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Career Corner: Being Thankful for Failures

Posted By Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being Thankful for FailuresFear of failure sometimes keeps people locked in little boxes.  It is like having two monkeys on your shoulders, one saying, “You can do it” and the other saying, “You cannot do it!”  It will not work—stay safe and stop the madness.  For some weird reason, the monkey with the louder voice is the one telling you to be safe—it yells, screams, and tap dances on your shoulder, but most of the time it just will not shut up, simply because you will not let it.  Napoleon Hill once said, “Fears are nothing more than states of mind.  One’s state of mind is subject to control and direction.”  Failure begins and ends in the mind.  


This past year has been challenging.  I left a job that most people would consider a “good job” and, at the time I did it, I was convinced it was the best decision of my life.  Yes!  I stepped out, took the plunge, and then thought, “What now?”  In my mind, I had been planning it for years and finally I was able to silence the monkey on my shoulder and took action.  Truth is, while I really enjoyed the legal field, I fell in love with HR and really immersed myself in it.  I felt that my legal background was a perfect marriage with my HR degree.  I joined organizations, found mentors, and then the monkey—the one I silenced—came back.  It started to dance on my shoulder yelling even louder asking, “What are you doing?”  All my fears and insecurities resurfaced.  I remembered graduating from undergrad and not being able to find a paralegal job.  The monkey reminded me of how hard I worked, it showcased the career chances I had taken along the way, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I should have waited.  Maybe I should not have made the career move.  That other voice—the quiet one—would speak up once in a while.  The crazy thing is, when it spoke up, it was wise and firm.  It reminded me that if I had not taken the plunge, I would have regretted it five to ten years from now.  I would have always wondered, “What if?”


When my plunge did not really work out exactly the way I planned in my mind, I started to retreat and stay safe, becoming more and more risk averse.  Why?  The fear of failure.  Fear of failure keeps people at jobs they hate, in relationships they need to leave, and hinders progress.  I decided to research the reasons why companies fail and what makes people successful.  I realized that it is not allowing fear to paralyze your decisions—that sometimes you have to act even when you are fearful.


Starting over reminded me of what “no” felt like.  No’s can bring forth a certain level of insecurities; however, with determination, persistence, and a lot of self-talk, I really believe you can accomplish your goals by setting realistic expectations.


Failure lessons

 

Making mistakes is a part of life.  In a Harvard Business Review article, William McKnight, the chairman of 3M states, “The best and hardest work is done in the spirit of adventure and challenge . . . Mistakes will be made.” (Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016)  The article talks about experimenting with failure and how organizations can use failures to maximize their return if and when they fail.  The article lists three things that companies can use to get a return on failure: 

  • Learn from every failure 
  • Share the lessons 
  • Review your pattern of failure

(Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016)


Do not forget that being fearful to step outside of your comfort zone will hinder your growth.


Things that failure taught me during this season 


Perfection—You do not have to be perfect to step out.  The idea of pure perfection can keep you from trying anything.  You might never be good enough.  

 

Procrastination—Failure to act will leave you stagnant.  Before you know it, you will be stuck at a job you promised yourself would only last a year.


Comparison—Most of us base our feelings of failure on other people’s definition of success.  You might see someone else climbing the ladder; however, you do not know what struggles that person had to overcome to get to the top.  Figure out what success means to you and be brave—own it and be your authentic self. 


Fear of Success—Believe it or not, some people fear success.  They will sabotage their own work by being mediocre. 


Criticism—People are going to have an opinion and you have to know how to filter constructive criticism from “haters.”  It is always wise to seek counsel from mentors and people that have walked the path.  Try not to be too hard on yourself. 


During this period of uncertainty, I had to remind myself that even though I did not necessarily get everything I was hoping for, I accomplished most of my goals.  The no’s taught me resilience, perseverance, and, most of all, that sometimes it is okay to fail as long as you learn from them.  “Failure is less painful when you extract the maximum value from it.  If you learn from each mistake, large and small, share those lessons, and periodically check that these processes are helping your organization move more efficiently in the right direction, your return on failure will skyrocket.”  (Birkinshaw & Haas, 2016).  Failures are just lessons you needed to learn.  



Tashania Morris, MSHRM, ALS, CDF, CPC, started her career as a paralegal.  She has over six years’ experience in the legal field specializing in the areas of foreclosure and bankruptcy.  She recently completed her master’s degree in human resource management which has equipped her with the tools needed to think strategically and develop creative solutions to problems in the workplace.  As a Certified Professional Coach and Career Development Facilitator, she loves all things career and personal development.  She is able to recognize people’s skills and abilities and enjoys working with individuals to figure out their “why.”  Her mission is to engage, empower, educate, and promote change from within.  If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note.  You can reach Tashania at
Tashania_m@hotmail.com.



 

References 
Birkinshaw, J., & Haas, M. (2016, May ). Increase Your Return on Failure. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/05/increase-your-return-on-failure.

 

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