by Rebecca Minkoff
author of Fearless
Don't Freak Out—Rebecca Minkoff's Advice for Dealing with Failure
Don't Freak Out—Rebecca Minkoff's Alternative Approach to Failure
by Rebecca Minkoff
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So I have some bad news for you: If you haven’t noticed, things are going to go wrong. So very, very wrong. It’s good to get used to this idea now. That way you’re not shocked when it happens the first time, or the tenth. Know it’s coming.
There will be highs, and there will be lows. The hits are going to come, if not today, then tomorrow, or the day after that.
If messing up has taught me anything, it’s that when you fail (not if, but when), you have to face failure head-on.
Shit Hits the Fan…
When the business was really starting to pick up momentum, I was sitting in Paris at the most glamorous restaurant I had ever been to in my life.
The president of my company and I had spent the day in back-to-back-to-back sales meetings, showing the new collection to buyers from across Europe.
With the time change, New York was still working while we were at dinner, so I checked my emails from time to time, as one does. And then an email from my brother came through with no subject, but the preview text read, “The bank says they are done.”
It was like time and space came screeching to a halt. The news wasn’t entirely unexpected, but to actually face the moment when the bank was no longer going to advance us funds for production and everything else was terrifying.
The company had reached a point in our feverish growth escalation where the amount of money that we had coming in as an advance from the bank to fund future orders was more than the amount of money we had coming in for existing orders. The bank wasn’t willing to keep that up. But without that advance, we couldn’t pay for our next round of deliveries, and if we didn’t cover that, then the deliveries wouldn’t ship, and we wouldn’t have anything for people to order. It was a serious avalanche.
I had to fight the urge to freak out.
The Art of Not Freaking Out to failure
The reality of this perfect moment was that there were an unlimited number of worse scenarios that I could have been going through.
It might sound fatalistic, but I like to imagine what rock bottom looks like so that I can come back to reality.
Like, what if I were a well-known designer and no one wanted to work with me ever again because I went bankrupt? Or what if we couldn’t convince the banks to float us just a little while longer, and our cash flow ran dry and we had to lay off our entire team? It could mean having to hang up our bags and call it a day. Maybe the company I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into was going to end up in the hands of a coldhearted liquidator. Maybe it was over for me in fashion and I was going to head back to Florida and start answering the phones at my dad’s office. I knew at least he would hire me.
The truth of the matter was, whatever happened, I was going to be okay. Even if I was devastated, I was going to make it through to the other side. I found my center. I reminded myself that they could take my company, they could take my apartment, but they couldn’t take my husband or my kids.
Knowing the stakes and what I had the potential to lose was all the motivation I needed to get down to business.
The Alternative to Freaking Out
Don’t panic; evaluate the situation. Don’t judge it. Look at it objectively.
- What are the mechanics?
- What’s really going on?
- How exactly did you get here?
- What’s the very worst that can happen?
- What is your biggest fear? What would that be like? Is that the end of the world?
- Is it really so bad after all?
Settle into the feeling of being unsettled, that woozy moment of truly not knowing what to expect or what exactly is going to come next.
The only way you’re going to get out of it is if you really understand where you are and what you’re dealing with. Then you can start asking questions, like, What’s missing from this picture? and What needs to change?
So when things blow up in your face, instead of being shocked or falling apart, you can think, Oh yeah, Rebecca told me things like this would happen. What’s next? It might feel like the sky is falling, and it might be, but what are you going to do? Stand there and freak out while you get lost in the clouds, or look up and see what’s left? What matters most is what comes next, how you handle it, and what you learn from it.
No matter how many times you fall, you have to get back up again with a smile on your face.
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Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of her namesake company, is very accessible. As a millennial designer, she wanted to speak directly to her customers and build a relationship with them at scale. She’s uniquely active on social media for a founder. The Rebecca Minkoff Instagram is half lifestyle, half Rebecca herself, and content often revolves around female empowerment. She’s created a community of #superwomen and devotes resources and time to promote other female founders.