Tagged ‘professional development‘

Failure IS an Option

How many times have you heard someone declare, “Failure is not an option?”

Sure it is. It has to be.

What passes for a cheerleading slogan shouldn’t be advice for living or, more to today’s point, advice for a successful professional life. To be successful means to fail because it is in the owning up to failure and the determination to do better that the fine edge of one’s career is honed.

My most admired colleagues are those who have made big mistakes and suffered a lot of negative public reaction, even humiliation, and then decided to hunker down, work hard, stay true to themselves, and be successful. It’s a great thing to see. They don’t deny the failure, they own it. But they don’t dwell on the failure, they sort through what happened and why, use what will help them develop professionally, and bury the rest.

They don’t blame other people, whine and complain, feel sorry for themselves, or hide from the world.

Owning one’s own failure is the number one way to turning failure into fuel for success. When you own it, you are saying that the analysis of whose fault was whose is over. You are taking responsibility and from there on out, you will be in charge of how the failure will influence your professional demeanor and decision-making.

When people talk about ‘seasoned professionals,” this is what they’re talking about – people who got to the top of their game the hard way.


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Embrace Your Demons

Embrace your demons, everyone of them.  It’s because you have them that you have anything at all to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Professionally, progress and success are all about embracing your demons – organizing the project that seems way too big to manage, writing the giant proposal with so little time, shaping a work group with a bad history and no clear direction, making a speech you are afraid to make, doing something you haven’t done before.

Professional safety lives as a small, stuffed teddy bear along with the blankie you carried around when you were three years old.  Many of us keep the teddy bear and blankie at the bottom of the briefcase as constant reminders not to venture to far into the unknown and unsafe, to the land where the big demon, aka failure, lives, growling and scary under a bridge. If we never walk (or run) over the bridge, we never have to risk meeting up with the demon.

A richer, more productive professional life, I believe, comes from regularly doing something you are afraid to do.  By this I mean, something that you know in your gut is a bit ahead of your learning curve, an activity, job, or speech that is not ridiculous to undertake but clearly beyond the current boundaries of your comfort zone. 

Sometimes this means working with people that you can’t stand or worse, don’t like you!  It’s almost reflex to go the other way if such people will be involved in one of your efforts.  But that’s what those ‘demons’ expect – that you’ll be too afraid to walk across the bridge. 

Whether it’s people, projects, or presentations, surprise your demons this Thanksgiving by giving them a big hug and a wet sloppy kiss.  They live to make you better professionally but only if you embrace them. 



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