How would you define failure? I realised that what I had considered as a failure was actually my success.
This happened in 2019, when I had to overcome a huge mental block over failure when I shut down my seven-year-old handbag brand, House of Sheens. I created the brand without any knowledge or experience in fashion or designing.
What started as a home business developed into one of Singapore’s affordable exotic skin labels having a chic downtown showroom in Amoy Street with diverse collections, and exciting collaborations with design schools and local brands. I made mistakes at every step of the business, from designing, sourcing, and quality control.
Each time, I dusted myself off, stood back up and kept going. I remember having friends, who for years, while I conceptualised, started, and eventually shut the brand down, were still in a business planning phase. Perhaps they were being cautious, doing their due diligence, but looking at it now, they admit to hiding behind fear of not doing it perfectly.
After seven years I realised my passion for House of Sheens was waning. Thus began the arduous mental journey of deciding to shut down the business. I would wake at night, with self-deprecating rationales that shutting the business meant I failed. I grappled with this until I realised the learning over the seven years was my success.
When I look back at the sweat, effort and tears, I realise how lucky I was to experience these milestones. When I removed the fear of what others would think, and the unrealistic pressure I placed on myself, I was liberated in taking that decisive step to shut the business down.
Relieved, I knew I made the right decision which led to subsequent doors opening and the ability to see possibilities in the future. It didn’t matter what others said or thought, I knew I made the right choice at that time. I’m proud of myself for trying, starting a brand, taking the plunge and now being able to see all the silver lining that came with the journey.
Fear and failure
So much of what holds us back from achieving the things we want comes down to fear. Often those fears are valid, but more often they are irrational uncertainties that debilitate us from getting what we want. In an ever-changing world full of opportunities, success lies in the grit and resilience we have that enables us to try and achieve the things we want.
As the end of the year approaches, and an urgent second wind of motivation takes over, I encourage you to take stock of your life. Comb through both professional and personal areas that matter to you, and ask: what would I attempt to change in my life if I were not afraid of failing?
Change your mindset
From childhood, we are taught failure means the end of the road. But by reframing failure’s definition, and embracing learning, we are liberated to make choices that are often suppressed because we are so afraid of how people will perceive us if we get things wrong.
Shifting mindset from fearing failure to relishing the opportunity to learn and grow is to unlearn that failure means game over. As Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Altering our perception and attempting what we want, helps increase motivation, learning, memory and builds resilience. We need confidence that the choices we make for ourselves are the right ones in the moment. We don’t always succeed with every choice we make, be it a goal of starting your own business, or learning a new instrument. But we can always try, and even if we fail, and we modify the definition of failure as an opportunity to do better, we’re more likely to get back up, and keep going. That’s success.
Steps to help you take the plunge
- Plan what you want to achieve if you were not afraid of failing
- Create realistic and achievable goals in different areas of your life
- Decide your first step; remember to take action and embrace risk
- Visualise success and what that feels and looks like
- Develop a growth mindset to interpret challenges as steps towards learning
- Celebrate along the way, reward effort, not only the result
- Use positive self-talk, mantras, or affirmations to boost self-esteem and motivation
Shireena Shroff Manchharam is a Her World Tribe member, the founder and principal consultant of Sheens Image Consulting, and the founder and creator of Getting to Happy, a mental health movement to inspire our community and society to live happier, more mindful lives.