Today’s post is by Susanna Quirke of Inspiring Interns.
It’s a common business cliché: every failure is another route to success. But how to confront that fiasco in the moment?
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 71% of businesses don’t survive their first ten years. For every start-up that folds, another entrepreneur is left fingering the dying ashes of their dreams. Furthermore, what about the everyman? When you’ve just missed your targets, or forfeited that promotion, it can be hard to look on the bright side. The demon of workplace failure is a ruthless one. For many people, it can be the end – of self-respect, if not their actual career.
Here are three reasons why you should look failure in the face and laugh.
Failure is Inevitable
“He that makes war without many mistakes has not made war very long.”
So, supposedly, said Napoleon Bonaparte. This great leader understood that the key to victory was not in a lack of defeat, but an ability to move past those suffered. And, at one point, he had the whole of Europe to show for it.
Failure in life is inevitable, as is loss in war. And, just as in war, a lost battle need not spell the end. To be a success in life, you must understand that failure is unavoidable – and, thus, something you must learn to accept.
Shalini Vadhera, a wildly successful American beauty entrepreneur, who got booted out of her own $21 million beauty brand, warns against associating oneself too closely with one’s career. That way, if things go south, you can have the presence of mind to keep things in perspective. This is not an end. In fact, if you play things right, it could represent a beginning – of a new chapter, a new direction. If you discovered a tree lying across your path, you wouldn’t give up on your journey, would you? You’d find a way around.
So don’t give up at the first sign of disaster. Often, it’s just your first test.
Failure Teaches You Things
As Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed 10,000 times… I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”
Edison was the king of the empirical approach; his method of invention involved ruling out impossible ways of doing something, and thereby deducing the possible. He understood that failure is a learning process. And, by learning, you bring yourself closer to success.
In his new book, ‘Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure’, Financial Times columnist Tim Harford suggests that “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time.”
Failing to get that promotion, or clinch that deal, or even keep your job not only teaches you how to do these things better next time. You learn resilience. You learn who your friends are. You learn who will be there for you when things go wrong. Most important, you learn what is important to you.
So make sure that, next time you miss your targets, you ask yourself the right questions.
Failure is Universal
We all know those famous stories of failure. Rudyard Kipling, fired from the San Francisco Herald because he “didn’t know how to use the English language.” Eighteen years later, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Walt Disney, told by the Kansas City Star that he had “no imagination and lacked ideas.”
These guys are just the tip of the iceberg; every great entrepreneur has to confront his own shortcomings at some point. There’s Richard Branson, who expected to make ‘hundreds’ of mistakes just this year. There’s Steve Jobs, whose resignation from Apple in 1985 is regarded as a defining moment in his career. There are long lists of celebrities who all had to overcome disappointment to achieve their goals.
The most famous and successful people in the world will all tell you: everyone fails. You’re not alone, nor will you ever be.
So next time you come face-to-face with the beast of career failure, look it in the eye. Perhaps you won’t stare it down, but you’ll feel a bit better about yourself on the other side. You’re not the first person to lose out in the workplace, and you won’t be the last. So get back on that brute, and start riding.
– Susanna writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate career advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs in London, visit the Inspiring Interns website.
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