Your Career and You: ‘It’s Okay to Fail’
I’ve just finished re-reading Charlene Li’s excellent “Open Leadership,” a fascinating look at how social technology can be used to create a success-focused business environment. This isn’t a book review, though, so you’ll have to get and read the book yourself.
One chapter toward the end really caught my attention…“The Failure Imperative”…with the basic message of “It’s okay to fail”…as long as you have learned something from the experience.
I realize that “failure” has a gazillion different meanings depending on where you are in life.
On the student side, it’s the “F” you got on an exam or assignment. Not being the brightest bulb in my family’s tulip bed, I’m more than familiar with this…took three tries to finally squeak through the statistics course required for my business management bachelor’s degree.
On the professional career level, it’s the great idea you have and champion that, when actually put into action, bombs spectacularly. In my 30-ish years as a public relations practitioner, I racked up a bunch of these puppies including a “singles-night, line-dance blood drive” that never should have seen the light of day!
My takeaway from “The Failure Imperative” is that a willingness to take chances and do things a new way is the mark of someone who truly believes in him- or herself and is willing to jump into the deep end and learn by doing.
I’m not talking about “being stupid” here. That was, in my toddler years (seems like only yesterday!), sticking a metal nail file into an electrical outlet to see what would happen…don’t do that anymore!
What I’m suggesting is that just because it’s never been done that way before is not a reason not to try.
This holds true in college life just as it does in a professional career. There are those…look around you; you see ‘em…who just won’t venture off the tried-and-proven path. And many of them will go on to become “good employees” and, eventually, “good managers.”
But they won’t become great leaders unless something dramatic changes in their outlook and action.
You can do this. Take a long, hard look to yourself…your interests, your strengths…your weaknesses. What is it that, when you think about or do it, gives you a little thrill of excitement?
Once you’ve taken this step, as Nike would say, “Just do it.”
As you progress, you’ll have opportunities to try new ways of doing what you love doing. You’ll think of quicker, easier, more efficient approaches. Try them!
Sometimes everything will fall right into place, and you will have improved the process in some fashion.
Sometimes things will go wrong in ways you couldn’t imagine in your scariest nightmare.
That’s okay, too. When the dust clears, ask yourself, “What did I learn here?” Then apply that new knowledge to the challenge and try again…or not, depending on the results (see wall socket/nail file above).
But at least you will have tried. You may have failed on the first go-round, but you learned.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”