Illustration by Sydney Paget, 1892 (Source)
Holmes was . . . working hard over a chemical investigation. A large curved retort was boiling furiously over the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure. . . . He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few drops of each with his glass pipette, and finally brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the table. In his right hand he had a slip of litmus-paper. “You come at a crisis, Watson,” said he. “If this paper remains blue, all is well. If it turns red, it means a man’s life.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of the Naval Treaty
Why am I quoting from a Sherlock Holmes novel and what does it have to do with you and your business? You’re about to find out.
In the meantime, let me ask you, has this ever happened to you:
You try something new, you’re full of excitement and ready to build your business.
Maybe you get in front of your ideal clients to be of service, or publish a guest post, or attend a networking event, and … nothing happens.
Your list doesn’t grow. You don’t get any clients. Your business doesn’t grow.
Maybe things even go backwards!
“Oh, this isn’t going to work!,” you think.
If you can relate, then you’ve had a normal entrepreneur moment.
At the beginning when you’re building your business, a lot of things don’t go right.
(Come to think of it, things can turn sideways at any point in your business.)
When you try things in your business and don’t see immediate results, it’s frustrating. It’s discouraging.
And it’s the sort of situation that causes a lot of business owners to give up.
But here’s the thing.
Being okay with things not working—and knowing what to do with that experience—is essential if you want to succeed in business.Click to TweetBeing okay with things not working is essential if you want to create success in your business.
Just Don’t Even Say the “F” Word
Now, I’m not a big fan of truisms like “Fail your way to success,” or “Embrace failure.”
I don’t like that!
But the truth is, in order for us to get where we want to go, we have to do stuff that might or might not work.
That guest post might not get you new subscribers.
That Facebook live might not have any viewers.
The client might say no.
All this is a normal part of running a business.
That said, I don’t love to “embrace failure.”
I just don’t even put failure in the equation!
Let me explain.
When I try something new in my business. I sit down and think, “Given the knowledge I have right now, what’s the best way I know how to do this thing?”
I might not have all the information in the world. I might not do it better than anybody’s ever done it. But given the information I have, what’s the best way for me to do this?
And then I commit to doing my very best. I know then that, whatever results pan out, I did the best I could do at that moment.
But here’s the thing.
Whether it worked or it didn’t work, I learned something.
I learned that what I tried didn’t work. I learned that I liked it or that I didn’t like it. After doing something, I see all these things I would’ve done differently.
This is the key.
So I don’t call it a “failure.” I don’t even use the word. I don’t have to entertain the thought that I have to “fail my way to success.” Instead, I just did something and I learned from it.Click to DownloadGet My Proven 7-Step Plan To Get Clients And Create A Consistent Income With Your Online Business
How Sherlock Holmes Can Help You Succeed in Business
I call it experimentation.
You have to be like Sherlock Holmes and approach the new things you try as an experiment.
Will it turn blue or red? The outcome determines what your next steps will be. If you succeed, then you do X. If you don’t get the outcome you want, then you do Y. Or it worked a little bit, so you’ll do Z.
You may not know this, but I don’t have a business or marketing degree. I have an engineering degree. Right out of college, my first job was working as an engineer.
As an engineer, one of the things I did was to run experiments—statistically analyzed, fancy-pants experiments. I would go, “I want to achieve this result, and I don’t know how that result will work, but here are all the knobs and all the perimeters I can turn.”
And so, I would run 25 tests, and then I would look at the results of those tests. Sometimes one of those 25 was right. Sometimes none of them was right.
But I would take those results and say, “Oh, tests 17 through 20 were in the right ballpark.” Then I designed a new experiment based on those parameters. And I did that again and again.
Sometimes it took a hundred different—yup, a hundred— experiments to get where I wanted to go! But eventually, it would pay off.
Those experiments are how my employer, a high tech company, created cutting-edge new technology. Those experiments were how we discovered stuff that had never been done before.
It was absolutely clear to us that the way we were going to get there was by making mistakes. We experimented our way through mistakes. We experimented our way to patents (I have a couple of technology patents based on those experiments).
That experience drilled into me the mindset that it wasn’t a failure when an experiment didn’t work. It wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t anything personal. Experimenting was how we figured out what did work. That’s how we created the next technology.
This is what you’re going to do in your business, too.
It’s not about getting it right the first time. It’s about getting data. It’s about getting information about what works, what doesn’t work, what you like, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, where you have questions, and so on ….
Sometimes this requires an outside perspective because you’re too immersed in what you’re doing to look at your results objectively and interpret what they mean. And when that happens, it’s easy to let emotions cloud your judgement.
(Objectivity is essential for scientists, too. Otherwise, our biases and preferences can skew our interpretation of the results. This renders our experiments invalid, which means all our efforts would’ve been wasted.)
I loved doing this for my clients (when I still worked with one-on-one clients). They’ll go out and follow through on a client getting activity like guest posting. Then they’ll come to me and say, “Jenny, I just posted my guest post and I got no new subscribers.”
I’d look at their guest post and ask them questions: “Did you check this?” “Did you do this?”
We’d go through the list of criteria of what makes a successful guest post. A lot of times I can help them pinpoint a few things they missed—which is the whole reason why they didn’t get all the subscribers they wanted.Click to TweetSometimes you need an outside perspective because you’re too immersed in what you’re doing to look at your results objectively and interpret what they mean.
It wasn’t about them being wrong. It was about stepping back and looking at the result they wanted versus the result they got, and troubleshooting how to do it differently next time.
In business, you can cultivate the willingness to experiment.
And so, if you’re like me and you don’t like the word “failure,” then don’t use it!
Don’t say “I have to be willing to fail.”
Instead, say “I have to be willing to experiment.”
Because when you experiment, there is no failure. There’s nothing wrong with any result you get. There’s no good or bad. There are only various degrees of what did and didn’t work. There’s only information for you to use to take your next step forward.Click to TweetSucceeding in business (and in life) is not about getting everything right. It’s about being willing to take action and experiment and see what happens.
So often we feel like we either have to get it right or we’re a total failure and we’re doomed forever. And that kind of black-and-white thinking is not going to serve you in your business.
Instead, we have to learn to take action, see what happens, and learn from it. Go into it with the attitude of, “Let’s see what happens. Let’s see how this goes.”
I do this all the time in my business. My team and I have what sounds like a fun idea, and we say let’s do it. Let’s see what happens. We try something we’ve never done before.
Sure, we’ve made mistakes. Some technology breaks. Some things worked out amazing. Some things we’d do differently next time. It’s all information. We say, “Okay, good to know!,” and we move on.
We had this idea, we followed through, we made a plan. Then we look at what it did for us or didn’t do for us. We take this information and use it next time to do things differently in our business.
As you see, it’s not about failure. It’s not about getting it right. It’s about being willing to take action and experiment and see what happens.
Get curious in your business.
The scientists’ mindset is going to allow you to take action on anything. Cultivate this way of thinking about your business.
It’s what’s going to give you the perseverance to succeed.
It’s going to give you the tenacity of champions.
It’s a game-changer.My Personal Recommendation for YouLearn how to create a homepage that makes potential clients primed and eager to hire you!