There are but a few inevitabilities in life. Loss, growing older, love (if we’re lucky)...and of course, failure. However, the latter isn’t a subject that a lot of people feel comfortable talking about. Often associated with weakness, it’s no wonder that in our filter-perfect world, many would be unwilling to put their hands up and admit to defeat in one form or another. However, could we be looking at it in completely the wrong way?
According to Arianna Huffington, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success”. Failure is a fact of life, and rather than letting it define us, it is better used to help us Thrive.
So how have those at the top of their games turned their setbacks into successes? We asked 8 high-flyers from all parts of the beauty and wellness industries about their most memorable stumbles experienced during their climbs up the career ladder. Here’s hoping their words of wisdom will go some way to helping you too see your so-called losses in a whole new light.
Kate Shapland, beauty writer, founder of Legology and co-founder of MyShowcase
“It’s easy in hindsight to say that failure is a learning opportunity because it’s human to feel disappointed when things don’t go to plan. It's key though to depersonalise the experience as quickly as you can, get up and move on, remembering - as Thomas Edison famously said - that you have not failed, just successfully found another way not to make a light bulb. The other thing to think about is what brought you to the experience you perceive to be a failure in the first place. If it’s happened before, employ some behavioural economics to work out why a pattern might be emerging. Are you relying on other people to bring a vision to fruition when you need to be in charge of this yourself? Are you really passionate about what you are doing? Many of the years it took to bring Legology to market were spent learning and coming to terms with the fact that I had to do it myself, that there were no easy options and I couldn’t hide behind partnerships or rely on other people. The thing is very few careers or projects are a straight trajectory to success. It’s a road with lots of twists and turns and forks, and it's navigating these and being resilient that makes the whole journey a success.”
Madeleine Shaw, holistic nutritional health coach, blogger and healthy chef
“There have been lots of failures over the years. I remember when I wanted to publish my first book 'Get the Glow' and so many publishers said no, that healthy living would never sell and they weren't interested in me. Of course I took it to heart, but it didn't stop me believing in myself and then soldiering on to be published with Orion. As a businesswoman you need self-belief more than anything, you have to work every day to achieve your dreams. ‘Failure’ is something we all experience, we just don't all shout out about it, it is something we have to go through to realise how much we want to get to our goal.”
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Shavata Singh, Founder of Shavata Brow Studios
“I had a successful studio at Harrods for nine years and it was the highest grossing department within Urban Retreat square footage wise. When they told me they were taking back the concession, I was devastated. It was my baby and not only did I start my business from there, but I personally worked there. I could have gone two ways - curled up and let them defeat me or fight back.
Now looking back I’m so glad they threw me out! This pushed me to open my own standalone studio in Beauchamp Place, which was a huge investment and risk for me. It’s 200 yards from Harrods, so most of our clients followed when we left. By taking the risk and with my whole team working really hard, the studio has become a huge success and I have just opened my second standalone venue in Chiswick.
I have pitched to launch studios in department stores and thought it was a done deal, only for plans to change at the last minute. Rather than seeing these as failures though, I have taken everything I have learned from the experiences and the ideas as things I can use in other ways to make my business more successful.
We have had problems with products and packaging in the past and have had to delay launches – such as for my new mascara. Rather than taking it to market to fit with budgets and schedules, we persisted with the manufacturer to make the product perfect. You only get one chance to launch a product, so you have to do it right in order to create a success of it. Settling for second best is not good enough - hard work always results in a better outcome.”
Gill Sinclair, co-founder of Victoriahealth.com
“Some time ago, we were asked to launch a skincare brand in the UK. Although it had been tremendously successful throughout Europe, every part of me was screeching ‘no.’ I deeply regret not listening to my intuition; we launched it and it did exceptionally well. Within days of launch though, I discovered that the brand had lied to me and, when challenged, behaved appallingly. Within minutes I delisted the brand and every trace of its existence on our site; the fastest launch and delisting in history. The lesson was to trust my intuition and now, if I ever doubt a product or brand, even momentarily, we will not list it on our site.”
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Shona Vertue, yoga teacher, personal trainer and creator of the Vertue Method
“Competing as an elite gymnast taught me that there are two outcomes when you try really hard at something: you can ace it and ‘win,’ or you can totally flop and learn something from the experience. I think they are equally important to go through.
Winning of course feels great for the ego and also can provide its own lessons - how to behave graciously when you win is a key one! Learning (aka ‘failing’) isn't always comfortable, but it makes life exciting and expansive and if you pay attention, can eventually lead you back to winning.
I am a big advocate of visualisation and this is something I picked up from those early gymnastics years and is actually, quite basic sports psychology. Often the times I made mistakes, such as falling off the beam or stumbling badly during a competition, I realised it was because I was visualising my failures at the start. I would torture myself just before competing with every last detail of discomfort that would come with losing - having to face my coach and his disappointment if I lost or injuring myself badly. The truth is that after falling or stumbling, nothing that bad ever really happened - the fear of failure was somehow much worse than the actual event and often the fear of failing became self-fulfilling.
As an adult I spend my mornings in a meditation visualising a wonderful future - be it related to my career, my relationships and my health and wellness - for me, visualising a successful outcome makes me bolder and takes me halfway to achieving it.”
Kirsten Carriol, founder of Lanolips
“My first business was in my early 20s and I started a cashmere knitwear label. I had many challenges (inexperience and youthful arrogance being two of them). I worked hard, but I was determined to do it all myself – which means I didn’t seek out advice and learned everything the very hard and expensive way. I lasted two collections and landed some really great stockists (while working full time at another job) so even though the business failed, I didn’t feel like I failed. My dad told me at the time, ‘Think of it as a university degree on how to run a business’ and he was so right. I learned lessons then that I will never forget, and use them still today.”
Lisa Potter-Dixon, head makeup artist and brow expert for Benefit Cosmetics
“It took me a long time, years in fact, to head up a London Fashion Week show. Before that, I was always the lead assistant. At the time, this was extremely frustrating as I thought I was ready. However, something I’ve learned throughout my career is to be patient. Everything happens for a reason. I headed up my first show two years ago. It was Matthew Williamson and it was amazing! But right then and there, I knew that all the assisting and everything I had learned over the years had made me ready for this moment. So when the time came, I was able be the best that I could be for myself and my team. So always remember that you never stop learning, your time will come and always believe in you because if you don’t, no-one will.”
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Joslyn Thompson-Rule, Nike Master Trainer
“I had to really think about this one as I try to never see things as a ‘failure’ - they are only ever things to learn.
My biggest learning from my career has been that work quality can go down when I spread myself too thin. There was a period where I said yes to too many things, resulting in one or two of them being sub-par performances. This taught me that you can never be too prepared for projects and that it's ok to say no! Now, I always make sure I am fully prepared - even if it means less sleep (which I hate!). I also say no more too. It turns out that that's actually ok!”
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