When I was in college, I applied for a scholarship and my faculty interviewer said, "this is a really competitive process. If you don't get the scholarship, be upset for a nanosecond and then refocus yourself and move on." For anyone who's known me since childhood, it'll come as no surprise that I wasn't accustomed to failure. In my mind, that scholarship was already mine. Turns out I needed the professor's advice. I didn't get the scholarship and I was upset yet there were more important things for me to focus on.
Fast forward to last night. I got my first opportunity to pitch Empowered Together to an audience. Despite a strong presentation, I/Empowered Together didn't win the pitch competition. I allowed myself a nanosecond of disappointment and then got back in the game. There was still a whole evening of networking ahead of me. Honestly, I walked away with things that are even more invaluable as I build the business: contacts and offers of warm introductions. Plus Empowered Together topped the audience's poll of Importance of the Problem (yes, I agree!) and got the highest marks for how clearly the problem was described.
I also received helpful feedback on why I didn't win the competition. That helps me build a more convincing pitch and focuses my attention on strengthening Empowered Together's overall business plan. As some friends of mine say, "feedback is a gift," and failure can be the strongest mechanism for gathering feedback.
Note: I use the term "failure" throughout this post. That term doesn't have the same pejorative connotation for me that it used to. Normalizing the value of failure is something my Dad tried to do for me growing up and I'm grateful, decades later, that I finally "get it." Thanks, Dad.