Women Leaders

4 Takeaways From 2 Powerful Women's Stories of Loss and Defeat

Hillary Clinton's and Sophia Amoruso's very different defeats each tell us, 'Now, we are stronger than ever.'
4 Takeaways From 2 Powerful Women's Stories of Loss and Defeat
Image credit: Jewel Samad | Getty Images

Two days after Hillary Clinton did not win the 2016 presidential election, I was on a plane trolling the web. There, I scrolled through a Facebook feed so inundated with news about the election, it was as if that were all anyone was allowed to post about.

Related: Hillary Clinton on Why Failure Should Not Hold You Back

Then, just moments before the "airplane mode" announcement came on that would disable our devices, I happened across a non-election-related article: Nasty Gal, the popular woman-run online clothing retailer started by America’s original nasty woman and favorite #girlboss Sophia Amoruso, had filed for bankruptcy.

Whoa. Tough week for powerful women, I thought. Fortunately, however, I also stopped to consider how much these two momentous, if very different, losses had to teach us. 

Here are the do’s and don’ts for when your own story takes an unexpected turn, and how to use that story to your advantage.

1. DO take a moment to get your story straight.

Much to the surprise of many supporters, Secretary Clinton did not make her concession speech the night of the election. Though the reasons for her decision are not widely unknown, female entrepreneurs should take note: When you yourself experience a sudden, heart-wrenching failure, it’s okay to take a moment to process the initial shock.

It’s also okay to work through your many emotions before you address your followers. Take time to gather your thoughts, so you can speak clearly about what happened and what will happen next. Don’t succumb to the world’s obsession with immediacy. Take a moment to get your story straight, so you can be confident in telling it.

However, that being said . . .

2. DO tell your story as soon as possible.

Once you’ve taken a moment to get your story straight, tell it! Immediately. Often. Keep in mind especially that hiding your head in the sand until the worst of the fallout passes is not the solution. If you don’t share your side of the story, someone else will, and you might not like that version.

Share blogs, videos, and images with 100-word stories across all platforms and modes of communication. Don’t shy away from traditional media; if someone wants to interview you, let that happen, but stick to your story and keep your messaging consistent.

3. DON’T underestimate the positive impact your story can have.

Telling your story of struggle puts you in a powerful position to shape others’ thinking. I’ll never forget when the news broke that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s husband had died unexpectedly. As a woman whose husband is a 50/50 partner in parenting and life, I read and reread every word of Sandberg’s story.

Related: Sheryl Sandberg Commencement Speech, University of California at Berkeley, May 2016 (Transcript)

A year after her husband’s death, Sandberg gave an emotional and inspiring commencement speech at the University of California -- Berkeley that sparked conversation worldwide about remaining resilient in the face of hard times.

Your own story of loss, be it personal or professional, is a powerful gift to give other female entrepreneurs -- a road map for weathering storms, a comfort that they will survive, a beacon of hope.

4. DO get back to work!

The best antidote for the sting of failure is action. A failure isn’t the end of a story; sometimes you’re simply in the middle of a story you didn’t know was there. Get to work immediately on writing the next chapter. Make cold calls, and reach out and thank your loyal customers.

The sooner you get back to doing what you do best, the sooner you’ll be able to tell the story of your failure followed by, “and now we are stronger than ever.” An excellent example of someone who overcame a highly publicized incident, is Martha Stewart. Found guilty of felony charges in 2004, Martha was not immediately able to make a comeback.

After rebuilding her brand and displaying her passion for business, she is now doing better than ever, launching a line of home fragrances and hosting a new cooking show with Snoop Dogg.

Related: From Bedtime to the Boardroom: Why Storytelling Matters in Business

The flight attendant announced that we were about to land. I slipped my phone into my purse and stared out the window as our plane approached the runway. I thought of Secretary Clinton, of #girlboss Amoruso and how, in both success and failure, these two powerful women and their stories were going to pave the way to success for us all.