After studying some of the millions of business owners who use Shopify, we’ve discovered that founders tend to fall into one of five personality types. Take our quiz: What type of entrepreneur are you?
OK, I caved and dipped my toes in the infinity pool of HBO’s The White Lotus, only to come to the surface gasping, sputtering, and wondering where the last six hours of my life went. What makes a show like this—a dark comedy about a group of doomed vacationers and resort staff—so compelling is its relatability. There’s nothing more human and humbling than failing. And as each character self-destructs, a consistent lesson emerges: this is absolutely not how to deal with failure.
While these flops are dramatized for the purposes of entertainment, there’s something very real about how we all react differently to failing. This month, Stargazers, we’re taking a hard look at failure. We’ll explain why it’s actually good for you and offer tips to help you fail gracefully.
Along every path, our business idols have failed over and over. What sets them apart is how they have leveraged those lows to achieve higher highs.
Look no further than any successful entrepreneur who started from nothing and built an empire. Along every path, our business idols have failed over and over. What sets them apart is how they have overcome adversity and leveraged those lows to achieve higher highs.
Before we explore the depths of failure, however, we need to know a little more about you. Understanding your unique personality will help us provide you with tools and advice tailored to your specific motivations. Take our quiz to discover your Founder Sign. Already know your sign? Read on.
7 steps to overcoming failure
In a way, a failure is like a death, especially when it comes to starting your own business. An idea you personally grew from a spark to a full-fledged business feels like a living part of you. When it fails, there is grief, and entrepreneurs mourn failure accordingly. But with the right mindset, failure can be a business-owner’s ally.
Your failures don’t define you. You are not “a failure,” but rather “a person who has experienced failure.”
It can be instructive and humbling. It can quell any doubts and help you refocus, wiser and more experienced than before. Follow these steps to riding the wave of failure toward success and personal growth.
1. Let yourself grieve
While the ultimate message is that failure is actually a good thing, any blow to self-esteem needs a little time to heal. Allow yourself to feel the feelings you’re having about your failure—they’re valid.
2. Adopt healthy coping habits—but let yourself indulge, too
Soothing your wounded pride might come in the form of a day of self-care or a pint of ice cream. Indulge in whatever rituals work to restore your energy, confidence, and motivation to move on.
3. Avoid destructive language
Remember that your failures don’t define you. You are not “a failure,” but rather “a person who has experienced failure.”
It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts, replaying them over and over until they become your truth.
4. Reframe the narrative
Later in this article we’ll examine the different ways that failure affects each personality type and the common narratives for each. It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts, replaying them over and over until they become your truth. Don’t seek blame, but examine with objectivity the factors that led to the failure.
5. Focus on the learning moment …
With clear hindsight, identify where things went wrong. What did you learn from these choices or events? Failure can help you see holes in your design that you may not have been able to predict during planning.
6. … and use it to guide you forward
This is the part where you take that hard-earned knowledge and let it direct your next moves. Maybe you need to start from scratch with a new idea, or approach your failed idea with newfound clarity. Failing at one idea may uncover an even better one, as founder Moorea Seal found when her business was forced to close its doors.
7. Don’t dwell
While it’s important to acknowledge failure and any mistakes you made along the way, grieve them and let them go. Dwelling on the negative and living in fear of failure could be a blocker, preventing you from trying again. Stay motivated to overcome failure by remembering that you’ve already conquered it once—it won’t be such a scary prospect next time.
Dust yourself off and start again. Try Shopify free.
How to deal with failure: advice for every personality type
Now that we have more insight into your unique personality, we can provide effective ways to get failure to bend to your will, based on your strengths. Here, we’ll look at common pitfalls for each Founder Sign to flip the narrative on failure.
👟Skip to your Sign:
Feature sign: The Firestarter
Successful people aren’t successful without their failures. But you already know that, Firestarter. For someone like you who revels in risk, failing is just part of it. You don’t let your failures get you ruffled, though, because for every failed idea, there are three more successes in the works.
Where you can improve is in the denouement phase of failure—you’re moving too fast to truly live in the disappointment or let the lesson sink in. Piling up those buried feelings could lead to eventual burn out.
How to deal with failure as a Firestarter
When you take a gamble on an idea and lose, your inclination is to bounce to the next one, but spend time in the discomfort. Check in with how it’s affecting you emotionally and be mindful of those feelings when you pursue your next idea. You may be inclined to be reactive, responding to failure with an even bolder move. But be sure that if you do, you’re acting on experience rather than impulse.
Flipping the narrative
❌ Instead of: “Failure schmailure. I’ve already moved on!”
✅ Try: “Do I have any feelings about failing this time? What can it teach me as I move forward?”
You’re all heart, Trailblazer, and that means failure is personal. You put a lot of passion into your ideas and projects, so it’s difficult for you to separate yourself from them when they don’t pan out. Failure is actually beneficial to you, though. You tend to go all in on your passions, sometimes trusting your gut rather than doing the research. Failure reminds you to balance your excitement with practicality.
What does work in your favor is your optimism. You seek out silver linings and find them easily. Trailblazers like you can therefore bounce back quickly from failure and chase the next idea.
How to deal with failure as a Trailblazer
Accept that some outcomes are beyond your control. External factors can come into play no matter how passionate you are. But trace your steps: were there warning signs that you ignored because you were too attached to your idea? Failure brings those missteps into focus. Next time, chase your dreams while staying grounded to the lessons you learned from failing.
Flipping the narrative
❌ Instead of: “I’m a failure.”
✅ Try: “This idea may have failed but I’ll use the lessons to pursue the next with equal passion.”
Failure isn’t in your vocabulary, Outsider. Your business marches along evenly and predictably because you don’t take big risks. You’ve perfected your ways and built in safeguards to ensure that it always provides. Security is incredibly important to you.
But fear of failure is an enemy to growth. While you resist change (why fix something that isn’t broken?), the world moves forward and demands that you adapt. We need only look to the global pandemic to see that some factors are absolutely out of our control.
How to deal with failure as an Outsider
Don’t get too comfortable, because failure could take you by surprise. Constantly revisit your methods and ideas to ensure they’re evolving in line with your industry or customers’ needs. And expect that failure could happen. That way, if it does, you’ll have strategies in place to keep moving toward your goals.
Flipping the narrative
❌ Instead of: “Everything is going fine as is.”
✅ Try: “Failure is always a possibility, and I should be prepared with a Plan B if that happens.”
You’re steamrolling your way over every obstacle on the way to the top, Mountaineer. Sure, you’ll stumble here and there, but it doesn’t deter you from striving toward your goal. Your determination and focus make you a superstar entrepreneur, but these traits sometimes act as blinders. If you’re not seeing the bigger picture or considering alternate paths, the next stumble could be a tumble.
How to deal with failure as a Mountaineer
Try not to see failure as the end of the world, but rather as a basecamp at the foot of the next summit you’ll conquer. There’s nothing more soothing to your wounded soul than a fresh new challenge. But next time, do it with the wider perspective gained from your past failures. Look around you for obstacles and alternate paths—there usually isn’t only one route to the top.
Flipping the narrative
❌ Instead of: “How could I possibly fail? I didn’t see it coming.”
✅ Try: “So this didn’t work. How can I use the lessons here to strengthen my plan?”
Failure is foreign to achievers like you, Cartographer. Your plan is usually so carefully constructed, every possible “what if” accounted for, that there’s little chance of failing. It’s your fear of failure, though, that often delays action as you simmer in the planning phase forever. What you’ll have to come to terms with, though, is that there are always factors you can’t color code and data sort.
How to deal with failure as a Cartographer
Failure will find you, despite your best laid plans. Your homework, Cartographer, is letting that possibility live in your comfort zone. And, when and if it does happen, try not to enter self-blame territory. Use it to your advantage: it’s just another data point to sharpen your strategy next time.
Flipping the narrative
❌ Instead of: “Failure is the worst possible outcome. I need to prevent it at all costs.”
✅ Try: “My plan will never be perfect, so I just need to start. I have the skills to handle failure if it happens.”
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by by Alice Mollon