Today, I’m sitting with strategist, advisor, and friend Saaket Dubey (Twitter, LinkedIn) at 3 Day Startup to learn how to deal when sh*t hits the fan.

We’re not always killing it.

When someone asks you how it’s going, the chances of you saying “Oh, killing it” are high.

And that is what it feels like sometimes, right? When we walk out of a meeting with a potential market feeling like we crushed it. We end a phone call full of great feedback with an early adopter. When we wrap up a successful sprint.

Of course we’re killing it.

But what happens when we are not successful as we want? What if we’re trying something new?

You can do something perfectly every time if you know exactly what you’re doing, because you’ve done it before. If you know how to solve a Rubik’s cube, you can solve a Rubik’s cube every time.

But if you’re trying to do something new, guess what? You’re going to fail and you’re going to stumble, and you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of that.

So, now what? How do you move on?


Moby:  What’s up, Saaket?

Saaket:  How’s it going, Moby?

Moby:  Good. How are you?

Saaket:  Pretty good, man.

Moby:  How was your panel today? What was it about?

Saaket:  So Cam and I had a chat about failure. Honestly there’s a … when you go to a conference or when you are trying to become an entrepreneur it’s very easy to start talking about the successes and the millions of dollars and the investment. But everybody kind of sweeps under the rag, the companies that didn’t make it, that kind of, “Oh, we screwed everything up and closed shop.” So we were kind of discussing less about particulars of companies and more about, “Okay, failure’s a thing, what happens when … What happens around you? What happens internally? What happens externally? What are the issues surrounding that?”

Moby:  What happens with that song everything is awesome ends?

Saaket:  Yes.

Moby:  That’s what I was thinking about when we’re talking.

Saaket:  I love it. Absolutely.

Moby:  And you mentioned this and I thought of people I know and sometimes even me when people are asking, “Hey, how’s the show?” “Killing it.”

Saaket:  We’re not always killing it. I’m not always happy.

Saaket:  That’s life. We get into this trap of the salesman, right? Where we’re trying to always build up the brand, build up the company, and in a lot of ways like I mentioned this too is entrepreneurs are different than a job and that you tend to get very emotionally involved, right? This is but part of you. This is not even your baby. This is a part of you. And so you always want to make sure it looks good when somebody asks you about it.

Unfortunately, everything doesn’t always go well, right? So it’s question of, “Okay, well, is this just a face that I’m putting on?” And are there severe problems underneath that I should be dealing with instead? Or is this just a, “Okay, context and situation kind of thing.”

Moby:  And you’re bound to screw up. You’re bound to fail at many, many things.

Saaket:  Of course. Well, you better or you won’t learn.

Moby:  True. Very true.

Saaket:  Right? Or you’re not trying something new. And that’s the kicker. You can do something perfectly every time if you know exactly what you’re doing, you’ve done it before and you know … if you know how to solve a Rubik’s cube you can solve a Rubik’s cube every time. But if you’re trying to do something new, guess what? You’re going to fail and you’re going to stumble, and you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of that.

So we kind of had a discussion about, “Okay, what does failure look like? What’s the difference between a cheat failure and a failure with a big F? And emotionally how do you handle that with your employees, with your family, with your clients?” So we kind of just touch base on a lot of those issues.

Moby:  How do you emotionally … how should someone emotionally handle something like a big public … let’s call it a fuck up.

Saaket:  Okay, calling me a fuck up is fine. Well, there’s no one way, right? The point is do you let it destroy you or do you move on from it, right? And then how do you move on? Do you have a network around you that you can depend on? Or are you doing it alone? Are you trying to survive the English channel by swimming it? Obviously there’s no good …

Moby:  There’s no right answer.

Saaket:  Yeah, there’s no right answer to a failure and how you do it. But when it happens, I would say number one you own up to it, right? Putting on a face at a certain point is self-destructive, self-defeating, it doesn’t do anything with all the evidences there. And number two you try to understand the context of what you’re trying to accomplish, right?

So if you failed in some activity that you’ve devoted a lot of time in, it was new, it was unique, and you put in your effort, that’s not something that you should necessarily hold your head in shame, even though you feel like it, right?

Moby:  Even though you want to run away and hide.

Saaket:  Exactly, right? There’s … if you failed because you literally fucked everything up, and you didn’t do what you knew you needed to be doing and, hey, you know what? Yeah, sure you can kind of … you should feel that shame a bit. You need to feel that, right? So you can correct your behavior. But if things fail, you could have done everything perfectly and still fail, right? You still have to own it because that’s a part of your history now, that’s a part of who you are, that’s a part of your story. But it’s also how do you get up from that, right?

And what we kind of … Cam and I kind of talked about were like you build yourself when you’re strong, not when you’re weak, right? So you don’t have a failure and then all of a sudden start reaching out for a support group or family members, or your networks, or your resources, or your past, because you’re at your weakest at that point.

What you do is when you’re growing, when you’re getting started out, when you’re excited you build a group of people around you, a support team that you check in with regularly. Either Cam like to call it your personal board of directors. I have something slightly different where I use the word mastermind. And it’s just kind of people that you know that you can check in with your issues and problems, that you can depend on and outlook from. And number one you’ll get advice, and sure that’s fine, everybody’s always getting advice. But more importantly psychologically you’re not alone. Because failure for mammals, for animals, when they’re hurt or when they’re injured, they don’t do it in public, they escape to a hole, right? They hide away.

We are people, we’re mammals, and we feel the same way. When we’re scared or hurt which is what failure brings on emotionally, we want to recluse, we want to … you don’t want to show your face, right? And that is literally the worst thing that you can do if you want to stand up and start walking again is to just get lost in a hole, right?

So if you can create a support network around you when you’re strong of people that can you depend on, when you become weak, when failure happens you have that around you to help you stand up and walk again, right? You’re not trying to build it when nothing’s working. So think about it.

That’s the thing … I think most than anything else is we don’t … we always focus on the success. We always focus on it, right? It’s, “Hey, look at this company. They did this and this company built this and they’re making this much revenue and this much profit.”

Moby:  Killing it.

Saaket:  Yeah, they’re killing it. And every book that we read is about the successful entrepreneur, the Richard Branson, and what he did and everything all down the line and a word that I used in the session was confirmation bias, right? If all we’re doing is reading successful people, confirmation bias tells us we need to actually look at all the people who move in that space that failed. Because for every action Richard Branson took that made him a success, a hundred other people took that same action and failed, right? But we don’t ever look at that. We just look at the winners.

And that gives us a very lopsided perspective on expectations, on accomplishments, on how we achieve things as an individual or as a team or as a group, right?

Moby:  And you mentioned this in the panel which was when you’re working on something like this you wall yourself up. Can you tell me more about that?

Saaket:  Like I said earlier, instinctively as animals when we’re hurt or shamed or feared we close ourselves off, right? When something is going wrong psychologically, we build fortresses, right? We want to protect ourselves, we need to be stronger and something’s not happening, so we build a wall either emotionally or with socially or whatever, because we think the wall is going to protect us.

What it ultimately does is it separates us from our resources, from our talents, from our network, from our support, and it makes us weaker. So we need to open up a little holes in that wall I guess, right? I didn’t use that analogy quite so explicitly, but what we need to do is reach out to those people that we’ve been depending on for support and advice, and let them offer that support and advice at that period, right? When it’s most crucial, when … they don’t even have to have the answer, right? There’s no answer to a failure.

Moby:  Sometimes it’s just company that you need.

Saaket:  Yeah, sometimes it’s literally just a different perspective, a different look that doesn’t … when you’re closed off you only see one light, right? Everything in your head is dark and you can’t kind of see perspective or the field around you. And simply just having somebody, another perspective, another view on the situation will help you see around that, like through that, right?

And that’s not going to solve it, like the failure still happened. It’s not like talking to somebody means the failure goes away, the consequence, it’s still there. But what it does is it opens up our ability to move, right? It gives us a new perspective on a situation so that we can at least start taking another action to move forward.

Moby:  Building that support system before when you’re strong. That’s something I’m learning right now actually, realizing. Who knew self-awareness was a strength, right? Anyway, not me two years ago.

Saaket:  Starting your own company had to do with like your own internal psychology, right?

Moby:  Yeah, feelings? Oh, my God.

Saaket:  I just want to make some money, right?

Moby:  Yeah. So building that network, what would you suggest to people who haven’t realized the power of that [unclear 10:10] yet? Do they just hit up people that they have generally talk to about these ideas, ask them for coffee or chat with them or send them email questions whenever they have a problem?

Saaket:  Okay, so there’s a lot of different relationships out there, business relationships, work relationships. I would say support is a little bit more narrow versus just networking, right? Or versus a mentor situation would be very good, would be a support kind of situation. But like just calling people up and talking to them for coffee, that’s not something that when a failure happens. He’s a casual or she’s a casual acquaintance. That’s not somebody who’s going to reach out to you, right?

So what you’re looking for in any sort of relationship that is going to be considered a supportive relationship is regular contact, you’re talking … They know what’s going on in your life, you know what’s going on in their life.

Moby:  You’re actually friends.

Saaket:  Yeah, you’re actually friends. You like to hang out. You’ll go grab a drink and not talk about work necessarily, right?

Moby:  Wait, people do that?

Saaket:  Austin is very bad for us. Oh, man. But yeah, it’s … you’re kind of create a relationship that will get through rough waters, right? And those aren’t the casual ones. So this is kind of a separate thing than networking, than just going out and meeting people. This is more of a, “Hey, I respect and trust you.” Okay, and whatever that means. That could be a mentor, that could be your brother, that could be a friend you’ve known for twenty years, that could be a guy you worked with two companies ago, but you’re still friends with and talk and hang out with, right? There’s a lot of different things.

But what you’re looking for is a, “Hey, I trust and respect your inputs. I’m not looking for advice, but I need your perspective.” And you maintain that relationship and keep it growing. And you have a handful of those. You’re lucky in your life number one. But that is the type of support around you that you need to get through the big F – failures, the big breaks, right, to psychologically remind yourself, “I’m not alone.” Because the first thing that your brains going to be telling you is, “You fucked up. You’re alone. You better go hide, right?” And you’re not.

And with entrepreneurs there’s so many late hours, there so much focus on a certain thing that things might fall away around you. And it’s really easy to get stuck in that I’m alone kind of thing. So consciously going out there and finding people and making these relationships and maintaining them is a way to … it makes … Number one it makes you stronger. Number two it makes you more effective, right? You’re getting new perspectives in on decisions that you may not have had before. And Number three it’s good for your health, it’s good for the health of your family, it’s good for the health of your friends, right, to understand, “Hey, I’m going through a rough time. I can figure this out.” Or, “Hey, you’re a good person. I need that input in my life. Let’s do something going forward.”

Moby:  Awesome. I will say this on air, so I will be accountable for this. We’re going to get that episode between you and me, a solo episode this year.

Saaket:  Okay.

Moby:  Thank you, Saaket.

Saaket:  Yes, cheers.

Moby:  Well, this is fantastic.

Saaket:  I appreciate it, man.

Moby:  Boom.