When I was first learning to drive, I had a really bad habit of looking in the rearview mirror. Not just when the car was in reverse, I'd also do it when the car was in drive and I was moving forward. My dad was my teacher and God bless that man for his patience, bravery, and hours spent in the passenger's seat. I remember him saying, over and over, “Look where you're going. You can't expect to move forward if you keep looking at where you've already been.” Who knew how true those words would be not only for driving, but also for life and for business.
Fast forward to a year ago, and a new seasonal product idea hit me while I was driving (ironic, right?) and I was so excited! It was a great idea and I saw all the potential. When I got home, I immediately started researching and quickly started putting the pieces together to make it happen. A few months later, I was practically dancing in my chair when I launched the product in my shop. This was it. This was going to be big. They were going to fly off the virtual shelf. I clicked the ‘Publish' button and sat back to wait for the sales to roll in.
The appropriate season for the product came and went. I sold one. Just. One. Hours had been spent researching and developing this product. I'd invested money from my business back into supplies for this product. There they still sat in the corner of my sewing studio. I felt defeated. Every time I'd think up a new product idea, I'd squash it before I even let myself get excited. All I could think about was the failure of my last idea. Sometimes I thought about closing my business altogether because clearly I wasn't cut out for this.
I don't remember exactly when or where or why those words came back to me, but they hit me like a ton of bricks. “Look where you're going. You can't expect to move forward if you keep looking at where you've already been.”
Right then, I reframed my ‘failure' into a ‘learning experience' and decided to find the good in what felt like a completely awful situation. See, failure is hard and scary and un-fun and all of those things, but it's not all bad. We can learn from it and it's so important not to ignore those lessons. However, it's impossible to grow our business if we get stuck in past flops. We have to keep moving forward, even after a setback.
I grabbed a piece of paper and decided to try something I'd learned as part of various event planning teams. I divided my paper into 5 sections: Keep, Scrap, Change, Add, Learn.
Keep: What went really well? What would I do the exact same way if I was ever going this again?
Scrap: What didn't go well? What part of this project would I eliminate altogether if I had it to do over again?
Change: What could I improve? What went pretty well, but would go even better with a little editing? What would that look like instead if I did it again?
Add: What could I add next time to make this project even better? It can be big or it can be small.
Learn: How did I grow? What did I learn about myself? What business lessons did I discover? How am I more savvy after completing this project? It doesn't even have to be earth shattering. Anything you can think of that you know now that you didn't know when you started this project.
This has become my go-to method for evaluating everything I do in my business. It helps me to find positives even when, in the moment, a certain project might feel like a total failure… and nothing good could come out of it. Just like decluttering a closet, this exercise helps me hold onto the things that are actually helpful going forward and let go of the things that no longer serve me or hold me back.
This past January, I did something super scary. On my list of goals for the year, I wrote down that I wanted to launch 3 new products in my Etsy shop. Writing it down with ink on paper was scary. Terrifying, actually. These were 3 ideas I've had for a long time. I was previously too afraid to pursue them because of the fear of failing again.
If we were having coffee today, I'd tell you I'm still a little jittery. I can't guarantee booming sales. However, I know I'm setting myself up for success by making better decisions. I'm holding my head higher thanks to all of the things I've learned from my past triumphs and failures. Friends, that is empowering stuff. We think we're growing a business, but so often it's growing us, too.
Katie is a wife, homemaker and mom to two super sweet kiddos. She's the owner and one woman show behind KatieDid Productions, a handmade shop specializing in accessories for healthy living. Her favorite things are kindness, caffeine, good pens, vintage picking, college football, sewing, the outdoors, reading and running. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram