Been let go. And our team, I think this is actually probably happening to a lot of people right now in tech anyway, there’s a lot of layoffs happening. Um, and that’s like also this fear of failure, but something that was out of your control, right? To some, right? Like, so I don’t know if they feel different or they end up feeling the same.
[00:04:40] Sarah: I feel like in the weirdest way, if you think about both scenarios, they both feel the same, right? Yeah. Kinda. Yeah. They both feel pretty shitty. Yeah. Right. But today what we’re gonna get into is a lot of how we can reframe that. Okay. Cause it’s very interesting at what the true definition of failure is and what we make it mean.
So there’s completely different things.
[00:05:02] Elise: Okay, so we often hear the term fear of failure.
Um, I don’t know if everyone has the same definition of that. Can you take us through like what that means?
[00:05:12] Sarah: So when you think of fear of failure, what it typically looks like is avoiding a situation, uh, where you see a potential failure or you could see the potential to fail. Essentially, you’re avoiding the situation because you are afraid that you might not perform well.
So it comes down to performance and what is expected of you. And if you can’t meet those expectations, that fear starts to build up and you typically tend to avoid. Attempting anything that has a failure in it, you typically tend to stick to the same things. You do the same things over and over. There’s no real change because there’s nothing that’s unexpected, especially failure.
Right? And this could be anything in your life from being afraid, uh, to fail at a relationship. Being afraid to fail at a career, for example, uh, fail at a project at work, uh, fail an exam, disappointing others, or even starting that business that you know, you’ve always wanted to start. So essentially when we think of just the word failure, if we take the word fear out of it, what we’re looking at is a lot of people see it as a lack of success, the inability to achieve success if I’m failing.
And what’s funny is that throughout this podcast and throughout just success coaching in general, if you follow me on my page, you’ll notice. That failure is actually something you wanna pursue in order to achieve success and. It’s actually okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to try things that have a potential risk of failure because everything you try for the first time, you won’t be good at it, right?
Anything you do for the very first time is new and it’s exciting and it should feel exciting and it shouldn’t feel, you know, fearful, but if it does, investigate that. So we’re gonna talk a little bit about that today and about why it’s really important to pursue failure instead of avoiding it.
[00:06:59] Elise: And I’d imagine that fear of failing, like I always think when it comes to making a decision, I feel like if you had the idea and you got to a certain point in it, right.
And I’ll use the idea of like opening a retail store. Cause that’s what we’re in the middle of right now. Hmm, you signed the lease, you’re feeling good. Then you have like maybe a moment of like, oh, what if this doesn’t work? And then you don’t, you don’t feel so good. It’s like helped me to like lean into like the, just keep going mindset.
[00:07:32] Sarah: Um, just push through kind of
[00:07:34] Elise: mindset. Yeah. Because there was a reason you made the decision to begin with,
[00:07:39] Sarah: right? So there’s
[00:07:40] Elise: an, if there’s that fear of failure in the middle of your process, does that make sense?
[00:07:45] Sarah: Right, and I think what really helps with that is going in with the anticipation that. You are going, there is a potential to fail.
Like going in knowing that there’s a predetermined idea that anything I try right now for the first time, there is gonna be a percentage of failure there and acknowledging it and instead of disregarding it completely. And what that does is it kind of puts you in the driver’s seat a bit and it gives you more control than you thought you had before because now you know what to expect, right?
Mm-hmm. Again, that comes later when we work through the fear. But in the beginning, if you were just starting out, working through the fear is gonna be the most important part, and then going into reframe it will help you to analyze, okay, well if there is a 50% chance that I fail at this, there’s also a 50% chance that I succeed.
Right. So you’re banking on both and understanding that this specific. Situation or thing that I’m doing requires an equation of both. It could go both ways, right? And if you’re equa in your equation, if you’re accounting for failure, then you won’t be blindsided because you’re accounting for it, you’re leaving room for it, you’re leaving.
Space within yourself and within the company or within, you know, the thing that you’re doing to fail at it and give yourself space and time to be flexible and change so, and grow with that failure. So there’s a lot that can be learned there. So it’s interesting that you mentioned that.
[00:09:08] Elise: So where does the fear part come from?
That’s like, I’d imagine like the wanting the, you mentioned perfection earlier. I’m imagining it has something to do with that. Hundred
[00:09:19] Sarah: percent. Yeah. So when we talk about the fear of failure and where it comes from, you could probably think back to your earliest years of childhood where you were, you know, raised with the belief that there was no room at the table, you know, for mistakes.
And I know this was me, right? Like I know growing up there was no room, at least in my, like my parents’ type of parenting and the way they. Raised me to be, there was no room to fail, right? You were not pat, you didn’t get a pat on the back for failing, but you got a pat on the back for succeeding, right?
So it really conditions the way that you think about failure as a good or bad thing. And if it wasn’t from your upbringing or your childhood, right? That fear could have even started in the education system, right? So just going to school and receiving grades and that grade system also really teaches you what.
Failure is, or what good is or what is socially acceptable in school, right? So let’s say that you do make a mistake. And let’s bring the example home where I get a bad grade or you get a bad grade. It’s maybe a bad grade to your parents or to you. Well, to your parents at the time is less than an A. Maybe it’s not an F.
Maybe it’s not a C, maybe it’s not a B. Maybe it’s less. Anything less than an A is is. Not a no-no. Right? So let’s say you bring that home. Maybe you get scolded, right? Maybe you get yelled at. Maybe you get grounded, right? Maybe you are told that you’re stupid and you’re dumb, right? Maybe you get punished for it, right?
Like I. Maybe you were physically abused. I know. I was like, I was just beat and told to like, to go in time out, uh, for getting a bad grade because I was just incompetent. Right? And that really leaves marks on your failure and what you presume it to be. And let’s say that happens. What you are left with are those hurtful feelings of embarrassment, right?
You’re left with those hurtful feelings of feeling stupid, ab. Feeling incompetent in a, you feel like you have an inability to achieve success, right? You just see yourself as not a successful person. Maybe you feel disappointed, right? Or maybe you see yourself as anything less than perfect, right? So, What starts to happen is as this neuro pathway is kind of growing and changing and you’re learning as a child, what’s happening is you are now learning that as a child, if I fail, bad things happen to me.
Right? And bad things happen to me. Might not just be your parents’ behavior towards you, but the. Feelings that happened to, to you after the fact. So the painful feelings of that sadness, that rejection or that disapproval is something that you don’t know how to manage being a child. Because our emotions are so big and we’re so small, and at that time in our childhood, we’re not learning about emotional management.
So what’s. Going on inside internally is also worse, is also 10 times worse than what’s actually happening around us. So we’re pretty much avoiding those painful feelings to ever surface again. And that’s what triggers the perfectionism complex, right? So as you grow older, what ends up happening is if bad things happen to me when I fail, I’m gonna avoid failure at all costs.
Right now, I just never wanna feel those painful feelings ever again. And what I’ll do instead is, Do things where I know I will succeed 100% of the time. Right? So that’s kind of the narrative in our mind. So again, going back to doing things that are comfortable doing things we’ve done before, not trying new things, and essentially the perfectionism complexes that need to get everything right and perfect right, and perfectly flawless.
Um, and that’s essentially the coping mechanism that we use to avoid the painful feelings as a result of failing that we felt before that we didn’t know how to manage that we hated, and it just, we couldn’t, we didn’t know how to, we didn’t know how to manage them. So perfectionism at its core, if you think about it, like an onion, and I love thinking about emotions like onions.
Because Shrek is great for that infinite line. Emotions are like onions and ogres are like onions. And if you think of perfectionism as just an onion on the outer layer, you have perfectionism on the layer inside you have fear of failure. And on the layer in be beneath that is self-doubt. So there’s this massive self-doubt that we put on ourselves when it comes to failure and what we make it mean about ourselves when we fail
[00:13:43] Elise: well, that’s really, it makes total sense that perfectionism would be related to that fear of failing. And it also, like we talked a little bit about this earlier, and you mentioned this earlier, that failure is essential to success. And I’d imagine, because you have to be, it’s probab and you tell, obviously you’ll tell us the right answer.
But when I think through what you’ve just said, um, It’s essential to success because if you don’t get comfortable with the idea of failing, you won’t succeed either. Mm-hmm. Because you probably won’t start. Exactly right. Okay. Did I nail it?
[00:14:21] Sarah: You nailed it. Exactly, Jack. So that’s actually where I was going with it.
Ok. Right now, in your adult life, you might notice as a result of those, you know, that, that teaching in your childhood or that traumatizing experience in your childhood about failure and what you made it mean and what other people told you to make it mean that you were incompetent, stupid, didn’t know enough, aren’t enough, right?
Now in your adult life, you might stop trying new things because it comes with that risk of feeling those painful emotions again, and you just wanna avoid from them sort of resurfacing again. So what you do is you avoid re resist and reject your emotions. So essentially what we’re really doing, we’re not actually afraid of failure, and I’m gonna get into that a little bit.
We’re not afraid of failure. We’re afraid of what we make it mean. We’re afraid of what? Of those painful feelings servicing again, it’s just failure happens to. Come up when it comes, when we talk about those painful feelings. So we’ll get a little bit into that today too.
[00:15:16] Elise: It’s like a way to kind of bucket those feelings, I guess.
And it’s interesting when you talk about a child growing up and specifically in school, right? Because school definitely measures success and failure. You mentioned in the grade system, like it’s mm-hmm. It’s inevitable and it’s very, it’s probably one of the very clear examples of success versus failure or even sports success of men failures you lose.
Yeah. Um, I would imagine it’s very hard for a child that doesn’t learn in a certain way to go through this specific education system. And then it also makes me think like, I know we have things like Montessori school and things like that, but I wonder when we’re gonna change the way we teach. Mm-hmm.
Kids. Right. And like, don’t say that it’s this test that you have to get. Right. Because as you were talking, you mentioned that, I’m like, wow, I don’t think I’ve learned, or sorry, not learned. I don’t think I’ve used. Many, if any of the skillsets in like finite math, never use that in my life. Um, I guess economics, cause I studied business fine.
Like maybe certain things, but then there’s other things where you’re like, oh wow, those actually didn’t impact on my success as a human later in life, quote unquote success. Mm-hmm. Right. Like. Get that. That’s just an interesting, I’m sure there’s other podcasts for those debates, but that’s just an interesting kind of take
[00:16:38] Sarah: and you’re completely right.
I think something that I know when I was. Kind of looking at my life and where I want to take my coaching. Eventually, I wanted to get to a place in my career where I extend life skills, coaching to schools and public schools to teach children that it is okay to fail. Because what’s interesting is, as you were talking, I went.
Remember that podcast we talked about how the brain works on reward? Mm-hmm. So as a child, you were grown up seeing that when you failed, you didn’t get a reward, you were punished, right? And when you did succeed, you got a reward. So the narrative now as you’re learning to reframe is, how can we reward ourselves when we fail?
And how can we feel positively about it when we fail? Because if we can master those two things, Things we can get much closer to feeling and being okay with success and feeling good about it and knowing that it is a positive thing. Uh, but that’s just a little tidbit in there. If you are looking at success, looking to achieve success, look at ways that you can reward your failure so that your brain can recondition into a new pattern, into new belief.
[00:17:41] Elise: So that’s one of the ways we can kind of get better at failing.
[00:17:43] Sarah: That’s one of the ways. Yeah. Yeah. And, but that comes kinda way later after you’ve processed all the fear.
[00:17:49] Elise: Okay. So what, can you take us through that? How we get better at failing?
[00:17:53] Sarah: So I have a little quote when I was looking at this question and it says, we learn more from our failure than from our success. Not only do we find out what doesn’t work so that we can adjust to our future attempts, we learn about ourselves in the process and gain a bit of empathy towards others.
That might be struggling as well. So it’s very interesting because it’s essentially saying that we’re gonna learn so much more about ourselves. We learn so much more about ourselves, ourselves through failure rather than success. When you think about a successful moment, you probably achieve it and then you talk about it, but then you might never talk about it again until someone brings it up and then you end up talking about the failure way more than you talk about the success. You talk about how you triumph, you talk about your process, you talk about how many times you failed that, and that creates empathy for other people, right? So what’s great is it develops a really good growth mindset and it helps you to adjust and become flexible and adapt to certain situations.
Failure is something that you actually don’t wanna avoid. It’s something that you wanna pursue and it helps you with goal setting and it helps you make changes along that way. So change your mind and change it again, right? So it helps you to develop the idea that not everything, uh, happens perfectly the way you expect it, because life isn’t perfect, right?
There’s no such thing as perfect people. Therefore, there’s no such thing as a perfect situation. And here’s an analogy that I really like that helped me when I was learning how to reframe failure and what it meant. So failure makes you stronger, and here’s what I mean. It makes you more resilient. When you think of a baby and you think of a baby learning how to walk for the first time, you’re looking at this baby walk and she’s walking and she falls.
She might cry because she physically feels pain. But the baby doesn’t go, oh my God, I failed. I’m never gonna learn how to walk now. The baby will most likely get back up and try again. Right. And we actually encourage that during those ages. Get back up. Get back up. But then as we get older, for some reason, We shut that off completely and we say, well, you’re expected to know you’re old enough. Right? And that’s just not the case. Right?
Failure and learning through mistakes happens throughout the rest of your life, right? So what’s interesting is what I found was. The baby falling and getting back up and falling and getting back up again, builds the muscles in the baby’s legs in order to continue to walk for a longer time. So those muscles are just getting stronger, and that’s exactly what failure does with you in life.
It gets you stronger and more prepared for the next. Phase of life. Now this baby’s gonna learn how to run, but she needs to know how to walk and fail at walking so she can get better at running and build that strength in her legs. And that’s the same concept that we need to do with our mind when we think about failure.
So failure is essential for your success in getting stronger and becoming more resilient in that way. The other thing I wanted to touch on is the true definition of failure and how we can reframe that to be more gentle with ourselves moving forward. So, When I looked up the definition of failure, what came up was the omission of an expected or required action.
That’s it, and I’m gonna repeat it. Failure is the omission of an expected or required action. And what I noticed, Google didn’t say, Google did not say that. Failure means that you are a bad person. Failure does not mean that you. Suck. Failure does not mean that you are not good enough or that you are dumb or incompetent.
So then that means we have created this idea of what failure means based on the emotional experience that we felt when we were failing. But if failure is just the ex, the omission of an expected or required action, then that would mean that you could go back, put in that expected or required action, and you’d come out successful.
And you would feel positive about it. So why is it that we, so why is it that we don’t go back and put in that expected or required action and instead we beat ourselves up. Instead we tell ourselves we’re not good enough and instead we repeat the mistakes or the patterns of our past, right?
So it’s very interesting at how Google does not say that. We are bad people or horrible people for failing. In fact, it encourages it. Right? So
[00:22:22] Elise: it’s just like one variable. One variable that was off. Maybe not one. Maybe there’s multiple, but there’s a variable that was off in your equation kind of thing.
[00:22:30] Sarah: Exactly, exactly. So if failure currently means a negative thing for you. Then that means failure can also mean a positive thing for you because you are defining your meaning of failure because Google did not define it that way, right?
So when you think about, if you want to start reframing your like fear of failure, knowing the definition of failure and matching, that will actually help you to realize that your ideas of failure has been taught to you maybe in a way that makes you feel very incompetent. That makes you feel like you aren’t good enough, but in fact, the definition itself does not portray that.
So if you can move towards that definition and just put in that expected or required action and get the results you’re looking for, then you really didn’t fail. Right? You say,
[00:23:17] Elise: Interesting. So in that, I think you kind of mentioned a little bit of how we get better at failing. So is there like a, a to-do list or a step process of how we get better at it?
[00:23:28] Sarah: Yeah, and I’m gonna just run through it really quickly. Okay. Uh, cause I actually have a post about this on my Instagram. You can go check it out. It’s called, uh, the Secret to Success and there is a three part step that you can follow to master these. Uh, very quickly, and it’s explained in there, but the three steps are to stop hiding from the painful feelings.
We actually spend a lot of time and energy avoiding. So sit with that fear, sit with that failure, sit with those uncomfortable feelings. And the longer you sit with them, you’ll let them surface. You’ll allow yourself to feel them breathe and release them. And what will happen is over time you will build a tolerance to withstand the painful emotion, those painful emotions, and learn to reframe them from there.
They’re harboring space within you. Just stop avoiding them. Sit with them. Allow yourself to feel them and let them go. The other one is permission. Give yourself permission to fail a large amount of the time. The reason we don’t allow ourselves to fail is because we don’t give ourselves permission to do it.
We say that it’s not, there’s no room for it at the table. So the reverse of that is to make room for it at the table. Make room for it in every single thing you do for the first time or for the last time. Right? And remember that it is okay to fail. You’re allowed to set your own rules. You’re allowed to.
You know, create your own path, and that starts with you reframing and giving yourself permission in the space to heal and to fail at it at it. The last one is to be gentle, and oftentimes when we fail, our inner critic kind of comes up and it really beats ourselves up and it really takes over. Our inner critic is our biggest bully and can sometimes be our greatest enemy.
So remembering that you are. More than enough, and if failure is not an opportunity to beat yourself up. Right. Failure is an opportunity to care for yourself, to have your own back and be there for yourself. Right? And if you know that, say you had a friend, uh, that was failing at something and they came to you and told you about it, well think about the advice that you would give your friend.
It would most likely be you’re doing a great job and. Even if you did fail, you did an amazing, amazing job. You had an amazing time, and you look great doing it right. Give yourself that same advice. Be your own best friend. And I think I’ll close it off there because that is essentially the punchline here.
Take care of yourself and have your own back when you fail, because that is gonna teach your inner critic that it does not have permission to beat you up anymore for failing because there’s a new neural pathway. There’s a new thought and new belief happening here that you want to consider. And I think pursuing failure is the best thing that you could do for your success.
Well, I’m gonna spend
[00:26:12] Elise: the whole day pursuing failure now, but maybe like, maybe like, maybe I’ll, I think it could allow you to be a bit bolder too. 100%
[00:26:23] Sarah: right? Like so. I love that. And reward yourself when you fail.
[00:26:27] Elise: Tell everyone where they can find, you mentioned the post that has a little more explanation on this.
Tell everyone where they can find you on, The worldwide web,
[00:26:34] Sarah: they can find me on Instagram. If you’re looking for those secrets to success, you can find me on, uh, @sarahjoseph_coach on Instagram. You can find me on my website at sarahjosephcertifiedcoaching.com, TikTok and Twitter.
[00:26:46] Elise: Awesome.
Well, thank you Sarah, so much for joining us again. Thank you for having me. Have a good day failing.
[00:26:52] Sarah: Bye. You too.
Last modified: May 5, 2023