“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Embracing failure is key to finding success.
Embracing failure is about owning it. By owning it, you put yourself in control and when you are in control, you have the ability to create change. As Penelope Trunk wrote recently, “If you blame outside forces for your problems, you have to wait for outside forces to fix things for you.”
One important part of embracing failure is emotionally disengaging from it. Successful people don’t internalize failure, or see it as a reflection of their shortcomings. They view it objectively as an interesting event, and evaluate it. Seth Godin recommends in his book he wrote with Jay Levinson, Get What you Deserve, that every time you fail at something you think you deserved, you ask yourself several questions including, “Did I know what the person wanted? Did I communicate to them that I had what they wanted?”
At a recent event in Boston, personal branding and career expert, Dan Schawbel, explained that before he landed a publisher for his book Me 2.0, which is now a #1 bestseller, his proposal, “got rejected by 70 different agents. 70 people said no. Failure is key.” If he took each and every one of those 70 rejections to heart, he would have jumped off the Mass Ave bridge years ago.
Failure is key because life is a numbers game. If you look at any thriving entrepreneur, most of them have 2-4 failed ventures under their belt before they hit that home run. Or, look at all your friends who are on the dating scene (or the hooking-up scene more specifically) – chances are the more people they hit on, the more often they end up getting some action.
So how can you start embracing failure and playing the numbers game when it comes to your career? Start by accepting the fact that it makes no logical sense that you are going to be the ideal candidate for every job you apply for. With that in mind, it’s easy to see that you are probably going to have to apply for a lot of positions, and do a handful or more of interviews, before you land a great job. So each time you don’t get an offer after interviewing, ask yourself the questions that Seth Godin recommends, determine if you need to alter your approach, and forget the rest.
Embracing failure is a big part of networking as well. If your job search consists of sitting at home on your computer, you are not doing it right. You have to get out there, meet people, and talk about what you have to offer. You have to risk social awkwardness and rejection to make people aware of who you are, and why you are an asset. I tend to be introverted, but I force myself to go to events, and do my best to walk up to strangers and start talking to them. Sometimes I have a good night and meet six or more people. Other nights I fail, only getting the courage to walk up to one or two people. The most important thing is that I don’t get down on myself for failing, I focus on the next event, and I remind myself that I can do better, if I set my mind to it.
It’s well known that you have to learn from your mistakes in order to move forward in life or your career, but many people forget that they can learn from other people’s mistakes as well. It doesn’t matter if you are currently on the job hunt or happy where you are, you can be out doing informational interviews with people who have found success in your field. Not only is it a great way of building your network, but it gives you a chance to ask them what they have learned from 20 years of experience that they wish they knew when they were in the beginning of their career. Those nuggets of information can be invaluable. You may have to email 20 successful people in your field before someone responds to you, but all that matters is the one person who does.
So get out there, and start failing. And have a good laugh along the way, because each time you fail, you can know you are one step closer to finding career gold.