The dictionary defines failure as “a lack of success”. Oh good … I suppose it’s better than “the act of failing” which is something I’ve come to expect from that sass-monster, Merriam-Webster. So what is failure then? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? And what’s all the fuss about? As The 9to5 MisFits, we’ve experienced failure a LOT, and here are a few things we’ve found out.
1. Failure is not Permanent: I’m a product of the Indian school system where one failing grade on a final exam could result in a student being held back a year and being publicly shamed for it, so I learned to accept failure as this scary, definitive, irreversible thing. And I know I’m not alone here. But in your career, there are very few things, other than federal crimes, that will tarnish your reputation forever and keep you from ever getting a job again. Everyone from famous authors to titans of industry has failed spectacularly before getting to the top, so heed the words of the great Aaliyah -- “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again”.
2. Failure is an indication that you’re doing something wrong: Often, we’ll be chugging along not aware of the consequences of what we’re doing, so failure serves as a much-needed jolt. For example, If you’re getting back to back rejections while job hunting, don’t take it personally. Think objectively about what you could change - maybe you’re not networking enough or maybe your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, or maybe you’re applying to the wrong types of jobs altogether.
3. Failure accelerates your learning: Failure is simply performing a task without adequate knowledge of how to successfully complete it. Think of it as an experiment. When you have a failed attempt, diagnose the problem, look at what you can tweak to get a different result, and now with this new information, you’re one step closer to success. If you see a problem that’s especially tough, get creative, innovate your way out! #science
4. You da real MVP: Companies try to minimize risk by coming up with something called a minimum viable product, which is a product that’s just good enough to roll out to the public. They then collect feedback and keep iterating to make the product better. Think of how you can apply this to your own life. It doesn’t have to be perfect from day 1, but if you keep waiting for it to be just right, you’ll never get started and you’ll never know what to improve on. Need more proof? Just look at our earliest YouTube videos. We started with an ancient camera and no audio equipment. But the more videos we made, the more data we could gather to figure out how to improve. You’ll never regret starting something too early, but you’ll always regret not starting it at all. Wow, that sentence was a word salad, but you get the point!
5. Failure is a precursor to success: Serena Williams didn’t just hold a tennis racket and slay on the tennis court on day 1. She had to practice and fail and practice some more for years and years before she became the best. Moreover, everyone’s situation is unique and there’s no manual out there that can teach you as well as experience can.
6. Failure teaches you about yourself and relationships: Whether that’s friends, family, or your partner, it can show you who’s had your back. It motivates you to seek out like-minded people or create a support system. It also teaches you about yourself - your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and how you handle adversity. Turn failures into teachable moments.
7. Ignore the negative voices: When you fail at something, there will be negative voices. With people close to you, it may just be that they’re concerned and want to protect you. But you know that failure is part of your journey to greatness, so learn to drown out the noise. If it’s outside people, ignore them, tell them you respectfully disagree and moonwalk away. But if the negative voice is coming from within, SHUT IT DOWN! Because if you keep telling yourself you’ll fail, guess what, you will fail. So keep a positive attitude and your eyes on the prize.
8. Do not romanticize failure: In Silicon Valley, failure is seen as a rite of passage, and it can be easy to romanticize or glorify it. But there’s a fine line between failure and delusion. Sometimes the best course of action is just to cut your losses and move on.
In a commencement address, JK Rowling said the following, “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all”. So get out there and take a risk. If you fail, take the time to understand what went wrong, change your approach, and try again!
Have any stories of failure and bouncing back? We'd love to hear, so leave us a comment below! Seriously, we read and respond to everything.