This is my third attempt at writing this article. Seriously. You don’t see it because I don’t post every terrible thing I write but I just wanted to let you know. I also want to let you know that I’ve failed at launching 4 startups. Custom Web Development, Gift Card Trading, something just like Space Monkey a year prior and an iPhone app.
I also failed quite a lot of courses in college, many job interviews, almost all my relationships and I failed at quite a lot of friendships as well. Any way you measure me, I’m a pretty hardcore failure. I would go so far as to say that one of the few things I’m actually good at is failing.
Thankfully, 99% of failures don’t result in something cataclysmic. Most of the time our failures have tiny consequences that we completely forget about not long after they happen.
If you look at my college degree it will not show you how many times I failed Calculus or Physics and it definitely won’t explain why I failed my college credit gym class “Walking” (long story). What my college degree will tell you is that I successfully started and completed college and maybe gained some knowledge along the way.
I also really suck at job interviews and before I got my first job out of college I had sent out well over 100 resumes and failed at more prescreen interview phone calls then I’d care to admit. However, what you might not know is that since my first job 7 years ago I’ve increased my salary by more than 250% and that the salary from my first job after college was 25% higher than the US Household Median Income at that time.
The point is that success isn’t measured by how many times you didn’t fail but by what you learned from your failures and what you did with that knowledge. Like Michael Jordan I’ve been ranting for quite some time on how I give all the credit for my success to my spectacular ability to fail. Chances are you could say the same thing about yourself.
Children are terrific at failing because they just don’t care. Think of how many times a child falls and hurts themselves in the difficult journey of learning how to walk. Or the time they discovered that fire is hot or ice is slippery or that 2+2 does not equal 5. Imagine if children were as fearful about failing as adults are. If that were the case, none of us would be able to walk or talk, we’d be mostly useless. Things like the internet and iPhones would never exist!
Of course you must be thinking about how much time gets wasted from your failures and recovering from them. I would absolutely agree with you that failing is well, a huge waste of time. That’s why you need to fail fast and fail often.
Don’t deliberate for hours on if you should do something, chances are you’re going to fail in some fashion anyway so why not just get it over with already? You could dream about getting a promotion at work and never get it because you were not assertive enough. Or, you could ask for a promotion and fail. At least if you practice the Lost Art of Negotiation, next time you’ll be better at it. Eventually you’ll get what you ask for because you got a lot better at asking.
Like the great all knowing Yoda once said “one attempted salary negotiation does not an expert make” (I may be paraphrasing a bit). Yoda has a good point and as the cliche goes, practice makes perfect. With that in mind, you better start failing at negotiation more often if for no other reason then you’ll get better at it over time.
But hey, you’re scared and who knows what’s going to happen when you fail, right? I’m going to say that in most cases, probably nothing and absolutely a lot less than you imagine would happen. Turn down that over active imagination of yours because seriously, what would really happen if you for instance failed to get that promotion after asking your boss? You don’t get a promotion. That’s it. The funny thing is you started the day not having the promotion and you’re just ending the day the same way. Not a big deal.
The good news is you’ll learn something but more importantly something that you didn’t consider might also happen. Maybe as a result of your failure your boss will have a new found respect for you and maybe he or she will keep you in mind when there is a possibility for a promotion. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get fired or severely ridiculed just for asking. Remember when you fail that you’re not the first person to try what you did and you most certainly won’t be the last. Fail with pride and no regrets.
Finally, when you fail you not only need to pick yourself up quickly but you need to celebrate. Maybe you don’t only go out to dinner for those rare occasions where you finally achieved something big. Maybe when you put an honest effort in and failed you take everyone out to soften the blow and reward yourself for trying. You’ll only be a failure when you stop trying. You pick yourself up off the ground you get back in there and try again because eventually you’re going to succeed.
I don’t know how you feel about luck but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your definition of it sucks. The way I see it, luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Nobody won the lottery without buying a ticket and you won’t get that promotion without getting out there and trying. When something great happens to you maybe you shouldn’t write it off as luck because that cheapens all the hard work you put in along the way.
Remember, you’re gonna fail but it’s ok because you do it all the time, you just don’t realize it. Go out there and give things a shot because who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky.
Do you have any cool stories about failure? What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? I’d love to hear it all! You can contribute to the conversation in the comments below.
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